While you can find steep, challenging, snowcapped peaks throughout Tajikistan, most skiers have their fun north of Dushanbe, in Safed Dara and the Fann Mountains. For resort skiers, Safed Dara has a unique set-up where you can pay per run, rather than paying for a day. It has beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and is only an hour away from Dushanbe, making it surprisingly accessible. For those looking to explore Tajikistan’s vast backcountry, Artuch Alp Base Camp is a good place to start, as it’s the starting point for the stunning Lakes Loop Trek. This means it’s more built out and accessible than other potential starting points, and there are also better maps of the region to help you with route planning. But don’t expect much support when you get there. Skiing in Tajikistan is so nascent that there are no mountain rescue services or ski guides around. It’s an exercise in self-sufficiency, especially for avalanche training and weather preparation. Some potential objectives from Artuch are Chimtarga Pass (15,600 ft), Alaudin Pass (12,500 ft), and Dvoinoi (14,100 ft), all of which were skied by Huw Kingston, an adventurer and writer who has written several helpful posts on the expedition.
Ismoil Somoni (24,590 ft) is the highest mountain in Tajikistan and the former USSR. Reflecting the region’s unique politics, it has been renamed several times, including to Stalin Peak, from 1931 to 1961, and Communism Peak, from 1961 to 1999. Most people today still know the mountain as Pik Kommunizma, perhaps because it is an easier name to remember and pronounce. But geopolitics will be far from your mind as you ascend this beautiful mountain in the Pamir Range. Just reaching the base camp at Moskvina Glade (13,780 ft) requires a jaw-dropping helicopter ride from Jirgital, which will put your focus squarely on the adventure ahead. To acclimatize for Ismoil Somoni, many climbers attempt nearby peaks in advance, like Korzhenevskaya (23,310 ft), Vorobeva (18,671 ft), or Chetyreh (20,665 ft). Not only does this approach offer better chances of reaching the summit, but it also gives you more time in one of the world’s most unique regions. The one downside to climbing in this area of the Pamirs is its unpredictable weather and snow conditions, which can create avalanche risks. For the best chances of safety and success, leave ample time in your itinerary for weather days.
The Silk Road Mountain Race is a single-stage bikepacking race in neighboring Kyrgyzstan that’s typically held in August. The race course crosses a mix of gravel and dirt trails and old Soviet roads for 1,120 miles, including over 100,000 feet of elevation gain, through the wild Tien Shan mountains. Competitors have just over 2 weeks to complete the trial, and the time doesn’t stop while you rest. Over half of those who start the journey will not finish it, making it all the more of an accomplishment for those who tough it out. For a lighter weight, more diverse adventure, you can ride part of the course and then venture back to Tajikistan for a bikepacking cruise along the Pamir Highway.
The Pamir Highway (a.k.a. M41) is a wild road that runs from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to Osh in Kyrgyzstan. Formerly a link on the ancient Silk Road, this route passes through the Pamir Mountains and more stunning landscapes than you can imagine. The best way to travel it is in a shared taxi with friends or fellow travelers, who you can connect with on Caravanistan’s helpful online forum. A few highlights you’ll want to include in your itinerary are Khorog, the Ishkashim border market, Langar, the Wakhan Valley, Bulunkul, Murghab, Karakul Lake, and Sary Mogul. You can also include a trip to Lenin Peak, but it’s a bit out of the way, so drivers tend to charge extra for gas.
It would be no surprise to find the Fann Mountains listed among the world’s best trekking regions in a few years. The only reason it’s not there already is that too few travelers have visited to explore it. Between its jagged peaks and plethora of gemstone lakes, the Fann Mountains feel like a more rugged version of Patagonia. But however tough the trails, your weariness will melt away as you sit fireside in a cozy yurt each night.
The Mehrgan Harvest Festival is a celebration of agricultural abundance that is held each year in October. Besides plentiful culinary treats, the event features music, dancing, traditional games, and other entertainment.
Navruz is an annual celebration of the awakening of nature after a long winter. It is held on the vernal equinox in March, on the day when day becomes equal to night in the northern hemisphere. As winters in Central Asia can be harsh, it’s no wonder that this is one of the most important holidays of the year in this region.