Rugged, mountainous and landlocked, Tajikistan is the smallest of the Central asian countries. The lush valleys that make up its northern and southern fringes saw few visitors during the last century, when the country was part of the old Soviet Republic. Independence in 1991 then led to a brutal civil war that lasted for six years. Since then though visitors have begun to return, retracing the footsteps of Marco Polo across the Pamir Plateau towards the once great palace of Kublai Khan.
Dominated by the towering peak of Ismoil Somoni (7,495 m), this magnificent landscape has been continuously inhabited for over 4,000 years, when Aryan nomads first settled here. Today, the once busy trading routes that made up the old Silk Road wind their way through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery, providing a snapshot into a more prosperous time.
A destination that promises adventure and a real sense of discovery, places like Penjikent and the old Uzbek town of Khojand are high on the list of must-see highlights, whilst a journey along the 'Pamir Highway’, from Murgab near the southern Kyrgyz border, via the banks of the Wakhan River and north to Khorog will, quite literally, take your breath away.
The sun can be harsh at high altitudes in the Pamirs so ensure you bring a good sun hat and lots of sun cream.
Roads can be dusty so a bandana is a good idea.
If visiting Khodjent take your trunks - a swim in the Amu Darya at sunset is lovely.
A member of the team will be in touch shortly.
• If visiting Khodjent take your trunks - a swim in the Amu Darya at sunset is lovely
• In fact take your trunks wherever you're going - in the mountains there are plenty of natural spas
• Roads can be dusty so a bandana is a good idea
• The sun can be harsh at high altitudes in the Pamirs so ensure you bring a good sun hat and lots of sun cream
• Learn the Cyrillic alphabet – it will only take you a few minutes but it will help you immensely
For our full list reading recommendations for all of Central Asia, please click here
Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlaine, S. Frederick Starr A fascinating insight into the medieval culture of Central Asia: "Lost Enlightenment brilliantly re-creates for us the world of Central Asia, which for centuries was not a backwater but a centre of world civilization. With a sure mastery of the large historical sweep as well as an eye for detail, Fred Starr has written an important book that will be a resource for years to come", Francis Fukuyama, author of The Origins of Political Order.
The Great Game, Peter Hopkirk Chronicling the extraordinary history of the region, from Genghis Khan through to the Bolsheviks, this is a wonderfully readable book, focusing primarily on the wars, alliances and intrigues caused by the imperial rivalry of Britain and Russia during the 19th Century. Utterly riveting.
Setting the East Ablaze, Peter Hopkirk which specifically relates to the Bolshevik’s annexation of Central Asia, is another fascinating, enjoyable and arguably even more relevant book on the area.
Eastern Approaches, Fitzroy MacLean The gripping adventures of real life James Bond, Fitzroy Maclean, who recounts his adventures in Central Asia during the Soviet era in the 1930s and 40s.
The Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron Robert Byron’s account of his journey from Persia to Oxiania in 1933, studying Islamic architecture, has become a classic of its genre & the inspiration for many travel writers.
In Xanadu: A Quest, William Dalrymple William Dalrymple’s first book is a very witty and entertaining account of his journey from Jerusalem, across Asia in search of Coleridge’s Xanadu.
The Lost Heart of Asia, Colin Thurbron Widely considered a masterpiece, Colin Thubron recounts his travels through Central Asia in the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Out of Steppe: The Lost Peoples of Central Asia, Daniel Metcalfe A fascinating account of the author’s travels along the Silk Route: "This is an important book: a first-hand account from an adventurous traveller who has dared to explore the fulcrum of Asian geopolitics. Read this and you will understand why we need to care about Central Asia. Metcalfe has reminded us of why travel-writing matters", Nicholas Crane, author of Clear Waters Rising.
A Carpet Ride to Khiva, Chris Alexander Chris Alexander's book provides a fascinating insight into what life is like in modern day Central Asia. Murder in Samarkand, Craig Murray For a behind the scenes look at diplomatic and political life in Uzbekistan, read the shocking Murder in Samarkand by Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador who was removed from his post in 2004.
