The smallest of Central Asian countries, Tajikistan shares borders with Uzbekistan, Afganistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China. Rugged, mountainous and landlocked, Tajikistan is a country where over 90% of the land is covered with mountains. This fact of nature makes Tajikistan a perfect destination for adventure lovers. In fact, one of the most adventures and highest highways in the world runs through Tajikistan – called the Pamir Highway, second in terms of altitude after the Karakorum. The countless high mountain lakes, trekking trails, an abundance of wildlife and unique culture gives an unprecedented opportunity for travelers to explore the country in different ways. Tajikistan is made up of four provinces, specifically, the GBAO province or Pamir dominates the landscape of the country. The countries wild highlands are only sparsely inhabited by some of the most hospitable peoples in the world, who make their living mostly from farming.
Tajikistan is a destination for travelers rather than tourists and you should give at least one week for traveling to explore some part of the country. As infrastructure and services are gradually improving, while still far from being overrun by tourists, now is the time to go on your Tajikistan tour.
Get in and Visa regulations
Visiting Tajikistan is easy. Dushanbe has flight connections with several airports in Europe and Asia. Currently comfortable flights to Dushanbe are once a week directly from Frankfurt, Germany by Somonair carrier and three times a week from Istanbul using Turkish Airlines as well as 5 flights from Dubai.
Citizens of most countries can easily obtain their visa online. The official website by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is: https://www.evisa.tj/index.evisa.html. Be sure to apply for tourist visa (invitation not required). In addition to visa for those who are planning to visit the GBAO region commonly referred to as Pamir should obtain additional permit which can be applied for along with visa in the above mentioned link. For detailed information on how to apply and when please email us at [email protected]
All necessary permits for hunting and for the importation and re-export of hunting firearms and ammunition will be obtained by Association of Nature Conservation Organizations of Tajikistan and sent by Email to the visiting hunter. Association of Nature Conservation Organizations of Tajikistan will pick you up at the airport and assist with all procedures. Ungulate trophies can be shipped via an EU-registered company. Boar tusks can be exported by the hunters without prior notification to import authorities. For CITES listed species (argali and urial sheep, markhor) Association of Nature Conservation Organizations of Tajikistan provides advice and assistance with obtaining the required export and import permits.
In Tajikistan the journey starts from the international airport of Because of the remoteness of the hunting areas, poor road infrastructures and sometimes difficult weather conditions, especially in winter require a relatively long travel by road is. Markhor and wild-boar areas can be reached from Dushanbe in half-a-day drive. Areas with Asiatic ibex and Marco Polo sheep will require 1 to 2 day drive through along the Pamir highway which is an adventure on its own. for traveler across the Atlantic we suggest spending one day in Dushanbe after the long flight before embarking on the journey especially to Pamir.
For visitors of the Pamirs, travel via Osh in Kyrgyzstan (once a week connected via Istanbul by Turkish Airlines) can be an attractive option. The road from Osh to the Pamirs passes the scenic landscape of the Alay mountains in Kyrgyzstan, which are worth a visit on their own and where similar community-based initiatives since 2014 started to replicate the successful experience from neighboring Tajikistan. Please check in advance with Association of Nature Conservation Organizations of Tajikistan!
Tajikistan is diverse and distinct at the same time in terms of ecosystem variations. Most of the country is covered by different mountain biomes and heavily varying climatic conditions at different altitudes which causes different vegetation zones and developed different unique habitats over the course of history. The National Biodiversity Conservation report indicates that Tajikistan contains 0.66% of the world animal and 1.8% – plant diversity, including wild relatives of domestic animals and cultivated plants. With 12 types of ecosystems Tajikistan boasts with over 9 thousand plant species of which 1132 are endemic as well as 13 thousand species of invertebrates and 531 species of vertebrate animals. As of today there are 2 National parks, 4 Zapovedniks (Protected areas) and 16 zakazniks (a limited form of protected area) in Tajikistan.
There are over 80 different mammal species, 394 bird species and about 50 reptile species in Tajikistan. The most famous among mammals are mountain ungulates such as the Marco Polo sheep, Asiatic Ibex, Markhor goat and Bukhara Urial along with the most outstanding carnivore in the region, the snow leopard. In Tigrovaya Balka reserve there is a considerable population of Bukhara Deer, a subspecies of red deer and almost extinct numbers of Goitered Gazelles. An unprecedented discovery made by the ANCOT team recently also revealed a number of stripped hyenas in southern Tajikistan recently which is their most eastern habitat. The ornithofauna of Tajikistan includes 19 orders, 58 families and 394 bird species. The major bird hotspots in the country are big mountain lakes and gorges along the mountain ranges.
