One of the best places in Central Asia to enjoy a true Soviet-style sanatorium-holiday, the monstrously large Khoja Obi Garm sanatorium near Dushanbe is … special. Built in 1983 on top of a hot water spring on a 2 000 metre-high mountain, the 7-storey, 700-room complex is nothing less than spectacular.
As one traveler described it: imagine a mountainside hydroelectric power plant converted into a military installation, then disguised as a Soviet hotel that James Bond would infiltrate in “Goldeneye.” We’d say that’s pretty apt.
Khoja Obi Garm is a great place to relax after hikes. The atmosphere is that of a retirement home stuck in the 1970’s (the Soviet 1970s, that is) with a whiff of radon penetrating every corridor.
Is radon bathing unhealthy? It definitely gives you a very relaxed feeling and a smooth skin; the advice is to not stay in the water for more than 15 minutes at a time. Beyond the radon pools, showers and colonics, all manner of more traditional treatments are available, from massages to mud wraps.
As with any other hot water spring in Central Asia, the place used to be an important shrine. Soviet spa complexes often had the intentional side-effect off de-spiritualizing a site, and to replace locals’ pleas for help with a different type of pilgrimage.
How to visit
Khoja Obi Garm gets very busy in summer, but September to June is quiet, and prices are very reasonable for an overnight stay (~15$ per night including treatments and meals).
A taxi from Dushanbe takes you to the sanatorium in 30 minutes. Opting to get dropped off at the turn-off from the highway with a shared taxi, and hitching a second ride from there does not come recommended as you could be waiting for a very long time.
If you are self-driving, the sanatorium located here: Gmaps.