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For years, Tajikistan was hidden within the Central Asia Republics of the old Soviet Union, but now, like many of its neighbors, it’s trying to emerge as an engaging travel destination for travelers seeking the off path and the adventurous. Tajikistan offers a beauty and travel experience comparable to Pakistan, but without the dangers of travel. It’s been more than a decade since Tajikistan’s civil war concluded. Mountaineering, rock climbing, hiking and horseback riding are some of the ways that travelers experience the country’s lakes and mountains. Mountain climbers are attracted to the Pamirs: Peak Somoni, Peak Lenin and Peak Korzhenevskaya, while high-altitude trekking is a specialty of the Fann mountains. Several Silk Road routes pass through these mountain ranges, and many travelers take the opportunity to stay in a traditional yurt in the Pamirs.

Culturally, Tajikistan is different from such neighboring countries as Uzbekistan and Pakistan because of the historical influence of the ancient Persian civilization that also left its mark in Rajasthan, India. Visitors can explore the origins of the Sogdian civilization, the mother culture of Zoroastrianism, as well as Buddhist, Hindu and Christian remains. Islamic has also added a bounty of art and architecture to the legacy. When you walk the breathtaking Wakhan Valley you’re literally in the footsteps of Marco Polo. Isfara is the major outpost, a Silk Road town, in the country’s mythic Ferhghana Valley which runs between Kyrgyzstani and Uzbekistan.

The capital city, Dushanbe, became a market town in the 17th century, when merchants would gather on Mondays with their goods. Dushanbe literally means “monday.” The Tajik Market, still a colorful parade of people, carries on the tradition. The Hissar Mountains form the majestic background to the city which sits on the Varzob River. Dushanbe’s Museum of Antiquities provides a glimpse into the complex past of Tajikistan. Closer to the Uzbeki cultural center of Samarkand than to its own capital of Dushanbe, Panjakent was an important center in the Sogdian empire, a pre-Islamic civilization. A small museum displays artifacts from nearby excavations. The most popular places to gather in Tajikistan are the chaikhana, or traditional Tajik teahouses. Like the culture itself, Tajik food reflects the influences of its neighbors with an overlay of Persian. Dried fruit and nuts begin Tajik meals before moving onto soup and meat, and then the fried rice dish known as plov. Tea is served at every meal.

The winters in Tajikistan are not as fierce as you might imagine except in the Pamirs, while the summers are extremely hot. Turkish Airlines, with service to New York, offers onward service to Dushanbe.

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