The possibilities of observation of wild animals in Tajikistan
Compared to protected areas in South and Southeast Asia or even Africa, it is more difficult in Tajikistan to observe spectacular wild animals in the wild. It seems to the visitor that large parts of the country are completely free from larger wild animals. However, the ANCOT team consisting of lead biologists, avid naturalists and experienced rangers of it’s member conservancy areas have gained considerable experience in wildlife monitoring and the possibilities of encounters with them in the wild. Thanks to the dedicated and hard protection work of local communities and private conservancy concessions today it is easily possible to observe Marco Polo sheep, Markhor goats and Asiatic ibex in the wild in ANCOT member conservancies. Adding to the increase of these animals in the wild which are the main prey of Snow Leopards in Tajikistan, the population of Snow Leopards is seen to be restoring as well. The number of sightings by rangers and by camera traps have considerably increased in recent years in some of the conservancies, which allows Snow Leopard lovers to track and see the cat in the wild with the help of local rangers and our team. The winter, autumn and spring months are most suitable for the wildlife observation in Tajikistan, especially the winter time as it is the rutting season of most of the big mammals of Tajikistan. More often than tracks of animals such as snow leopards and lynx one encounters traces of brown bears, which lives in the Pamir and in the mountains of the Hisor Alai. The brown bears can be easily observed in the wild from the beginning of spring to summer and from the end of summer to mid-autumn. The whistling marmots can be heard and observed on the high plateaus. In addition, yaks are kept on the high pastures of Pamir on altitudes over 3000 meters as livestock, so you can watch these impressive animals from close and in places like Alichur rent them for riding. In the Wakhan corridor and in the East Pamir near Rangkul also camels are kept and can be rented as well.
When to go
This depends on what you want to do or see. Generally the tourist season in Tajikistan is from May to late September and Hunting season starts in early Autumn to late Spring. For wildlife tours season also varies depending on the particular species, though most of the wildlife of Tajikistan is active throughout the winter and spring time. This however doesn’t mean you can’t see the wildlife in summer and autumn. Brown bears for example are mostly active in late August and early September just before the hibernation as they need to get as much nutrients as possible before the winter. As for mountain ungulates their rutting season starts in November and finishes in mid-December. This is the time when you can observe their mating behavior and witness fierce fights between males. Snow leopards are mostly active from January to late March and it is easier to track them during this time because of the cold weather and snow. For trekking tours early-July to late September, as most of the mountain passes clear off from snow at this time making them passable for hikers.
The official unit of currency is Tajik Somoni. Dollars are widely used and is the most acceptable foreign currency in the country. We recommend you bring cash with yourself, as getting cash from ATM’s and banks can be daunting. There is no amount restriction for bringing cash into the country.
Language & Religion:
The official language in Tajikistan is Tajik, which is a variety of Persian language spoken in Tajikistan and some parts of Uzbekistan. There are six more minority languages of Iranian origin spoken in Tajikistan, mostly in Pamirs. Russian language is widely used and English is becoming popular among the youth. The majority of the population are Muslims, with the small minority being followers of Russian Orthodox, Catholicism, Buddhism and Judaism.
Tajik cuisine offers a large variety of fruit, meat, and soup dishes. The most popular among them are dishes such as Oshi palov, kurutob, Shurbo, Laghmon and snacks like sambusa and mantu. The national drink is green tea, respectively. Traditional Tajik meal begins with small dishes of dried fruits, jams, and halva, followed by soup and meat, and finished with plov. Tea accompanies every meal and is often served between meals. Besides traditional dishes, most restaurants serve Russian borsh and popular shashlyks.
Shurbo: boiled meat on the bone with chickpeas, red and green peppers, potatoes, carrots, and onions.
Laghmon: the same with homemade noodles
Oshi Palov: a rice dish made with shredded yellow turnip or carrot and pieces of meat, all fried together in vegetable oil or mutton fat.
Shashlyks: chunks or minced meat on a skewer cooked over an open fire. Vegetarian versions are often available.
Alcohol: The choice of Alcohol in Tajikistan is limited to vodka and beer. Scotch, whiskey or wine can be bought only in Dushanbe. We require our customers to be considerate and to treat local people with respect. In some parts of Tajikistan drinking alcohol is considered unrespectable, so please consult with your guide before putting the bottle on the table.