Between the one hell of a road trip and hiking around one of the best off-beaten trekking destinations, Dushanbe is a welcoming oasis to take a break from the challenges of travelling in the rural region. Not as exciting as Tashkent in Uzbekistan, Dushanbe is a fairly quiet city with beautiful parks and good restaurants. In contrast to the towns in Southern Tajikistan, Dushanbe has a relatively strong diversity of cuisine and shopping, and surprisingly functioning ATMs!
Not necessarily the most beautiful city in Central Asia, but like many other post-Soviet Central Asian cities, Dushanbe has beautiful neoclassical and unique styles marked with oriental motifs and painted in bright colors. It does not have any wildly exciting attractions; just boring enough to be relaxing, but bustling enough to keep you entertained.
Getting in and out of Dushanbe
Our trip started off from Uzbekistan, it was at Samarkand when we decided to head to Tajikistan. Here’s how we cross the border by public transport:
- From central Samarkand, we took Bus 74 outside Registan to Kaftarxona bus station (1,000 Soʻm/10 cents)
- From Kaftarxona bus station, we took another Bus 273 to Uzbek border. The journey is about 1-hour (3,000 Soʻm/30 cents)
Outside Tajik immigration, we took a shared taxi straight to Dushanbe which is a 4-hours ride that cost us 100 TJS per person (US$10).
In Dushanbe, we headed to the Badakshanskaya Avtostansiya where most shared taxis departing for Qal’ai Khum/Khorog. It is just behind the Hilton Hotel, through the gates and continue walking until people start asking where you are going. The locals are helpful to point you to where the Khorog taxis are. As we didn’t want to sit cramped up for over 14-hours from Dushanbe to Khorog, we chose to break up the journey with one stopover in Qal’ai Khum. This 7-hours ride costs us 130 TJS each (US$13).
Getting around Dushanbe
Dushanbe is concentrated enough to explore around by foot, especially around the city center. However if you want to take a break off your feet, or planning to head longer distances there is a network of buses, marshrutka, and taxis around the city.
Relax in Rudaki Park
Rudaki is the first literary genius of modern Persian language and a beloved poet for the Persian-speaking populations. Although Rudaki is equally popular as a national poet in Iran, he has become Tajikistan’s national hero after independence. Rudaki park was built as a remembrance of him with flower gardens, monuments, and water fountains. It is a pleasant place to wander around and a great way to meet the locals who are eager to practice their English with foreigners.
Awed at Ismoil Somoni Statue
Together with Rudaki, Ismail Somoni became Tajikistan’s national hero after Tajik independence. He is the man whom Tajik currency is named after and his statue is the symbol of Dushanbe.
Look up at the second World’s tallest flagpole
Bayrak is the name of the flagpole known by the locals. Standing at 165-meters, it was built to commemorate 20 years of Tajikistan’s independence. For 3 years it was the tallest freestanding flagpole in the world, until Jeddah took over the record with 171-meters in 2014.
Visit Haji Yaqub Mosque
There are many soviet-era structures yet surprisingly so little religious buildings in Dushanbe. The oldest mosque in Dushanbe near Rudaki avenue is less than 200 years old and still functions as the central mosque of the city. It is worth a quick visit if you are in the area. Just make sure you are dressed appropriately (full length skirt or trousers, arms covered, and a head scarf for women). Non-Muslims are welcome, except during prayer times and on Fridays.
Try a different cuisine
If you have been travelling in Central Asia for some time, Dushanbe is a place to take a break from local dishes.
- Moose Coffee – A place that finally satisfy our much-needed caffeine. After 1 and a half month, we finally got a taste of proper coffee from legit coffee machine. This cafe also serve pancakes, sandwiches and burgers too.
- Tiflis Georgian Restaurant – A small cozy place that serves all the typical Georgian dishes such as Khachapuri (bread with melty cheese and an egg cracked on top), Khinkali (Georgian dumplings), Badrijani Nigvzit (eggplant rolls stuffed with garlic, walnut, and pomegranate) and more.
- Shin Shen Restaurant – This is a very random Chinese restaurant located in a neighborhood near Green Hostel where we stayed. It was surprisingly inexpensive and authentic yummy Chinese food!
Go fishing on Nurek Dam
Just 80-kilometres Southeast from Dushanbe lies the second highest man-made dam in the world, the Nurek Dam. For those heading out on the Pamir Highway, you’ll pass by Nurek en route. However, you can also organize boat trips or indulge in fresh fishing from the river which makes a nice day trip from Dushanbe.
Admire the beauty of Iskanderkul
Iskanderkul is a great day-trip out of Dushanbe. From Green Hostel, our host helped us arranged for a return-trip for 900 TJS (US$90) per car. It helps to ask other travellers to go along to share the cost. The trip is a 3-hours per way journey, and the driver will give you 3-hours to wander around before heading back to Dushanbe.
Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!