Mountains and Lakes of Tajikistan Tour

8
Days
Dushanbe, Iskanderkul Lake, Istaravshan, Khujand, Penjikent, Seven Lakes

Resplendent in towering mountain summits, lush valleys and cities abounding in history, Tajikistan’s northwestern Sughd Province is perhaps one of the most underrated corners on the planet. Consider the striking Fann Mountains, home to such delightfully refreshing features as Iskanderkul Lake and Seven Lakes, and the Anzob Pass which bridges Dushanbe with the north. Culturally, this region offers historical discoveries in Khujand, Sarazm, ancient Penjikent and Isaravshan, while all the treasures of Dushanbe, from the ancient Buddha statue to Rudaki Park, remain well within reach.

Tour itinerary:

Day 1: Dushanbe
 
Arrive in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. A driver will take you to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Free time to rest after your travels.
Overnight in Dushanbe.
Day 2: Dushanbe
 
After breakfast, your guide and driver will meet you at hotel reception for your private Dushanbe city tour, beginning with a drive to the sites at Hissar Historical and Cultural Reserve (30km, 50min/25km, 45min):
  • Hissar Fortress (15th century/16th, 17th-19th centuries), where the impressive gates of a castle, once the home of a Bukharin emir, still amaze with their stateliness
  • Kukhna Madrasah (17th century), a spacious religious school that functioned until the early 20th century, it now contains a small history museum
  • Khistin Caravanserai (19th century), an unusual caravanserai constructed of burnt brick.
  • The site also includes a mosque and an additional madrasah.
Drive back to Dushanbe to continue your tour with excursions to the following:
  • National Museum of Tajikistan, housed in an artsy 4-storey building and holding more than 40,000 expositions on Tajikistan’s history, nature and art, including a 12-meter statue of Buddha discovered on Tajikistan territory
  • Haji Yaqub Mosque (19th century), Dushanbe’s landmark mosque that can hold up to 3,000 people
  • Rudaki Park, a beautifully manicured park filled with fountains, flowers and foliage, with a tasteful monument of Rudaki in the center
  • Gurminj Musical Instruments Museum, dedicated to celebrating and preserving the musical heritage of the Tajiks and Pamiris through a collection of national instruments, music lessons and periodic concerts
  • Ayni Opera and Ballet Theatre (1940s), whose gorgeous outer décor is accentuated by the pristine lawns that surround it
  • Statue of Ismail Somoni, a classy tribute to the founder of the Tajik people which towers 25 meters high in the city center
  • Mehrgon Market, one of Dushanbe’s newest attractions, this large indoor bazaar is housed in an ornately designed and decorated atrium.
Tour duration: approximately 5 hours
Overnight in Dushanbe.
Day 3: Dushanbe – Iskanderkul Lake
 
In the morning, your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel lobby in Dushanbe. Drive to Iskanderkul Lake (130km, 3hrs), enjoying the beautiful scenery of towering red-tinted mountains along the way. The drive along the M34 Highway will continue through the Anzob Pass, which runs 3400m above sea level and is considered the best viewing point for the Fann Mountains.
Spend the afternoon at legendary Iskanderkul Lake (Lake of Alexander the Great) where you’ll have free time to walk around, snap photos, dip your feet in the water or simply rest by its calm shores. A short hike will take you to the 38/43-meter-high Fann Niagara Waterfall, where an observation deck allows you to view the falls unhindered. The area also holds small natural springs and Snake Lake, named for the unusually large number of snakes that inhabit its waters due to their warm temperatures.
Overnight in Iskanderkul Lake guesthouse.
Day 4: Iskanderkul Lake – Istaravshan – Khujand
 
In the morning depart from Iskanderkul Lake and drive to Khujand (220km, 4-5hrs) via Istaravshan. Arrive in Istaravshan and have lunch at a teahouse before beginning your city tour of Istaravshan’s most popular sites:
  • Istaravshan Bazaar - housed chiefly in a 3-story building, it’s impressively large and authentic.
  • Hazrat Shah Architectural Complex (18th- 19th centuries) - includes Hazrat Shah Mausoleum, Khudayar Valami Mausoleum and Namazgah Mosque. Admire the brightly painted ceiling and learn about the family of Hazrat Shah, whose brother Kusaim ibn Abbas is buried in Shah-i-Zinda in Samarkand.
  • Mug Teppe - this renovated fortress perched atop a hill marks the location of one of the oldest habitations in Istaravshan and provides a great overlook of the city.
Continue driving to Khujand. Upon arrival, you’ll check in to your hotel and have free time in the evening.
Overnight in Khujand.
Day 5: Khujand – Penjikent
 
