Most people can’t even point out Tajikistan on a map, let alone think of traveling solo there- especially as a woman. But don’t let this stop you. If you have Tajikistan on your mind you should definitely go, even if that means traveling Tajikistan solo.
WHERE IS TAJIKISTAN?
Tajikistan is nestled in the heart of Central Asia, sharing borders with Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road. With a geography that is 93% mountainous and a home to some of the most kind and hospitable people in the world, it’s easy to find an adventure in Tajikistan.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO TO TAJIKSTAN
Tajikistan is really an up-and-coming destination. The dust has long settled from the bloody civil war that broke out in the early 1990’s after Tajikistan gained its independence from the USSR. If you love trekking and the outdoors, Tajikistan has limitless possibilities for every level of nature enthusiast with stark mountains and crystal clear mountain lakes. Then there’s the people and culture, Tajiks will stop at nothing to show you some of the world’s finest hospitality.
IS TAJIKISTAN SAFE?
Just like any other destination on Earth, the regular precautions should be applied. With that said Tajikistan is a safe destination to visit, even for solo female travelers. Don’t let that long border shared with Afghanistan scare you away either, there has been little to no instability that has carried over from the Afghan War.
The most likely cause for problems in Tajikistan will be due to low hygienic standards. Food poisoning and stomach issues are not an uncommon ailment here. Always drink bottled or water that you have purified, try to eat dishes that are steaming hot, and always wash your hands when possible. The next most common danger for tourists comes from injuries while adventuring in the remote mountains. Don’t hesitate to hire a local guide if you aren’t confident in your navigating skills, and if you suffer a serious injury you will most likely have to depart the country to seek adequate medical treatment.
THE BEST ADVENTURES FOR SOLO TRAVELERS IN TAJIKISTAN
Tajikistan has limitless adventure potential from multi-day treks, a buzzing capital city, the chance to experience nomadic life in the remotest of corners, and so much more.
THE PAMIR HIGHWAY
This is the mother of all road trips with near constant jaw dropping views, wild moonscapes, gigantic mountains, beautiful mountain lakes, and unique cultures around every corner. Countless hikes are possible in the Pamirs.
TREKKING IN THE FANN MOUNTAINS
The premier trekking destination in Central Asia, and you’ve probably never heard of it. The Fann Mountains offer several trekking routes that will interest just about any level of hiker. From easier to conquer treks like the Haft Kul to see the famed 7 dazzling lakes to more difficult jaunts like Chimtaga Pass.
THE HUSTLE & BUSTLE OF DUSHANBE
Uniquely Tajik with a Soviet feel to it. Check out Rudaki Park, the Green Bazaar, Mevlana Yakub Charki Mosque, some of the best Indian cuisine you’ll find in Central Asia, and more. For great accommodations while you’re living it up in Dushanbe check out Dushanbe Serena Hotel, Asia Grand Hotel (http://www.asiagh.tj/en/content/contacts), and Hello Hostel Dushanbe.
YURTS AND NOMAD LIFE IN THE PAMIRS
Want to experience nomad life and get truly off the beaten path? Head out into the remote Pamir Mountains where you will likely stumble across Kyrgyz yurts dotting the lunar landscape. Don’t be surprised if a family in a yurt you’re passing by invite you in for some yak yogurt, bread and tea!
MOSQUES & MADRASAS IN ISTARAVSHAN
Istaravashan is located in the northwest of the country, not too far from the border with Uzbekistan. With that said, it does have a small handful of impressive madrasas and mosques to explore. Of course they’re much smaller in scale than across the border, but then again, you’ll have no crowds to contend with in compact Istaravshan. There aren’t many options for hotels in Istaravshan, but a decent choice is the Sadbarg Hotel.
THE HIGHEST NAVIGABLE LAKE IN THE WORLD: KARAKUL
Not officially, yet. However with that said, the lake sits higher in elevation than Lake Titicaca. It’s surrounded by a lunar landscape with the icy pinnacles of the Pamir Mountains in the distance. This giant saline lake was likely created from the impact of a massive meteor. If you opt to spend the night in Karakul expect basic and quaint homestays. You can see a list of official homestays here.
PANSHANBE BAZAAR IN KHUJAND
Sitting on the banks of the Syr Darya River and home to one of the busiest bazaars in all of Central Asia- Khujand definitely warrants a stop on your travels in Tajikistan. The Panshanbe Bazaar will easily steal an afternoon of your time trying to explore the massive complex. Don’t forget to wander the streets meeting the kind locals of the city and make sure to relax in Khujandi Park. Good accommodations to book for your stay in Khujand are Armon Apartment Hotel, Guesthouse on Shark 21, and Somoni Hostel.
EXPERIENCING THE BEAUTY OF THE WAKHAN VALLEY
The Wakhan Valley straddles both sides of the Tajik-Afghan border, giving you stunning views of the iced over Hindu Kush, glimpses of Afghanistan so close you feel like you could touch it, and Islamili Mazars between the quaint villages. The Wakhi people that inhabit this area are widely regarded as some of the friendliest people in all of Tajikistan.
THE ANCIENT RUINS OF PANJAKENT
Just outside the town of Panjakent sits the ancient ruins of Panjakent left behind by the Sogdians from centuries ago. Panjakent is also the jumping off point for several adventures into the Fann and Zeravshan Mountains. Try Umariyon Hotel if you’ll be spending the night.
WHAT SHOULD FEMALE TRAVELERS WEAR IN TAJIKISTAN?
Tajikistan is probably not as conservative as you think it is given its location. With that said, erring on the side of conservative dress will make your travels much easier as a solo woman. Great outfit ideas for women planning to visit Tajikistan would be a long flowing maxi dress, a long tunic paired with leggings, or a blouse with elephant pants. Some women do cover their hair while just as many do not. The hijab is uncommon and the niqqab is rarely seen. The only time you’ll see women covering their head is when entering mosques- so it’s not a bad idea to carry a scarf on you.
TIPS FOR SOLO WOMEN TRAVELING TAJIKISTAN
- Conservative dress is best: try not to show too much skin.
- If men make you feel uncomfortable look for other women. Tajik women will likely take you under their wing.
- When asked, tell people you’re married. It’s helpful to have a picture of your husband (fictional or not) saved on your phone to show people, and a wedding ring. It can help warrant off men who may be interested in you. People marry young here typically, so a single woman is a little atypical.
- You will get stared at. It’s not usually a gesture to make you feel uncomfortable, it is usually out of curiosity. Don’t pay much attention to it.
- Learn to read Cyrillic. Tajik is almost identical to the Farsi spoken in Iran, however it is written in the Cyrillic alphabet like Russian. It will help you navigate yourself in Dushanbe.
- Learn some basic phrases in Russian or Tajik. Russian was widely taught under Soviet rule, so most Tajiks understand and can communicate in Russian. People will be absolutely delighted if you can say anything in Tajik- which is nearly identical to Farsi and Dari.
- Avoid hitting the nightclubs in Dushanbe alone. Most unaccompanied women in nightclubs are assumed to be prostitutes, which may lead to unwanted attention. So if you wanna hit the clubs, grab a few friends before you leave the hostel.
- Be patient. Things in Tajikistan don’t always move quickly or on time, and there isn’t much tourism infrastructure.
- Bring Imodium and a broad spectrum antibiotic to combat stomach issues or minor infections.
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Tajikistan. If you have any questions about the destination please leave these in the comments below.
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