Due to difficulties securing visas, this website and project will not be completed in 2016. The website, as it is now, can still give a traveller a good idea of what to expect and where to go in the south. Unfortunately, there will be no exact maps, transportation prices, home-stays, guiding services, GPS tracks or anything else until we are allowed to visit Tajikistan again.
The city of Sarband, formerly known as Kalininobod, is only 90 minutes from Dushanbe in the southern province of Khatlon. Very few people visit the area around Sarband, whether foreign and local tourists. But they should visit this area, as it is an “undiscovered” location with few tourists and many, many activities for visitors to enjoy.
If you are looking for an all-inclusive luxury lake resort close to Dushanbe, and you have the extra money to spend, you should go to Norak (Nurek). But if you are looking for something “rougher” and more adventurous, you should come to Sarband. What can you do here? Here are the highlights:
If you are looking for a picnic, you can bring your own food, or buy them in the local bazaar. And if you want to go to a restaurant, Sarband is a town of about 15,000 people, and has plenty of restaurants – notably a few fish specialty restaurants.
Is there anything else to do in the area? Yes. If you have transportation you can easily get to these places (click links below for more information):
- Vakhsh River downstream from Sarband
- Rock beaches
- Ajina-Teppa Buddhist Monastery
- Various activities in Qurghonteppa City
- Plus, scenic highways in all directions
Best time to visit? For swimming, June to September. For hiking, anytime except the three-month height of summer (mid-June to mid-September). Of course, if it snows it’s not the best time to visit, but it does snow far less than Dushanbe. However, many of the photos below were taken during the first half of February. So a winter visit is fine with the right weather.
For more photos of Sarband, view these tiles. Click any photo for a larger slideshow view:
So, how do you get to Sarband? If you have a car or driver, just drive straight south from Dushanbe to Qurghonteppa. Right at the Qurghonteppa ‘vokzal’ (car/bus station) at the northern edge of the city, there is a split in the road, with the road on the left going east to Sarband. It’s really quite easy. Don’t have a car? Take a shared taxi from the south-east corner of the Sakhovat bazaar in southern Dushanbe. Last time I travelled this route it was about 10-15 Somoni to Qurghonteppa. You can get dropped off at the Qurghonteppa vokzal or the old central bazaar and take a shared taxi to Sarband (but it should be quicker from the vokzal). Need better directions? I will update the Sarband section with a detailed map sometime during spring 2016. For now, check out our map advice here.
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This website is part of a tourist development project by the Sworde-Teppa English and Education Centre.
Questions? Contact me here: Christian.Bleuer at gmail.
Bread straight from the oven is always the best. My first day in Tajikistan was in summer 2009 in Qurghonteppa, and I was lucky enough to watch my friend’s mother and grandmother baking fresh bread in their back yard. It looked exactly like this:
This video was created by John Wendle, who visited the town of Qumsangir in far southern Khatlon Province earlier this year.
When I first visited Tajikistan in 2009, the only tourist destinations I knew about were the Pamirs and the Fan Mountains. Fortunately, I met the friendly people at the Sworde-Teppa English and Education Centre in Qurghonteppa, and over the years they showed me the best places to visit throughout Khatlon Province. Now I tell everybody that they should visit the south.
Here are the top ten reasons that I usually give to visit the south:
1. Water, Water Everywhere
These are just a tiny fraction of the amazing lakes, rivers, canals, springs and waterfalls that you can find throughout the southern Khatlon Province. Explore this website for more.
2. History Around Every Corner
The south of Tajikistan may not be Samarkand and Bukhara, but you can definitely find some remarkable historical sites:
3. Lenin Lives!
Just when you least expect him: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. There are dozens of him in the south. I still haven’t found them all.
Hunting for historical sites or Lenin statues may not be everyone’s idea of a good time. But how about something even more ancient?
The diversity of the geology in the south is amazing. You will find an endless variety of beautiful cliffs, mountains and rocks.
Photo of Childukhtaron Mountains by Farkhod (credit here):
5. Magic Trees
In some hidden corners of the south there are trees that can fix your health, make your wishes come true, and even just make you feel happy. Ask the locals what special property a particular tree has. However, sometimes the answer is “It’s just a pretty tree.” And that’s probably just as good.
6. Safe and Peaceful
I’ve never had a problem in the south. Every time I see one of those “Be careful outside of the capital city!” warnings, I wonder if the person who wrote that has ever been outside Dushanbe.
7. Wildlife Gone Wild
I don’t have a big lens on my camera, so I don’t take great wildlife photos. But I see wild animals all the time. Travel up a mountain or in the forest, and you’ll see them.
8. Random Surprises
Sometimes I think I know the south, and that I’ve seen it all. But then one day while driving to Danghara I met a camel who only drinks RC Cola. He will chase you away if you try to feed him water or Diet Coke.
The truth is, on every trip I take in the south, something unexpected and memorable happens. One morning I decided to pay a quick visit to the town of Qubodiyon, and soon after my arrival I was looking at old Russian and Bollywood film reels stored in a Soviet-era cinema:
9. Winter? What Winter?
This photo was taken two years ago in mid-February:
We can’t promise that it is always like this in winter, it does snow and freeze occasionally during the short winter. But most of the south is open when the mountains are closed. You can visit all year-round.
It’s still a novelty for the locals to meet a tourist. So the reception is always amazing.
11. Bonus Reason: Find Your Own Adventure
It is now so easy to find your way around the south and to set off exploring in any direction. This website will, by late spring 2016, provide all the tools you need (maps, directions, advice) to get to any destination in the Khatlon Province. For now, explore our website, we have hundreds of photos and dozens of trip itineraries listed.