Hiking and hot springs in Tajikistan

August 24, 2019

by Adete Lahire

Tajikistan in Central Asia is an independent country since 9 Sep.1991, post the collapse of U.S.S.R. It is ruled by President Emmomali Rahamon. It is a landlocked country with many bubbly rivers and snow-capped mountains. The 8th of March, International women’s day is celebrated as Mother’s day by Tajiks, mid- March Navruz or new day, is a seven-day long festival, a tribute to the newly harvested crop, enjoyed by all of the different ages, there are fetes, fairs, musicals, plays joined by everyone with great fervor.

Dushanbe – The Capital City

Dushanbe means Monday, is the capital city with broad tree-lined avenues, parks, and an efficient local transport system, full cabs and shared cabs are available too.  The city is spectacularly surrounded by mountains. It is a unique blend of modern and ancient where both strike the eye but not on a discordant jarring note. A walk down  Rudaki Avenue in the evening is a pleasant experience, locals gather around the Somoni statue, there are numerous eateries with a variety of cuisines to interest your taste buds, sampling the pilaf or other local food at a chai khana is a must-do for all tourists.

PIC :  Rudaki Park -the palace in the background.

A short drive from the city of Dushanbe you step back into history the Hissor Fort, you can climb the ruins of the rampart,  the palace has been converted into a museum where colorful local handicraft is for sale.

An evening out to the Victory Park is a pleasant experience, you can take a bus or cab or check beforehand the cable car timings which will give you a sweeping view of the city.

 Seven Lakes

Panjakent – The cultural city on the Uzbek border

In the Northwest of Tajikistan, a four- hour drive from is the city of Dushanbe is Panjakent that bears testimony to an ancient civilization of the 4th millennium BCE ‘Sarazm’ this is a UNESCO heritage site, awarded in 2010. This city was on the Silk Route trail and there are arts crafts of trade and business in the form of shell jewelry and a lot more.

The city has the Fann mountains on one side with a base camp and you can climb the mountains with a guide is the best so that you don’t get lost. The seven lakes or ‘Hapt Kul’ in the local Tajik language on the other side is worth a visit. The lakes are at seven different levels, the natural beauty of the lakes and the changing color of each lake is an amazing visual feast.

                                                                                                                                                                      Hotel Serena Khorog

Khorog – Garam Chasma, Bibi Fatima

Khorog is in the southwest of Tajikistan, the city is surrounded by stern mountains looking down on you. You can go hiking in these mountains. There are flights from Dushanbe, one can also drive up in a full cab or a shared cab. The best time to visit is from October to March. The snow starts melting from April which can be a little intimidating however the local drivers are skilled and will reach you to your destination without any harm coming to you. Just an hour into the drive to Khorog you will cross Camp Sayyod unmistakable for its outstanding beauty. Khorog shares the border with Afghanistan through the Wakhan Corridor and a cross border market is held on Sundays in Ishkashim.

                                                                                                                                             Ishkashim cross border market

                                                                                                                                                            Camp Sayyod                                                                              

There are hot springs along this route, one of the popular ones is Garm Chashma, as the local Tajiks recommend it for eye ailments. 

There are a variety of rooms in and around the hot spring to suit most budgets, a cafeteria that sells simple local fare, private pools are also available for families complete with shower stalls, toilets and changing rooms.

The botanical gardens are a favorite picnic spot, one of the highest in Asia, it gives you an excellent view of Khorog. There is a  conference center here which has some exquisite wood carving along the wall panelings where international seminars are held.

Garam Chashma

It is also the entry to the Pamir plateau also called the roof of the world through Murgab via  Alichur. This is at an elevation of 3618 meters above sea level, the oxygen content in the air is significantly lower than the plains and therefore some visitors face difficulty in breathing. The starkness interspersed with greenery as far as the eye can see is a balm for the tired spirit. You can stay in a yurt, which is comfortable to sleep in, you can sample some yak milk or just enjoy the bucolic surroundings.

PIC.:  Alichur 

The hot springs Bibi Fatima is in this valley and as the local popular folklore has a story that women who have problems in conceiving visit this spring and are blessed with children, there is a grotto where you have to go in headfirst and if you come up with a pebble you are blessed.

After rejuvenating Bibi Fatima,  on the way back take a trek up to the Yamchun fortress built in the 3 rd century BC is invigorating. Clear blue skies and you have clear views till the horizon.

Depending on the time at your disposal Lake Sarez is an incredible view, a lake formed overnight by an earthquake that wiped out an entire village as per local tales around 100 years back.

The Tajikistan National park along the Karakoram mountain range was awarded a UNESCO heritage site in 2013.

Rasht Valley, to the east of Dushanbe, is again around a four-hour drive. This is where the buzkashi tournaments are played by men on horses who travel many miles to participate in this game.

Khujand – An old city

Khujand in the north of Tajikistan is the commercial capital an old city with a lot of history, hustling and bustling with activity.

Tajiks are very hospitable and if you have the privilege of visiting any village you can observe that they will serve you all that they have even to the extent of depriving their own children.

Tajikistan is famous for almonds in Darvaz, apricots, peaches, black raisins, pistachios, walnuts, all kinds of berries, black and white mulberries.

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