The Sari Khosor Valley (a nature preserve) has an almost unlimited number of things to do for a tourist. You can hike in any direction, swim in most places in the river, find waterfalls, see cultural sights, view idyllic mountainside farms, observe wildlife that is rare in the rest of Tajikistan, and camp in perfect peace with a view of the stars in the night sky.
NOTE: We gives locations here in coordinates of latitude and longitude (example: 37.84526,68.75740). Just copy and paste the numbers into the search function of your map app.
Where exactly should I go? And what should I do?
In our opinion, the best of the Sari Khosor valley starts after the town of Sari Khosor. The best by far is the village of Dashtarho, 4 kilometres up the valley from the town of Sari Khosor. We plan to set up a homestay here in the near future. The exact location of Dashtarho is: 38.54412,69.87219
Mullokoni Waterfall. Located 20 kilometres up the river from Dashtarho (24km from Sari Khosor town). Download a GPS track here. Exact location: 38.63077,70.02447 Check out Youtube videos of Sari Khosor to get a full look at the scale of the waterfall cascade.
Balancing Rocks. Located further up the river from Mullokoni Waterfall (about 3km in a straight line). Exact coordinates: 38.63649,70.0478
Dashtarho Village Trail. The trail from the Lucky Rock Throw (38.52915,69.84931) to the Giant Hollow Trees (38.545715,69.87113) in village of Dashtarho is a very unique journey. At the Lucky Rock Throw, you are allowed to toss three rocks – one at a time – in an attempt to get them to stay in the hole. 3 successful throws gives you good luck, apparently. If you attempt a 4th throw, you get bad luck. The middle section of the trail is elevated off of the river bed and offers beautiful views. The giant trees at the opposite end of the trail are Chinar (Chenar) trees, also known as Oriental Plane trees (link: Platanus orientalis). They grew up around a millstone that can still be seen inside one of the hollowed-out trees.
Other attractions: numerous viewpoints, hikes, the honey farm, the mud springs, swimming, exploring side valleys, canyoning, floating down the river, wildlife viewing, geological formations, mountaintop shrines, etc… We will add more information after our next trip. In particular we will add GPS tracks to the mountaintop shrines (ziyorat sites), one of which offers a view of the Nurek reservoir and the other which offer a view of the Roghun area of the Vakhsh River.
How do I get there?
You will start from the town of Baljuvon (150km from Dushanbe). But a visit to the Sari Khosor valley requires that you have a 4-wheel drive. After the good road ends in Baljuvon, you need to drive across the river numerous times, and there is one difficult but short 4×4 section. A new road is slowly being built, but it is doubtful that it will be completed anytime in the near future.
If you have your own car and driver, we suggest waiting until at least July before you go when the river level drops. At least one driver with a nice 4-wheel drive showed up from Dushanbe and was scared away by the sight of the first river crossing in early June.
If you don’t have a driver, you can hire a UAZik jeep (roughly pronounced: wah-ZEEK) in Baljuvon. For 250 Somoni they will take you to the town of Sari Khosor and beyond.
There is, however, “public transportation”: A Gaz-66 truck (photo below on left) travels down and up the valley at least once per day from the town of Baljuvon.
A seat in the back of the Gaz-66 costs 20 Somoni per person. In June, July and August, the Gaz-66 starts from further up the river from the town of Sari Khosor towards Baljuvon. It may pass through Sari Khosor at 3, 4 or 5am in the morning. It then picks up passengers at Baljuvon at 6, 7 or 8am and then heads back up the valley to Sari Khosor and beyond. In September and October the schedule is unpredictable. On our last trip the Gaz-66 left Baljuvon at 2pm.
Note that everybody in the Sari Khosor valley seems to have the phone number of the Gaz-66 driver. We were able to call him and find out the approximate time he would be coming by our village. He does many stops and even long detours to pick up people and baggage.
If you are in Baljuvon and you need to convince the driver to go (if for example he is waiting to get enough passengers and you want to leave), then you can pay him extra. For 300 he will start with an empty truck. If he has a half load of people, offer something less to get him to go.
When should I go?
The valley is not accessible until mid-summer, when the water levels in the river drop after the worst of the spring snow melt ends (maybe by mid-June). Drive in the valley during the spring at you own risk. A ride in a Gaz-66 at this time of high water flow is not guaranteed safe either. Watch this video (month of March) from after the one-minute mark to get an idea of the trouble you may find yourself in.