Silk Dreams Troubled Road, Jonny Bealby Jonny writes with disarming honesty and great passion about his personal journey, shot through with beautiful descriptions of the landscape of Central Asia and the city of Samarkand.
Apples are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared, Christopher Robbins Writer Christopher Robbins goes in search of the real Kazakhstan: an entertaining and informative account of his adventures. Chasing the Sea: Lost among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia, Tom Bissell Tom Bissell returns to Uzbekistan for a second time in 2001 to research the decline of the Aral Sea. This is a lively account of the history and culture of the region through which he travels.
Samarkand, Amin Malouf Samarkand is a riveting and wonderfully written book, chronicling life in the region at the turn of the last millennium.
Time: Tajikistan is 5hrs ahead of GMT. A useful website to check the time zone differences is [http://www.worldtimezone.com | www.worldtimezone.com]
Food and Alcohol: The food in Central Asia very varied. As you travel through, you will experience the delicacies of each region, which often overlap with the cultures that have lived and moved around over the centuries.
With regard to alcohol, the choice is limited to vodka, beer or rather filthy local brandy, so anyone wanting something different - Scotch or Gin for example - should buy it duty free and bring it out.
Electricity: Those bringing video & digital cameras that require battery chargers should also bring a two-pin, continental style adapter. In most hotels you can charge from the mains using a travel adaptor plug.
Money: In Tajikistan the official unit of currency is the Somoni.
To check out the latest exchange rate for the places that you are visiting you can go to [http://www.oanda.com | www.oanda.com]
A few points to help you plan:
• It is strongly recommended you travel with US dollars in cash. Sterling or travellers cheques are very difficult to change.
• Credit cards and Travellers Cheques are basically useless. • Payments are mainly made in cash. • Try not to withdraw more than you think you will need as currency can be hard to change back. • It is useful to bring lots of small denomination notes.
Language & Religion: Tajikistan’s official language is Tajik. Russian is still routinely used for business and communication. The majority of the population follow Sunni Islam, with the small minority being followers of Russian Orthodox, Catholicism, Buddhism and Judaism.
Cultural Sensitivity: On our tours we frequently interact with local people, each with their own distinct customs and traditions. We therefore ask you to be considerate and to treat them with respect. Your tour leader will be able to advise you accordingly.
At Wild Frontiers we are very aware of the ethical impact tourism can have on ancient cultures. We realise that taking a group of tourists through such a region can have a negative impact on the lives of those who live there and on all our tours we therefore go to great lengths to minimise the negative and accentuate the positive…after all, there are also many good things that the tourist can bring.
To help this process we ask that our clients do not hand out pens or sweets to children. As one sign in Egypt emphatically put it, ‘Please don't make beggars out of our children!' No matter how well intentioned, in our opinion the dolling out of free gifts fosters a ‘beggar mentality' that is ultimately extremely destructive to a society. In addition we do not condone giving out money to beggars or ‘students'.
However, we also realise that we are exceptionally privileged to be travelling in areas where most of the people have far less than us and that the desire to ‘help' can be very powerful. As a result we ask that you refer to your trip dossier for information on the Wild Frontiers Foundation which supports specific projects in the areas where we travel.
Photography: Please remember, we are guests in the countries through which we travel and we may sometimes inadvertently cause offence by taking photographs without first asking permission.
Also many countries have very strict rules about taking photos of army, police or any official personnel; restrictions apply at borders, bridges and any government building. Please exercise care in this regard as the penalty may be to have your film and/or camera confiscated.
The weather conditions can be extremely varied. In the Pamir Mountains you will often be travelling at heights in excess of 4000 metres, and even in the middle of summer it can turn bitter with snow falling; at the same time mercury in the thermometers of Dushanbe can be nudging 40 degrees. All in all, British summertime is considered the best time to visit in terms of favourable conditions.
There are no direct flights to Dushanbe from London. The best options are Air Baltic via Riga which takes around 10:25hrs, or Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, taking 12hrs.