After breakfast, begin your day tour of Khujand, which with over 2,400 years of history is one of the oldest cities in all of Central Asia. The tour includes:
  • Khujand Fortress: First built in the 5th century BC, rebuilt in the Middle Ages and again reconstructed in recent times, the Khujand Fortress was once one of the most impenetrable castles in Central Asia.
  • Historical Museum of Sughd: Housed in the Khujand Fortress, this museum brings the region’s history to life with moving depictions of Alexander the Great’s conquests and unusual artefacts preserved from the territory of historical Sughd.
  • Mausoleum of Sheikh Muslihiddin Khujandi (dates vary/12th century): This impressive two-story mausoleum commemorating Sheikh Muslihiddin, a 12th century ruler and poet, is situated in a memorial complex that includes a mosque, towering 20-meter minaret and an assortment of lesser mausoleums.
  • Payshanba Bazaar (Thursday Bazaar): Walk about this bright and colorful oriental market, rumored to be the best in Tajikistan, where you can sample fresh fruits and mingle with shoppers from Khujand and the surrounding villages.
  • Somoni Park: A welcoming stretch of land and popular gathering place for local residents, Somoni Park displays a prominent statue of Ismoil Somoni plus fountains and bright mosaics that depict the city’s history.
Tour Duration: 4-5 hours
Drive to the ancient city Penjikent (260km, 4hrs).
Overnight in Penjikent hotel.
Day 6: Penjikent – Sarazm – Seven Lakes
 
In the morning your driver and guide will pick you up from your hotel to start your day tour of ancient Penjikent and Sarazm, which will include:
  • Republican Museum of History (Rudaki Museum), which has eight exhibition halls on archaeology, nature, history, culture, lifestyle, Tajik customs and the life of Rudaki, the founder of Tajik-Persian classical literature
  • Central Mosque and Olim Dodkhoh Madrasah, originally from the Middle Ages and rebuilt in recent times, it now serves as the city’s main mosque and a popular gathering place for locals
  • Penjikent Bazaar – a bustling bazaar at the junction of the city’s main roads, complete with all the standard goods and Tajik souvenirs
  • Ancient Penjikent (5th century BC), a labyrinth of walls and passages decorated with amazing murals, the site includes foundations of houses, Zoroastrian fire temples, a cemetery and reconstructed living spaces.
Drive to the settlement of Sarazm (15km, 15min). A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010, this archaeological site bears testimony to the development of human settlements in Central Asia. The sprawling ancient city is divided into three sections and still holds intact structures of palaces, temples, altars, homes, city walls and paved roads.
Tour duration: 4 hours
Continue the day with a drive to Seven Lakes (Haft Kul) in the Fann Mountains (70km, 1hr to first lake).
Each lake has its own name and color. You’ll stop at every one, about a 10-15 minutes’ drive apart from one another, to take photos and learn about each lake’s history and unique characteristics:
  • Lake 1 - Nezhigon (Eyelashes)
  • Lake 2 - Soya (Shade)
  • Lake 3 - Hushyor (Vigilance)
  • Lake 4 - Nofin (Central)
  • Lake 5 - Khurdak (Baby)
  • Lake 6 - Marguzor (Tulip)
  • Lake 7 - Hazorchashma (Thousand Springs)
Stretch your legs with a 30-40-minute hike between the sixth and seventh lakes, the latter of which is situated along a small river 2300 meters above sea level. After a picnic lunch, go for a stroll around a nearby village and take photos along the way.
Check-in to the guesthouse. Overnight at Seven Lakes.
Day 7: Seven Lakes – Dushanbe
 
After breakfast at the guesthouse, drive to Dushanbe (270km, 5-6 hrs), crossing the Anzob Pass on the way.
Free time in Dushanbe after arrival and hotel check-in.
Overnight in Dushanbe.
Day 8: Dushanbe
 
Free morning to sleep in and pack. Check out from the hotel by noon and transfer to the airport. End of Mountains and Lakes of Tajikistan Tour.