If you visit in the summer, it will be hot, but not as hot as Dushanbe or Qurghonteppa. You will have plenty of places to swim and cool off, however. By mid-September it starts to cool off. We visited in mid-October and the days were still warm (up to 20 degrees Celsius), but the night were cool (6 or 7 degrees). You can visit until the first snow sometime in late November.
Exact transport details:
Download the “OsmAnd” app to your phone. Then download the offline map of Tajikistan. We will be adding more details and locations to the map (known as Open Street Map in the non-mobile version). Or use the map app of your preference and use the GPS tracks we provide. Note that Google Maps, MAPS.ME and others all have serious drawbacks for use in Sari Khosor.
Getting to Sari Khosor:
First you need to get to Baljuvon, where the good road ends. You can take a shared car from Qurghonteppa (30 Somoni) or from Dushanbe (??? Somoni). From Qurghonteppa, get a shared car at the crossroads by the northern vokzal (37.84526,68.75740), or from the centre near the bazaar at the crossroads of Makarenko and Kirov streets (37.82867,68.78184). From Dushanbe, find a shared car south of the Sakhovat bazaar at the southwest corner of the Qaraboev/Qosimov [Karaboev/Kasymov] crossroads (38.3040, 68.4540).
It might be easier to find a car to Danghara, and then to transfer to a Danghara-Baljuvon shared car. The Danghara transfer location is 38.09385,69.33803
The Gaz-66 picks up people in Baljuvon next to the Sunday bazaar (very quite from Monday to Saturday). It is actually across the bridge from Baljuvon in the town of Sarimazor. This is the exact location you need to be at to find the Gaz-66 or the UAZik jeeps: 38.31071,69.68887 (copy and paste these coordinates into the search bar of whatever map app or tool you are using).
Download the Baljuvon to Sari Khosor GPS track here.
The Gaz-66 took 2 hours and 15 minutes to get from Baljuvon to the town of Sari Khosor. The distance was 32 kilometres. In reverse, the drive took 3 hours and 15 minutes as the driver took detours to pick people up off of the main road. We also waited for people who weren’t ready. We also stopped for a prayer break. But we made up the time when we raced another Gaz-66 (first truck gets the passengers waiting on the roadside). It was fun or terrifying, depending on your idea of fun. Note that the presence of the other truck was unexpected, but that sometimes other trucks will be travelling up and down the valley and will gladly pick up paying passengers.
In reverse, when we arrived in Baljuvon from Sari Khosor, there were drivers waiting with shared cars going to Qurghonteppa (Kurgan) and to Danghara. If you don’t find any cars where the Gaz-66 stops, then walk into the town of Baljuvon where you will find drivers at a crossroads (it’s a small town). If you are going to Dushanbe or Kulob, you can transfer in Danghara (here, probably: 38.09404,69.33783 If not, just ask a local). You can also easily find a car in Danghara that is going to Qurghonteppa.
There is mobile phone reception in the Sari Khosor valley, but do data. So you will be without mobile internet.
There is no special permission needed to visit the Sari Khosor valley. There is no fee.
Speaking Tajik would be really helpful in Sari Khosor. You can survive with Russian. With English only you will struggle.
This is a very wild place. There are bears, wolves and wild boars. The bears are OK, the wolves are worrisome, and the wild boars are terrifying. A local man was killed in recent years by wild pigs.
YOU CANNOT HITCHHIKE. There are no free rides here. People here are poor, and they need the money. They may try to refuse money, but tis is just a game where they refuse and you insist and then eventually they take the money.
You can camp anywhere. Ask local people if you can camp in their field or orchard, or just find an isolated spot. They are very, very friendly. And there is no concept of “trespassing.” Just be respectful (dress conservatively in people’s homes, if near a village you should ask to use an outhouse toilet – don’t go in a field or orchard, etc.). Remember to leave gates the way you found them: close the gate if it was closed, leave it open if it was open. The gates are not to keep you out, they are to keep livestock and animals in or out.
There are a couple of stores (magazins) in the town of Sari Khosor. But nothing else in the valley. Bring your own food. Don’t drink from the main river without adding a water purifier. The springs that you can drink from will be obvious: people have usually affixed a pipe.
We had no problems with electricity from Summer until mid-October. We saw lights on in every village.
The government and maps insist on referring to the main river through the Sari Khosor Valley as the Shurobdaryo (literally, salty water river). However, locals call it the Surkhob (red river). The government likely renamed it so that it won’t be confused with the much larger Surkhob river in the Rasht Valley. The Shurobdaryo is a smaller tributary far up the Sari Khosor Valley.