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Tempting Tajikistan

With the vast majority of the landscape of Tajikistan covered in mountainous terrain, you’ll surely find adventure in this seldom visited Stan. Border crossings are re-opening more and more, so now is the time to visit for a truly off the beaten track experience. Outside the cities you’ll find stunning alpine scenery of the western Pamir-Alay mountain system. No journey to Tajikistan is complete without a visit to the jewel of the Fann Mountains, the enchanting turquoise waters of Iskanderkul lake.

The northern and cultural capital of the country, Khujand was founded by Alexander the Great who named it Alexandria Eschate, meaning furthest Alexandria. Referred to as Leninabad in Soviet times, Khujand played a significant role in the countries political and historical past, and today remains as Tajikistan's second largest city. The city will delight, not only with the intricate woodcarvings of the region but also with the vast array of ancient monuments.

Regional Highlights

  • Panshanbe Market - Visit the crowed Panshanbe Market, one of the oldest in Tajikistan which still captures the bustling atmosphere of important stop along the ancient Silk Road.
  • Sheikh Massal ad-Din complex - Next to Panshanbe Market is the main square, the beating heart of the city. This is the perfect spot to people watch and take in the white facade of the Skeikh Massal ad-Din Complex.
  • Khujund Fortress - The main section of the fort remains occupied by the army but much of the eastern wall has been rebuilt and now houses the historical Museum of Sughd Province and the Museum of Archaeology & Fortifications.

Emerging as revitalised city newly built around parks, monuments, and wide tree lined boulevards, Dushanbe gives easy-going respite in a country that visitors sometimes find a tough but exciting place to travel. Having gained independence only at the end of the 20th century, you’ll find a proud capital celebrating the people of Tajikistan and a vibrant and varied cultural history.

Regional Highlights

  • Rudaki Park - Stroll under the sprawling canopy of mature trees, along a series of pathways that pass lakes, fountains and beautiful blooming flower beds. A great spot to take in the views of the city's iconic monuments and buildings.
  • Tajikstan National Museum - The National Museum is housed in an impressive modern building offering a collection encompassing the history of Tajikistan. Some of the highlights include the reclining Buddha and the skeleton of a princess from 5000 years ago!
  • Dushanbe Flag Pole - Once the tallest flag pole in the world standing at 165 metres, you can find it out the front of the Palace of Nations.
  • Gissar Fortress - 26kms outside of Dushanbe in the lush valley of Gissar lies the Gissar fortress. Once the residence of Governer General of the Emir of Bukhara, the 2500 year old walls were once one metre think, and loopholes for guns and cannons ensured the protection of the fortress residents.

You can be assured of a warm welcome upon your arrival at the unique rural region of Penjikent, an ancient city from the 5th century BC. Once a significant town of the Silk Road, Penjikent is rich in historical monuments, sights and culture.

Regional Highlights

  • Enroute to Penjikent from Dushanbe be sure to pause at the beautiful Iskanderkul lake, purported to be named after Alexander the Great on his journey from India to Central Asia.
  • The ancient city of Penjikent - It's hard to believe that this was once the site of the most cosmopolitan city along the Silk Road, often referred to as the Pompeii of Central Asia. The onsite museum takes us back to the way life once was and provides an insight into this Silk Road hub.
  • Rudaki Museum - Named after the father of Persian poetry, oddly enough here you see a fascinating display of ancient textiles, costumes and frescoes uncovered at Ancient Penjikent and nearby Sarazm.

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How to prepare for overland border crossings


Capital city: Dushanbe

Population: 8.735 million

Official Language: Tajiki

Currency: Tajikistani somoni

Timezone: GMT +5

Electricity:Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)

International Dial Code: +992

Most foreign visitors require a visa to enter Tajikistan. You can apply for a tourist e-visa online here.

E-visas are valid for 45 days within a 90-day period from the entry date you fill in, and is single entry. You can apply as early as you like.

You will need to ensure you have a passport that has a minimum of six months validity from the expiry date of your Tajik visa as well as two blank pages.

When travelling in the Pamir region you will also need to apply for a GBAO permit, this will be checked at various military checkpoints along the Pamir Highway. The permit duration is a maximum of 45 days and can be applied for online when applying for your e-visa.

The e-visa fee is USD$50 payable online via credit card. GBAO permit cost USD$20 and can be applied for online along with your e-visa.

Travel Insurance is mandatory for all group journeys and Sundowners Overland strongly recommends travel insurance for all other journeys. You must ensure that your insurance policy covers you for the entire duration of your journey, for all activities you will be participating in and that you have purchased the highest level of cover available to you for medical emergencies (including repatriation/evacuation cover) which are relevant to ALL the destinations that you will be visiting. Contact us for further information and quotes.

If you are taking special medication, it is a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor to show authorities if necessary. Some medications and sleeping pills that contain codeine are restricted in Tajikistan.

Since some medications can also be affected by changes in temperature or require special care, we recommend you discuss this with your doctor before departure.

If you are overlanding via the Pamir Highway the best time to travel is from late May until late September. Outside of these months the high mountain passes can potentially be inaccessible due to snow.

When combining time in Tajikistan's mountains as well as cities, late April to May is an ideal time to visit. The nights are cooler, and avoiding the high heat of summer (July - August) makes city exploring a more comfortable experience.

For lovers of cold, November to March brings cooler temperatures, snowcapped mountains, fewer foreign tourists and unique local encounters.

The most festive time of year is the Nowruz Festival that celebrates the Persian New Year and the coming of spring. Festivities usually commence towards the end of March with three days of celebrations, traditional food and games, including the fascinating buzkashi (played on horseback using a headless goat carcass).

Tajikistan uses the somoni, and is mostly a cash economy. Travellers cheques are not accepted, and very few establishments take credit cards. There is a small, but increasing number of ATM's in Dushanbe and other larger cities however they can be unreliable. Whilst in rural areas you will not find any access to ATM's or currency exchange outlets.

US dollar is the most widely accepted foreign currency, so take plenty with you to see you through your stay.

In Dushanbe:

  • Meal in a local restaurant USD$5.00 - $10.00
  • A cup of coffee USD$1.50
  • A coke USD $0.50
  • A litre bottle of water USD$1.00
  • An imported bottle of beer USD$2.00
  • Domestic beer  USD$0.80

*Prices are approximate average costs based on prices at 11/03/17 and are based on the equivalent amount of local currency.

Our border crossing from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan lies in the beautiful Fergana Valley. On both sides the border officials are fairly relaxed, polite and helpful.

  • Although rarely enforced smoking whilst walking on streets is illegal and may incur a fine.
  • Beards are banned for Tajikistan's citizens. Foreigners are generally exempt, however you may receive some looks of admiration or alternatively mistrustful glances.
  • Hospitality, humility, and respect are considered essential for successful interaction in the culture. The elderly are always given the place of honor. A man must never enter a home where there are only women, and a girl must never be left alone with a boy. At large social gatherings, men and women often are separated.
  • It is not uncommon to be invited into a families home for dinner. Be prepared with some small gifts to repay the hospitality you have been shown.
  • Although Tajikistan is not as conservative as you would think, it an Islamic country. Dress appropriately and respect the local traditions.

Mobile internet is not so expensive and if you can get a good signal, it should be fast enough to do research and stay in touch with people. 3G is available in the major towns. Outside, expect internet to be very slow.

Internet in Tajikistan, like elsewhere, is filtered. You are being watched and unwanted websites, including social networks, may be blocked.

SIM cards are readily available in larger cities in Tajikistan however they are not always available for foreigners. You should be able to access roaming with your mobile/cell just ensure you check the fees with your provider before you leave.