If you would like to get out of Dushanbe, there are a number of good day hikes available, with opportunities for overnight treks in the Shirkent and Karatag Valleys. Obviously, this is nothing compared to trekking in the Pamir or Fann mountains. But a nice day out anyway.
Hike Dushanbe arranges very cheap day hikes close to Dushanbe, usually on Sunday. They occasionally do an overnight trip or a trip on a weekday, if there is a holiday.
If you are looking for outdoor gear or camping stove fuel, see Camping in Tajikistan.
Varzob (Varzob River, Gusgarf, 7 Bridges)
The “7 Bridges” hiking trail across the Adzhuk (Ajuk, Ob-i Juk) river is a leisurely day hike and a refreshing option to get out of stuffy Dushanbe. The trail is open for most of the year; unless it’s snowing in Dushanbe, you should be fine. Full hiking and getting there instructions, with maps and statistics here.
A gpx trail for a similar, but semi-looped hike can be found on Wikiloc.
You can also use these directions to get anywhere along the Varzob River between Dushanbe and the town of Varzob, including the turn-off that will lead to the town of Gusgarf and the Gusgarf Waterfall.
Varzob Lake (Gmaps) is an artificial lake with plastic palm trees, filled up for recreation purposes during the hotter months. Follow the same transportation instructions as above.
The price used to be 1 somoni, but since 2019 it has come into the hands of the Rahmon family. The new name is “Kuli Dushanbe” (Dushanbe Lake). The price is no longer 1 Somoni, it is 120 Somoni (for access to the beach and Aquapark). The high price keeps out local boys and makes it more female-friendly.
The Sioma Valley is perhaps the best of the hikes around Dushanbe.
The cheap way is to follow the directions above to the town of Varzob, and to then negotiate with a local driver to take you to Sioma and wait for you there (or return at a set time). There are toll plazas on the way there, so you need to figure out during negotiations who pays for those. Catching rides by the road doesn’t work very well, as most of the cars in this area are full.
The hike starts here. You can follow trails on either side of the Sioma River. If you go to the left, you will eventually get to the old meteorological station, inhabited by a Russian hermit who is described as the rudest and most unfriendly person in all of Tajikistan (the Hike Dushanbe groups placate him with food and money).
If you go to the right, you can go all the way to the start of the river, or up a tributary. The left side has more shade and is greener. Hiking before June may not be safe because of high water levels and avalanche danger.
Shirkent and Karatag Valleys (dinosaur prints, Timurdara and Payron lakes)
These 2 mountain valleys are just west of Dushanbe, close to the border with Uzbekistan. Tursunzoda is the starting point for treks. Soviet industry fans will relish the massive (and massively polluting) aluminium factory in town.
Unfortunately, the border guards have begun to demand permits from visitors (to be secured at a border guards office in the city of Tursunzoda).
In previous years they would merely write down your passport details and ask how long you would be hiking for and if you planned to return the same direction. It would be best to go with a local guide who knows the process or has an arrangement with the guards. They won’t speak English, and some of the younger conscripts won’t speak Russian either.
Popular day hikes include the steep climb to the glacier-fed Timurdara Lake (1,970m above sea level), or the slightly longer route to Lake Payron. Both sites offer excellent opportunities for camping.
Continuing north, the Shirkent Valley forms the backbone of the Shirkent National Park. Founded in 1991 to protect areas of special scientific interest, the park has three sets of known dinosaur footprints (the largest of which contains more than 300 prints from Upper Jurassic-period sauropods and theropods), ancient copper and tin mines and a medieval necropolis. You will, however, need a knowledgeable guide to find these sites.
We include Shirkent in this 4-day hiking trip near Dushanbe.
70 km east of Dushanbe, the Romit valley is a largely unspoilt valley with woodland, thermal springs and mountain streams. The people here are subsistence farmers, and there are abandoned Pioneer camps and the Yavroz sanatorium.
The valley narrows after about 2 hours walk starting from the village of Romit, with frequent river crossings, making it difficult to do a loop. It’s a pleasant place for a day trip, though mostly for expats looking for a quiet Sunday not too far from Dushanbe.
If you’ve done everything else, there is still the Takob valley. The scenery is not spectacular, but culturally it might be interesting to you. Past the village of Takob, Safidorak and Zumand are villages inhabited by people transplanted from the Yagnob valley, and they still speak Sogdian at home.
2 km beyond the turning to Takob lies Kondara, which is home to a rundown botanical garden. Nearby also is the Takob ski resort (no reviews yet).
On a darker note, Takob and the nearby upper Varzob are notorious for the ethnic cleansing that took place in 1992 during the civil war.
Hikes in Khatlon
In the south of Tajikistan, there is also some good hiking country. Sarband offers easy walking on the rock beaches of the Vakhsh river and medium hiking in the Khojamaston piedmont. Sari Khosor, Childukhtaron and the Yakhsu Valley are further away and more difficult to access, but the trekking is arguably more beautiful here.
Spring and autumn are the best times in Khatlon, summer is too hot.