Where to go in 2019... and why!
2nd January 2019
You're sitting at your desk, staring at your computer screen. Holidays are complicated to arrange and half the battle is choosing the right country in the first place. You idly search google for some inspiration. Authenticity would be great. Scenery, the kind that makes you forget where you flew in from, that would be good too. I don't want to see mass tourism, I want to meet local people, I want to raise a few eyebrows when I tell my friends...
Meeting this list of specifications is much easier than you realise, but the way the web works there's a fair chance you'll skip over or not see "Central Asia", much less "Tajikistan". That's because hardly anyone has been - more people visit Afghanistan each year - very few people know anything about it and very few tour operators offer it.
Tajikistan is the poorest and most remote of the former republics of the Soviet Union. It's in an interesting neighbourhood - Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north and China to the east. The culture and language share ancestry with Iran. The scenery is the most incredible scenery on Earth that you've never heard of or seen. The people are renowned for their warmth and, especially in the mountains, their humbling hospitality. And everyone will want to hear about it if you decide to go. It's both a conversation stopper and a conversation starter.
So, what to do? Due to the shape and logistics of the country it makes sense to combine it with Kyrgyzstan and potentially China as well. If you've got 2 weeks you want to get yourself to Dushanbe and head for the Pamir Mountains, on the border with Afghanistan. If other people know anything about Tajikistan they know about the Pamirs. This is where you stay with locals in homestays, go trekking in amazing mountain scenery, and experience the unique local culture and architecture. Rather than head back the way you've come - which you can do if you wish - we would suggest continuing into Kyrgyzstan and possibly China as well.
The north of Tajikistan is an ideal addition to an Uzbekistan tour. From Samarkand you head east straight into the Fan Mountains (you've never heard of them, but they're higher than the Alps and most of the Rockies) and stay in homestays - trekking options are all around you and you're basically guaranteed to see the Milky Way in very fine detail every night. A week here is fantastic, then head south to Dushanbe for some city lights - Tajik style - and a flight home.
The last recommendation would be that, when you come home, tell everyone about Tajikistan. There is a tourist board there, but they have a very small budget. They would love to receive more visitors - tourism is a key strategic industry for the whole country and helps keep people employed and food on the table. Have an amazing time, and feel good about it? It's possible....
For more information on visiting Central Asia see our Uzbekistan page. Our local travel company there can run tours into Tajikistan. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.