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Tajikistan

Main attractions

Markansu dry valley, Tajikistan
Markansu dry valley - Valley of Tornadoes / rugbyxm, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

The mountainous country of Tajikistan holds many secrets and unusual monuments. It was crossed by the great trade routes of the antiquity. The endless mountains of Pamir constituted one of the most extreme and memorable parts of the long journey between different parts of the world with numerous legends still alive and even more - forgotten and may be - waiting to be rediscovered.

The extreme landscape of remote mountain valleys has served as a unique repository of little known cultures (Yaghnobi, Pamiri people) and less-known beliefs and religions. These people live with their secrets (according to local stories - sometimes in a form of hidden ancient books) among us.

Natural monuments

Caves

  • Kuhi-Malik Fiery Caves - Sughd. Unique caves formed by natural fire in coal layers. Earth here still is scorching hot. Some specialists consider that these fires may have served as inspiration to Zoroastrian religion.
  • Matatash (Cave Putnikov) - Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Legendary cave: there are stories about treasure hidden in it. Entrance is located in 400 m high cliff and the cave is nearly inaccessible - but, as the travellers noticed since early times, the entrance has been partly closed with stone wall. Only in 1958 people managed to reach it. Turned out that the supposed stone wall is natural heap of stones and the cave is just shallow grotto.
  • Rangkul cave (Siykirduu) - Salaktash ravine, Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. More than 5,000 m long and 260 m deep cave, entrance located in 4,400 m height. Walls of passages are covered with beautiful crystals of calcite. Archaeological finds.

Springs

  • Garm-Chashma - western part of Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Sacred place fo Garm people (there was sanctuary above the springs) - travertine mound with 400 m wide terraces formed by thermal springs. Here are located nine - ten spouting springs with 0.1 - 1.2 m high fountains, temperature of water is roughly 59° C. At the end of the 19th century here still were found geyser pearls. Water has powerful healing properties, especially for diverse forms of dermatitis.
  • Issyk Bulak - central Kuhistoni-Badakhshon, Alichur valley. Group of hot springs with water temperature up to 71°C, some are often reported as geysers although most likely are just powerful springs.
  • Jarajand travertine wall and hot springs - southern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Huge travertine formation deposited by a hot spring.
  • Khoja Sangkhok mineral springs (Anzob mineral water) - Sughd. Highly carbonated springs at 3,030 m height. Spring water contains that much hydrocarbon that the water seems to be boiling.

Waterfalls and rapids

  • Chartym landslide - western Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Landslide here has created a beautiful attraction - 200 m long rapids of Gunt River with numerous waterfalls.
  • Matraun Falls - western Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. 35 - 40 m tall, powerful falls of Matraundara river with two cascades.
  • Ovchug Falls - western Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Two approximately 70 m tall, single plunge falls on small streams, falling into ravine.
Spinel from Kuh-i-Lal mine, Tajikistan
Spinel from Kuh-i-Lal mine / Rob Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Gemstone finds

  • Kokurt gemstone find - surroundings of Lake Rangkul, eastern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Here in rare rocks of nefeline sienite are found diverse gemstones - garnets, unique heliodores, turmalines, amazonite and others.
  • Kukh-i-Lal mine - western part of Kuhistoni-Badakhshon east from Vogda village. Ancient mines up to 50 m deep. The best find of gemstone quality clinohumite - transparent stones in the color of fire. Clinohumite here is found together with another very valuable gemstone - spinel, which was mined here since the 8th century AD.
  • Ladzhuar-Dara lazurite mine - southern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Legendary, nearly inaccessible and for long centuries secret mine of high quality lapis lazuli - lazurite. It is extremely hard to access, thus adding value to this gemstone. Rediscovered in the 1930s.

