Tajikistan is one of the most overlooked tourist destinations in the world, but it’s a shame since the country offers some of the most scenic nature in the world.
But luckily, a few tourist a year that are brave enough to venture of the mainstream tourist’s destinations in the world and rather go off and explore the real beauty of what this world has to offer.
And what’s the best kind of transportation to travel one of the least explored countries in the world? A car? A motorbike? no and no, the best way is by Bicycle!
One of my plans with doing a trip through Tajikistan and the Pamirs was to use an old shitty bike, and not a 2000 Euro bike that “everyone” told me that I had to use, especially all the “expert” on all the bike touring forums. So what did I do?
I bought an old used DBS bike for 200 Euro, bought the cheapest bike bags and panniers I could find (even I had to admit that I should have spent more money on the bag and panniers, especially since one of my bags broke the FIRST DAY, but that’s what we have duck tape for).
I started this trip with flying into Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
Dushanbe is by far the biggest city in the country, it does have a few sights but there’s nothing special to brag about there, but like most other travelers did I have to spend a few days there, so I did the normal sightseeing, one thing that’s worth checking out is the Museum of Antiquities that host old artifacts found from the silk road area, one of the most famous artifacts is a 13meter (40foot) long Buddha statue.
The biggest issue in Dushanbe was the drunk police officers that were demanding bribes for anything.
Especially the officers that hang around the Massive Statue of Somoni in the city center.
When I finally managed to leave Dushanbe after the 4th day and arrived in the small town of Nurek about 70km further, I was exhausted, completely tires, maybe it wast that smart after all to do a trip like this without any training so what so ever.
Nurek is home to the world’s second tallest man-made dam in the world at 300m, only beaten by a dam in China with 5meters. Nurek Dam actually had the world record from 1972 to 2013.
It was another 130km to reach the city of Kulob from Nurek.
There’s not much to say about that part of the trip, except that I had to pass trough Anzob Tunnel, better known as the “Tunnel of DEATH“.
The tunnel was open in 2006 despite being only partially finished and it quickly gained the reputation as being one of the world’s most dangerous tunnels.
It’s a 5km long tunnel with NO light inside it’s literally pitch dark, and potholes with the size of basketballs and to make things even worse, there’s no ventilation system inside the tunnel so it’s a truly feels like a claustrophobic abyss inside there.
Then, on my way to Kulob, this restored fort showed up in the middle of nowhere.
Then while having a rest outside the fort a local wedding party showed up and insisted that I take part in the celebration.
The city its one of the biggest cities in Tajikistan, but there’s not much to say about the place except that it’s a nice city to rest for a day or two.
From Kulob its only another two days until you reach the border with Afghanistan, a border you will be following for the next two weeks. You’re so close to Afghanistan that its hard NOT to sneak in.
The border area between Tajikistan and Afghanistan has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.
The first proper village you will reach along the river banks is Kalaikhum.
Kalaikhum is a small green settlement, that’s more like a traveler meeting point, on a famous junction.
You will meet travelers coming from Kyrgyzstan towards Dushanbe, some others that have taken the “upper” road from Dushanbe towards the Pamirs, and some of them have taken the lower route (the one I took). During my two days stay in Kalaikhum I met about 12 – 14 other travelers on motorbikes, people with cars and other with bicycles, there was even a French guy that was WALKING BY FOOT.
Like I already mentioned Korugh is the last town/city you will see in a while, it’s also the place with the last ATM and last place where you get to enjoy some tasty food and ice cold beer for a while. There are some decent restaurants with English menus along the riverfront.
This adventure will continue in a second post and third post, covering Wakhan valley and the Pamir Highway.
Additional information about Tajikistan.
Tourist visas are available at arrival at the airport for citizens of countries with no Tajik embassy, the visa fee is 25 USD, bring exact amount since they didn’t really have any change there.
I would recommend you to print out the forms and fill them out when you arrive, it will save you A LOT of time since there is only one immigration officer at the airport, it can easily take 1 – 2 hours to obtain your visa at the airport if there are many tourists arriving.
A separate permit is required if you wish to travel to the GBAO region (the Pamir area); it costs $US50 and it’s easily obtained in Dushanbe.
There are ATM’S all over Dushanbe, but they all charge you a fee for withdrawing money. I also found ATM’S in Kulob and Khorugh, but I didn’t find ANY ATM trough Wahkan Valley or the Pamirs.
There are also money changers all over the capital.