Tajikistan is the smallest of the central Asian countries located along the northern borders of Afghanistan. While Tajikistan occasionally has some domestic skirmishes in its Pamir mountains, the rest of the country is very safe and welcoming to travelers. I had planned to visit the Pamir mountains which have long been called the “Roof of the World”, but do to some fighting that happened during my trip I was unable to visit. Instead I went to places such as the capital Dushanbe, the ancient Zoroastrian city of Panjakent, and I did plenty of hiking in the Fan mountain range.
Meaning “Monday” in the Tajik language, Dushanbe’s humble beginnings were started as a simple Monday market place. Later the market place transformed itself into a small village and then became the capital of Tajikistan, all in less than 100 years! The city boasts the largest and best museum in the country, some beautiful city parks and monuments. Since the next largest city in Tajikistan is more than half a million people short compared to Dushanbe, the capital is essentially the only place to experience city life with a wide range of local restaurants, and cultural events.
Although the Pamirs will always be the most famous and beautiful mountains of Tajikistan, the Fan mountains in the west should not be overlooked. While the Fan mountains can’t compete with their eastern counterparts in height they can in beauty. The Fan mountains reach altitudes over 17,000 eet (5,000 meters) and have plenty of hiking, camping, and mountaineering opportunities. One of the most famous hikes is along the Seven Lakes; a trail that follows a series of small beautifully colored high altitude lakes.
The small city of Panjakent holds the remains of an ancient Zoroastrian civilization that is still being excavated today. 2500 year old walls still stand in ruins of the old Panjakent, and statues, artifacts, and even skeletons are found within the old city. Museums remain to give travelers details of the history and the civilizations that came and went. You will find paintings, reliefs, and other forms of arts and artifacts from several different centuries going back to times before Christ.
Since Tajikistan is essentially nothing but mountains, getting from place to place is an adventure itself. Here I show some photos of my road trip north of Dushanbe as I head towards bigger and better mountains in the northwest.