Other natural landmarks

  • Bazar-Dara meteorite crater - Alichur river valley, Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. 115 m wide and 16 m deep impact crater.
  • Chirak Tash rock - Murghab District, eastern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Legendary rock of limestone. According to the legend in the large natural arch in the upper part of the rock during the nighttime was lighted a fire for orientation of caravans passing the lifeless, otherwordly Valley of Tornadoes - Markansu Desert.
  • Darai-Nazarak valley - eastern part of Region of Republican Subordination. This valley might be the main habitat for several species of endemic butterflies including Aricia kogistana (Grum-Grshimailo, 1888), Melitaea trivia petri (Shchetkin, 1984).
  • Fedchenko Glacier - Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. The largest glacier of the world outside polar regions. Narrow, 77 km long and up to 1,000 m thick flow of ice.
  • Growth of Pamirian winterfat in Western Pshart ravine - Murghab District, eastern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Pamirian winterfat (Krascheninnikovia ceratoides (L.) Gueldenstd.) here grows over several hundreds of hektares. Plants are several centuries old and have grown 2 - 3 m tall (elsewhere even 1 m tall plant is considered to be huge).
  • Hodja Mumin salt dome - Khatlon. One of the largest salt domes of the world, rising 900 m above the surrounding plain, approximately 8.5 km wide. At places up to 500 m high vertical walls of salt. Here is more than 30 billion tons of salt. Contains constantly changing caves up to 350 m long, wind emits sounds in these caves as it passes through the thin stalactites of salt.
  • Mount Chapdara north-eastern wall - Sughd. Very impressive, up to 1,500 m tall nearly vertical wall of Mount Chapdara (5,050 m).
  • Shirkent dynosaur footprints - Region of Republican Subordination. Three sites with more than 400 dynosaur footprints left in limestone surfaces. Footprints are left by Macropodosaurus gravis and several Tridactylous. Numerous other interesting fossils.
  • Murghab meteorite craters (Aksu, Chaglgan Toushtou) - eastern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Two craters, where the largest is 80 m wide and 15 m deep. Formed in limestone layers by meteorite some 250 - 300 years ago.
  • Usoi Dam and Sarez Lake - Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Earthquake in 1911 created the tallest natural dam of the world - Usoi dam, which is 550 m tall and 3 km long. It dammed Murghab River here and as a result formed Sarez Lake, 505 m deep, 56 km long lake. It may cause extreme floods in a case of next earthquake.

Man made landmarks

Lyangar petroglyph, Tajikistan
Lyangar petroglyph / rugbyxm, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Prehistoric monuments

  • Ak-Jilga petroglyphs - eastern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon, northern Ak-Jilga valley. Unique Bronze Age petroglyphs showing chariots, archers, even skeletons. Possibly they mark advance of Indo-Europeans.
  • Ancient temple in Bogiv - western Kuhistoni-Badakhshon, east from Khorog. Circular foundations of ancient, pre-Zoroastrian temple.
  • Lyangar petroglyphs (Ljangar, Langar) - southern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon, at Vakhan Valley. Numerous (5,878) petroglyphs left by travellers, passing the Pyandj valley.
  • Petroglyphs at Marguzor Lake - Sughd. Ancient drawings on limestone blocks around the lake.
  • Shakhti cave paintings (Djarty Gumbez, Shakty) - eastern part of Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Fine mesolithic or neolithic cave paintings in two colors, located in a small cave 4,200 m above the sea level. Shown mainly bears, wild pigs, but also mysterious bird-mans.
  • Shurali geoglyphs and Kaltatur geoglyphs - western Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. 19 large figures consisting of 6 - 13 m long triangles and rectangles, ornamented with white and black rocks. Could be made in the 8th - 3rd century BC. Nearby are located large kurgans.
  • Yashilkul stone rings - northern shore of Yashilkul lake, central Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Group of three prehistoric (possibly Bronze Age, 2000 BC) ring-shaped stone ridges with a diameter up to 63 m.

Ancient temples

  • Ancient Ajina-Teppe Buddhist monastery - Khatlon. Once important Buddhist monastery, flourished in 7 - 8 century AD, rediscovered in 1959 and largely unearthed in 1966. It contained also a 12.85 m long sculpture of sleeping Buddha and painted clay sculptures. Parts of the murals on walls have been conserved.
  • Vrang Buddhist caves and Vrang Buddhist stupa - southern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Group of rough caves hewn around the 4th century AD in the cliff overlooking Pyandj River. Remnants of Buddhist stupa.
Bungikata palace, Tajikistan
Remnants of Bungikata Palace / upyernoz, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Ancient and medieval cities and fortifications

