The Cave Crypts of Darai Osiyob are located in the centre of the town of Sangtuda on both sides of the Darai Osiyob river (actually just a very small stream in a deep gorge). Four separate sandstone caves (ghor) entrances are visible on the steep river banks. The cave crypts were built between the 1st century BC and 4th century AD.
Further information from the Tajikistan Historical Sites Catalog (Tajikistan Ministry of Culture, 2011, edited by Muzaffar Azizov).
The river cuts through many colored petrified sandstone: rose, grey and green ones. The banks of the river are steep and covered with dust. There are 4 visible entrances into the caves. According to the local inhabitants there are 12 grottos in the river. They are situated at different heights: the upper one at a depth of 2-3 m from the bank surface and the lower ones at the depth of 12 – 13 m close to the bottom of the river.
How do I get there?
The easiest way is to drive to Sangtuda from one of the two turn-offs on the Sarband-Danghara highway. The tun you take depends on whether you are coming from Danghara or Sarband. You can download the GPS track between Sangtuda and the turn-off closest to Sarband at GPSies (21km on a pot-holed paved road in 35 minutes).
An alternative route is the drive from Sarband alongside the Vakhsh River up to Sangtuda. The road is very scenic, but rough in a few places as it alternates between paved road and gravel road. There is one section where you drive through a dried river bed. If it has rained heavily recently, this may be a problem. We did this drive in an Opel Astra with no problems. Note that you will sometimes be taking a turn off of a good road onto a bad road (the good roads may lead to a restricted security zone by the dam or to a village). Not every turn will make sense at first.
You can download our Sarband to Sangtuda backroad GPS track here. Note that the GPS track includes two detours where we walked down to the river (this should be obvious when you look at the GPS track). And at the very end of the GPS track is when we were on foot to the caves (don’t follow the GPS track up the gorge, this is the wrong direction as you should go down the gorge, where the GPS track eventually goes).
Minus the detours it should take about one hour and thirty minutes to drive from Sarband to the point on the road in Sangtuda where you will start to walk to the caves.
If you are coming from Dushanbe, you can reach Sarband in 1 hour and thirty minutes. So, from the Dushanbe outskirts to the caves will take about 3 hours.
How do I find the caves?
Local people at first had no idea what we were talking about. But when we described exactly what the caves looked like, some neighbourhood boys near the river recognised what we were looking for and led us to the caves. We visited the most prominent cave and the largest grotto. Both are very near the top of the steep river bank/gorge. The cave on the southern bank (38.04354,69.07367) is easy to access, while the large grotto on the northern bank is located on private property (38.04336,69.07255). We knocked on the gate and asked if we could take a look at the grotto.
The cave we visited get smaller and more narrow as you go further, until you need to crawl on your hands and knees. The floor is very dusty. The entrance doubles as a rubbish bin. The large grotto is very large and easy to access.
You can walk to the caves from the road that skirts around the top of the village (keep right as you drive into Sangtuda), or you can drive into Sangtuda’s centre. Offline map apps with a layout of Sangtuda’s streets: OsmAnd and MAPS.ME
Copy and paste the coordinates provided into these apps’ search function.
If you follow the GPS tracks, then OsmAnd is best.