Vacation in Tajikistan
10 Things to Do in Tajikistan
Amazing Tajikistan, 93% of the territory of which is taken up by mountains of Pamir and Tyan-Shan, the land that is a definite must-see. This is a country in an old Great Silk Road with rich historical legacy that gifted the world great philosophers, poets and scientists who made a huge contribution in the development of world culture. Contemporary travellers are attracted by relics of Zoroastrian civilization, Islamic culture, unlimited possibilities for mountain tourists and alpinists, and of course, the local cuisine that has soaked in the best during these thousands years. Tajikistan has high-mountain lakes, pearl waterfalls, forests, riparian jungles and breathtaking automobile roads on the height of the plane flights. So here are 10 things to do on your vacation in Tajikistan, in the country of kind and hospitable people.
1. Climb on the “roof of the world”. Can you remember what was the highest point you climbed in your life? 1000 metres?2000 metres?3000 metres? We offer you a trip to a Great Pamir Highway (M41 highway) in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. If this is not the highest road in the planet, but definitely the most empyreal. The route on the highway has been in use for millennia and was built by Russian sappers in the end of the 19th century as a military strategic wheel road. Travelers overcome passes at the empyreal heights. The highest path on the highway is located between Khaburabad pass, on the height of 3720 meters, and Ak-Baytal (“White horse”) pass, 4655 metres above the sea level. The road on the “Roof of the world” that connects Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Afghanistan is serious challenge for people and the technology.Though you will get a great emotional recharge from the views of Pamir mountains and glaciers of Gindukush, a legendary river Pyandj and ancient fortresses of the Great Silk Road, visit to the Buddha relics storage and hot springs. By the way, the village of Murgab, located on the height of 3612 meters, is the highest regional centre on the post-Soviet territory.
2. Visit the ancient Khujand. One of the oldest cities of the Central Asia stands on the shores of Syr-Darya. During its 2500 year long history, the city-merchant, the city-craftman and the city-warrior has seen a lot. Located on the Great Silk Road, rich river city had always attracted conquerors. Khujand fought against the army of the Alexander the Great, Arab conquerors, warriors of Genghis Khan and the Tsar Russia. Foreign armies would come and go, but the city lived further remaining the centre of the crafts development, trade and culture. Take a chance to visit the second largest city in Tajikistan and learn better optimistic and jolly Khujand people. This is not a coincidence that a famous eastern wit KhojaNasreddin himself had bought a house and lived there to the end of his life. Nearby the city there is also a large Kayrakkum water reserve, a bazaar well-known for the entire Ferghana valley and of course, Khujand has preserved the monuments of its history. Without visiting the northern capital, your vacation in Tajikistan will not be complete.
3. Walking around the streets of Istaravshan. The history of the origin of the little modern city with wonderful climate goes back to the far past. Scientists think that it was founded by the Istaravshan Cyrus – the Persian King of the Akhemenids dynasty. It happened in the 6thcentury BC. Like many cities of the past, Istaravshan lived through the times of heyday and decline. The city flourished during the period of the Samanid’s dynastyrule, then was ruined by the Mongols and revived in the period of the Timurids. Well located centre of trade and crafts, one of the oldest cities of Central Asia in the past, today is a popular city-museum where one can buy original souvenir knives adorned with a beautiful carving, fabrics with traditional fine embroidery, exquisite ceramics and national shoes. There have been preserved a range of buildings of Islamic portal-dome architecture up to our days: mosques, medrese, mausoleums, minarets that remind of the historical past of the city.
4. Visit the Buddha temple Ajina-Tepe. Hill Ajina-Tepe, translated as the Hill of evil forces, has been there as an ordinary hill for centuries. In the second part of the 20th century, archeological excavations had discovered there the remains of residential buildings and places of worship of the Buddhist temple of the 7th-8th centuries. Later they found dozens of artifacts: reliefs and fragments of the gigantic sculpture of Buddha. To present days, only the lower part of the clay sculpture, from the waist till the soles of his feet, has reached us. The upper part was found in 43 fragmentsof different sizes. The restoration of the “Buddha in nirvana” lasted long and with breaks. Only at the turn of the centuries, Tajik specialists with the help of Japan and USAfundings, and with the support of the Russian restorers from the Hermitage, had completed painstaking work on restoring the biggest preserved clay sculpture of Buddha on the planet. Today the sculpture “Buddha in nirvana” is on display at the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan in Dushanbe.
5. Plunge into the water of the Lake Iskanderkul. Tajikistan is rich for its picturesque mountain lakes that make up around 1450 in the country. The biggest one is a salt, drainless lake Karakul on the height of 3914 meters. It is considered that the Lake Karakul had appeared on the place of the meteorite fall 25 mln years ago. The crater diameter is 45 km. The deepest and the most tragic is Sarez Lake. The collapse in the Pamir mountains in 1911 blocked the Bartang (Murgab) river valley, destroyed the village of Usoy and displacedvillagers from Sarez. The depth of the lake goes down to 500 meters. The most beautiful and fairy-tale lake of the country is Iskanderkul, covered in legends related to the name of the Alexander the Great. The lake is located on the territory of the mountain-forest reserve “Iskanderkul” on the height of 2195 meters above the sea level. General length of the shore line is equal to 14 km and the depth goes down to 72 meters. There is a wild river Iskanderdarya that flows out of the lake, and makes an unusually beautiful and grand waterfall called “Fanskaya Niagara” falling down from the height of 38 meters. You can see rabbits, foxes, wolves, black and brown bears, mountain goats and even snow bars in the “Iskanderkul” reserve.