  • Ancient Panjakent (Pyanjekent) - Sughd. Remnants of early Middle Age city, the easternmost city of Sogdiana. Flourished in the 5th - 8th century AD. Preserved ruins, characteristic feature is rock ornamentation with paintings both in ceremonial buildings and common houses. Currently can be examined some 50 buildings with ancient murals.
  • Ancient Shahristan (Shakristan, Kahkakha) - Sughd. Remnants of ancient city, capital of the rebellous Oshrusāna (Ustrushana) in the 6th - 9th centuries AD. Here have been found remnants of fortification wall, palace, pre-Islamic ceremonial centre. Found also remnants of Bungikata palace with arsenal of 5000 stone balls for slings, amazing murals and numerous other interesting artefacts.
  • Ancient Takhti-Sangin with Temple of Oxes - Khatlon. Ancient fortified citadel. During the excavations here has been unearthed the unique Temple of Oxes (ox was god of Amu-Darya) which was built in the 3rd century BC and was in use until the 3rd - 4th century AD. Found more than 5,000 valuables - sacrifices made or gold, ivory, alabaster etc. Strong Greek influence including inscriptions on Greek language.
  • Baitudasht IV - Khatlon. Remnants ancient city from the 6th - 4th century BC, area 10 ha. Possible fire temple has been unearthed here.
  • Kaakhka-Kala fortress (Ka'akh-Ka) - southern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon, Vakhan Valley. Impressive remnants of large fortification (750 x 280 m) built in 3rd century BC, used until the 7th century AD. Walls up to 8.6 m high, 8 - 12 m wide, 56 towers.
  • Kafyr-Kala fortress (Kafyrkala) - Khatlon, Kolkhozabad. Enclosed in 360 x 360 m large walled area, this early medieval Kushan city flourished in the 6th - 8th century AD. Includes small Buddhist temple with murals.
  • Khulbuk Fortress - Khatlon. Governor's palace built in the 9th - 12th centuries AD. Palace was enclosed with 12 m high wall. Beautiful entrance portal with intricate carvings.
  • Old Istravshan (Kurukada) - Sughd. Ancient city, established 500 BC, when three ringwalls were built around it. On Mugh Hill in the centre still stand the ruins. City flourished also in the 13th - 16th century AD and the 18th century. Valuable buildings - remnants of city walls and mighty gates, Kok Gumbaz mosque.
  • Sarazm - Panjakent, Sughd. Remnants of unique ancient city. Initial settlement existed here in 3,400 - 2,000 BC, it developed as copper metallurgical center. Sarazm was abandoned as Indoeuropeans came here, but new city was around 1500 BC. This city served as a trade and shipment centre for turquoise mined nearby.
  • Yamchun fortress (Zulkhomar) - southern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Large fortress of triangular form, consists of several parts, with up to 9 m high walls, some 30 - 40 towers. Findings of artefacts from the 3rd century BC to the 11th century AD.

Mausoleums of Islamic scientists and statesman

  • Hodja Nashron Mausoleum - Tursunzade District, Region of Republican Subordination. Mausoleum with beautiful brickwork, built in the 11th - 12th centuries AD.
  • Khazrati Shoh Mausoleum (Mausoleum of Amir Khamza Khasti Podshoh) - Sughd. Unique monument of architecture - square wooden mausoleum from the 10th - 11th century AD with intricate carvings, enclosed into later adobe building.
  • Mausoleum of Hoji Muhammad Bashoro - Mazori Sharif, Sughd. Good example of medieval Central Asian architecture, built in the 11th - 12th centuries AD. Named after important Islamic scientist although it is not sure whether he is buried here.
Castle of Hisor, Tajikistan
Castle of Hisor / Steve Evans, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

Attractions of younger times

  • Castle of Hisor - Region of Republican Subordination. Remnants of beautiful castle which was built in the 17th - 19th centuries, summer residence of khans of Bukhara. Demolished in 1918 - 1933, partly restored later.
  • Nurek Dam - Khatlon and Region of Republican Subordination. Currently the highest embankment dam in the world, 300 m high and 700 m long, built in 1961 - 1980. Dam stands on Vakhsh River, total output is 3 GW - this covers 98% of the needs of Tajikistan.
  • Yamg Sun stone (Yamj) - southern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon, Vakhan Valley. Standing stone with hole in it, made in the late 19th century by a local philosopher Mubarak Vakhani. Sun is seen rising through it around the spring equinox - 40 days after this there can be started sowing.

List of described attractions by regions

Tajikistan is divided into 4 provinces. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Sughd
Kuhistoni-Badakhshon
ArrowMarkansu Desert - Valley of TornadoesMeteorological phenomena, Sites of legends
Region of Republican Subordination
Khatloni

Map of Tajikistan

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