While frequent snow storms tend to make the Fann Mountains and the Pamirs inaccessible for large parts of the year, the south of Tajikistan with its secluded villages, religious sites, and ancient fortresses is a great alternative for exploring all year round.
Venture into the south of Tajikistan and you will discover the ancient archaeological sites of the age-old Khatlon region and an abundance of wide open valleys, rushing rivers, unusually shaped mountains, man-made dams, sacred springs, and mysterious salt hills throughout southern Tajikistan.
Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, is the ideal place to start or end your day trip or several-day journey through the south of Tajikistan. With its green parks, pretty fountains, and historical monuments and museums, it is easily one of the most picturesque capital cities in Central Asia. Home to the National Museum of Tajikistan and the National Museum of Antiquities, it is a great place to get a well-rounded impression of Tajikistan’s history. From the capital, it is easy to get onto the Pamir Highway that will take you deep into the heart of southern Tajikistan.
Stretching over a thousand kilometers from start to finish, the Pamir Highway is dotted with fascinating stops along the way. So many that you will really have to prioritize and plan your trip wisely to get the most out of your time here. If you are looking to uncover Tajikistan’s rich cultural history, then the Khatlon region in south-west Tajikistan with its fascinating archaeological sites should definitely be on your list. It is easily one of the most beautiful regions of Tajikistan. On top of extraordinary scenery and historical sites, it has an interesting mix of Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim influences.
What you choose to do in the Khatlon province in southern Tajikistan is completely up to you. Dotted around the regional capital of Kurgan Tyube, otherwise known as Qurgonteppa or formally as Bokhtar, Tajikistan, the Khatlon province offers convenient connections to the Soviet cotton plantations and the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. In fact, many of the Khatlon regions’ attractions can be easily visited on a day trip from Dushanbe.
Having served as a pivotal stop along the Great Silk Road, the modern city of Kurgan Teppa, Tajikistan dates back hundreds, even thousands of years. It is most famous for the centuries-old Ajina Tepa archaeological site located on its outskirts – one of Central Asia’s biggest and most impressive archaeological sites. This age-old settlement encompasses the ruins of an 8th-century monastery where, amongst a collection of 1,500 ancient relics, the celebrated Sleeping Buddha in Nirvana was discovered.
The archaeological site of Takhti Sangin, Tajikistan, is also well worth a visit while you are exploring Khatlon in the south of Tajikistan. This ancient settlement contained the Temple of Oxus built within a walled citadel dating back to the Persian Empire. Thousands of ancient sacrificial gifts have been dug up here and many replicas can be seen at the Museum of National Antiquities in Dushanbe. Along with Ajina Tepa, Tajikistan, UNESCO has added Takhti Sangin to its tentative list of world heritage sites as a mark of its cultural importance.
Do not miss a visit to the Khoja Mashad Complex while you are exploring Khatlon in Tajikistan. Dating back to the 9th-century, it is one of the oldest Islamic buildings of its kind in Central Asia. The similar-named Khoja Mumin Salt Mountain is another worthy add to the bucket list during your time in the south of Tajikistan. Spread across eight kilometers and reaching a height of 900 meters above the Khatlon Valley, this enormous Tajikistan salt hill is an intriguing natural wonder.
History buffs can pass by the remnants of the Khulbuk Fortress of Tajikistan, also known as Hulbuk Fortress. It was built along the Pamir Highway to guard the nearby Khoja Mumin Salt Mountain. As salt was one of the greatest resources in ancient times, Fort Khulbuk played an important role along the Great Silk Road of Central Asia.
Thousands of historical relics have been dug up at Khulbuk Fortress, from bronze artifacts to impressive carved paintings. Many of these antiques can be seen in the adjacent museum (which also features a model of the settlement) or in the National Museum of Antiquities in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Driving along the Pamir Highway can take hours but there are many spots to stretch your legs. If it is hiking or trekking you are after, then the Chil Dukhtaron Mountains are ideal. Home to the mysterious Forty Girls of Childukhtaron, a series of reddish pyramid-shaped stone peaks and pillars, as well as the Childukhtaron nature reserve, this part of the valley is ideal for outdoorsy travellers.
But if it is a more leisurely experience you are after, then you cannot go wrong with a visit to the Sacred Spring of Chiluchor Chashma in Tajikistan, also known as the 44 Springs of Tajikistan. This beautiful natural spring is an important pilgrimage site and one of the most popular day trips from Dushanbe. According to local beliefs, the water is supposed to have healing properties for ailments such as depression, infertility, and headaches.
Sari Khosor, Sarband and Levakant also offer more leisurely alternatives. Stay the night in a floating houseboat on Nurak Dam, a huge man-made structure that provides electricity to over two-thirds of Tajikistan, and spend lazy days fishing, boating, and hiking on the dam. Or discover the Vladimir Lenin statues sprinkled throughout the south of Tajikistan, from the silver statue in Qubodiyon and the golden statues in Kulob and central Sarband to a dark-colored one towering above Nurak’s central square.
The magic of southern Tajikistan is in the unexpected. Whether it is coming across a crumbling fortress on the side of the highway or being invited to spend the night at one of the local Tajikistan people’s home, a visit to the south is truly what you make of it.
Want to do a mixture of everything? You can combine a visit to many of the south of Tajikistan’s best attractions when you book a tour with Paramount Journeys.
South of Tajikistan Tours
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Beyond the Horizon: Paramount Journey’s Path of Resilience, Community Engagement, and Honored Recognition
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The time I turned my back on the Fann Mountains…
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Paramount Journeys has learned from leading international companies how to create and run extraordinary adventures reaching out into incredible locations that would otherwise be inaccessible and unexplored. If your aim is to get beyond the standard Tajikistan tourist trail and to discover for yourself the most remarkable aspects of our high-altude heaven, let Paramount Journey guide you on your way. We not only exhibit the pristine nature of Tajikistan in its numerous unique environments, but also introduce you to the culture and ways of life of the extraordinary and hospitable communities who have battled against, yet also worked in harmony with, that same nature to survive and thrive in Tajikistan for millennia. Every adventure we plan is pioneering and bold, accessible to those with determination and a passion for discovery.
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