6. See “Buddha in Nirvana” in Dushanbe. The history of Dushanbe, the capital of the country, is very interesting. In the beginning of the last century, there were only three villages in this place, in one of which there were held Monday bazaars (“Dushanbe” in Farsi). It is also important to note that even the first writings aboutDushanbe village refer to 1676, people settled down in these places back in the times of the Kushan Kingdom. Modern Dushanbe is a beautiful and cozy city with wonderful climate, numerous parks, fountains and museums, where one can have a very good time. If you are on vacation in Tajikistan, make sure you visit the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan, popular place among the residents and guests of the city. There you will find many great exhibits which tell the history and ethnography of the land. The well-known clay sculpture of reclining “Buddha in Nirvana” is kept there. Also enjoy one of the main sights of Dushanbe – 165 m flag stock listed in the Guinness World Records Book.
7. Take a trip back to 1300 years ago. Five villages which had grown into a beautiful and rich city of Pendjikent in the 5-8thcenturies, was lucky with the location. Greatly fortified and developed city with castles, temples of fire worshippers, markets and rich residences was well standing on the route from Samarkand to the mountains of Kukhistan. All caravans were passing it through. The city was growing and getting rich. But the “pagan” beauty, adorned with wooden and clay images of the ancient gods of Pendjikent was erased from the earth by the “orthodox” Arabs. The humanity had forgotten of Pendjikent for 13 centuries. The shock of the scientists of Sogd-Tajik archeological expedition (1946-1952) was immense, they have discovered ancient Pendjikent. Despite lying in the obstructions for more than 1300 years, exquisitely done artistic and colorful cult and genre wall inscriptions of temples have been well preserved. Today you will find a museum-reserve on the place of the excavations, that attract guests from the whole world.
8. Stand there where the Turan tiger has reigned.Tigrovaya Balka Nature reserve stretches on the territory of 50,9 thousand hectares. The specific feature of the reserve is that here, in unique riparian jungles, natural community of riparian flora and fauna has been preserved. The reserve has preserved such species that have been entered to the World Red Book and the Red Book of Tajikistan: pamir argali, snow bars, brown Tyan-Shan bear, Turkestan lynx, Bukhara deer, goitered gazelle, striped hyena, jungle cat, Persian otter; a range of birds including unique black-golden pheasant; rare kinds of fish among which there is “water snapper” AcherfishSphynx. The beautiful name of the reserve is more tribute to the past rather than a reflection of the present. To the 30’s of the last century already, there have been not more than 15-20 of tigers in Turkestan. It has been documented that the last remains of the tiger in the TigrovayaBalka Nature Reserve were found in 1954. There is a legend surfing the internet pages about the meeting the tiger in 1958. Sad fact is that there is no Turan tiger on the planet anymore. All hope is on the gene engineering.
9. Visit the ancient city of miners and jewelers. Six thousand years ago there have been flaming smelters, ore was crushed, axes were cast, daggers and spears were forged, and exquisite jewelry pieces were minted. The village of Saraz was the largest centre of metallurgy of that time. Local masters mined ore, smelted the metal, and built amazing temples of fire and castles. Gold and silver had been extracted in the valley of the Zerafshanriver, that had been distributed from Central and Near East to the West India. ThusSaraz had flourished for 1500 years. Then Indo-Iranian tribes had invaded this territory, robbed and destroyed the city. The sands of time had swallowed even the memories of the village with talented and hardworking people. Saraz was discovered by accident in 1976. After few years of preliminary studies, in 1984 the Soviet-French archeological expedition launched the work. Lots of items made of copper, bronze, lead, silver and gold, weaponry, jewelry were found which date back to the 4-2 millenia BC. The scientists discovered a palace complex with territory of 250 square meters. Saraz is the first monument of Tajikistan that has been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage. Up to now, there is only one part of the village that had been studied and many other discoveries are expected ahead.
10. Pay tribute to the motherland of the great poet. Rudaki, the founder of the Persian poetry, was born in the village of Pandjrud, near Pendjikent. A talented poet, musician and singer had gone for a travel in his young age to Bukhara, where for 40 years he had served as a courtier poet at the ruler of the Samanids dynasty. Scientists say that Rudaki had written more than 130 thousand couplets during half a century. Unfortunately there is only the hundredth part of the poetical legacy that had reached our days. The poem “Mother of wine”, autobiography “Ode to old age”, forty quatrains and fragments of poems are available now. In his declining years, blind Rudaki goes back to his village. “The nightingale of Khorasan” passed away in poverty in 941. There was no grave monument to him up to the middle of the 20th century. Only with efforts of the writer SadriddinAyniy it was possible to find the burial place of Rudaki. Distinguished anthropologist, archeologist and sculptor Mikhail Gerasimov, who became famous after the disclosure of the Tamerlane’s grave restored the appearance of Rudaki on the basis of skeleton remains. In 1958 there has been a mausoleum erected on the burial of Rudaki. In Tajikistan, where there are song festivals, created on the poems of Rudaki, you can still here poetical lines of Rudaki, transferred to music of Tajik folk and professional composers.