Dushanbe Travel Guide + 10 Things to do in Dushanbe
Updated Febraury 2021, Dushanbe City Guide + 10 Things to do in Dushanbe was originally written May 2018
Between the world’s most epic road trip and hiking around one of the best trekking destinations you’ve probably never heard of, Dushanbe is a welcoming oasis to relax with modern comforts. I’ve now spent a bit of time in Dushanbe between different trips crisscrossing Tajikistan’s wild mountains and to be totally honest, I love my time in the city. It’s a fascinating mix of Soviet-era meets modern, while still remaining uniquely Tajik.
Dushanbe was nothing more than a small village named after its popular Monday Bazaar (Dushanbe translates out to Monday in Tajik) until 1929 when under the USSR Dushanbe was named the capital of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic and Dushanbe began to develop at a rapid pace. As the USSR fell in 1990, Dushanbe became the center of riots that would eventually lead to the country devolving into the Tajikistan Civil War. But by 2002 much of the fighting had ended. The dark days are over, the dust has settled and Dushanbe is a leafy, calm oasis.
Quick Dushanbe Facts
- Dushanbe is the capital and largest city in Tajikistan.
- Dushanbe means ‘Monday‘ in Tajik.
- The currency used in the city (as well as all of Tajikistan) is the Tajik Somoni (TJS). Its current exchange rate as of February 2021 is $1 USD = 11.40 TJS.
- Archaeological artifacts dating back to the 5th century BC have been found around Dushanbe, suggesting it was a small village from the 5th century BC to the 20th century AD.
- Dushanbe was called Stalinabad from 1929 until the 1950s.
Things To Do In Dushanbe
Dushanbe doesn’t have any wildly exciting attractions, which is why I love visiting the city. Just boring enough to be relaxing, but just bustling and exciting enough to keep you entertained. I recommend picking up a copy of Bradt’s Tajikistan guidebook to help you plan your time in Dushanbe and beyond.
Relax in Rudaki Park
With flower gardens, several monuments, and water fountains galore, Rudaki Park is a nice place to hang out and watch Tajik people as they carry on about their days. It’s also a great place to meet locals. There are several statues and monuments in and just outside of the park, including:
Ismoil Somoni Statue
One of the most iconic statues in Dushanbe that celebrates Ismoil Somoni, the man whom the currency is named after. Ismoil Somoni was the founder of the Samanid Dynasty in the 10th century.
Rudaki is regarded to be the first literary genius of the modern Persian language. He was born in the Tajik village of Rudak (now Panjrud). His statue sits at the edge of a pond in the heart of Rudaki Park under an arch of colorful tiled stars.
A white marble pillar with the emblem of Tajikistan crowned atop, built to celebrate Tajikistan’s independence.
Get A Tour Of Mevlana Yakub Charki Mosque
Walk up to Mevlana Yakub Charki Mosque and you will more than likely be greeted by someone working around the grounds who will give you an informative tour of the mosque. Just make sure you are dressed appropriately (full length skirt or trousers, arms covered, and a head scarf for women). Non-Muslims are welcome, except of course during prayer times and on Fridays.
Plan the perfect two ‘stan adventure with my two week Uzbekistan & Tajikistan itinerary
Look Up At The World’s Second Tallest Flagpole
Bayrak is the local name of the flagpole. Standing at 165 meters it is the second tallest flagpole in the world. It was built to commemorate 20 years of Tajik independence. Located just outside the main Rudaki Park on a pond with the National Library and Palace of Nations nearby.
Appreciate The Architecture At Kokhi Nowruz
World’s biggest teahouse turned museum of handicrafts next to the Hyatt Regency Dushanbe and Park Molodezhi. The complex is grandiose, with designs that include the work of craftsmen from all over Tajikistan. It also includes an art gallery, movie theater, nightclub, chaikhana (teahouse), and a bowling alley. You can head to their website here, but it is only in Russian.
Race ATVs, Lay On The Beach & Be A Kid At Park Molodezhi
Park Molodzhi includes lake Komsomol, the lake that Hyatt Regency Dushanbe and Kokhi Nowruz are on, a beach, and a carnival. If you enjoy old Soviet-era carnivals the carnival on the east shore of the lake will be of interest. You can also rent ATVs on the brick path along the lake and race up and down it with others… so what I’m saying is be aware so you don’t get smoked on the walkway by a four-wheeler.
Catch A Concert At Ayni Ballet & Theatre
Often hosts inexpensive concerts and shows that different companies and even some embassies will put on. The Soviet architecture inside warrants a stop.
Watch Sunset From Victory Park
Victory Park is located on the east side of Dushanbe up a hill. The Soviet Memorial to WWII is in Victory Park, along with a restaurant open in summers. From the park, you’ll have great views of the city.
Escape To The Oasis Of The Botanical Garden
If you’re visiting in the summer or during the tulip season the Gardens can be worth the 2 TJS entrance fee. There is a zoo located in the gardens as well, but is often described as ‘depressing’.
Nerd Out On Tajik History & Culture
Just like many other cities around the world, Dushanbe hosts a few museums to Tajik history and culture.
If you’re looking for some insight into Tajik history and enjoy architectural exhibits this is a good place to visit. Don’t expect to be wowed though, it’s not the most impressive museum, but for those interested in Tajik & Central Asian history it will be worth the visit. The centerpiece is the recreated Ajina-Teppe. 25 TJS for foreigners, 10 TJS additional to take photos.
National Museum Of Antiquities Of Tajikistan
A good collection of archeological artifacts from around Tajikistan. This museum houses several of the original pieces that you’ll find copies of on display at the National Museum. There is a 13 meter Reclining Buddha here that is the original one that was taken out of Ajina-Teppe. This is the largest known Buddha in Central Asia. 20 TJS for foreigners.
This museum houses a collection of musical instruments from all over the Central Asian region. Often times you’ll find local musicians playing and practicing here. It can be hard to find as it is unmarked. 10 TJS for foreigners.
There are several bazaars around Dushanbe and even a western style mall.
Shop Like A Local At Mehrong Bazaar
Sprawling Mehron Bazaar, just a little north of the center of Dushanbe is the biggest bazaar in the city. Once upon a time, the Green Bazaar was once where all the action was at, but in 2018 it was closed. This is the best place in the city to shop for cheap fruits and vegetables, housewares, and really just about anything.
If you’re looking for a western-style shopping mall, this is the place to head. It’s not huge and doesn’t have many shops in it. If you’re looking for a large western-style supermarket there is one in the downstairs which can be helpful for those needing to stock up on items hard to find elsewhere in Tajikistan. There is also a food court upstairs.
Bazaar At Rudaki
On the southern end of Rudaki Avenue near the Garm Dok for shared taxis headed toward the Rasht Valley. Many merchants will set up stalls during the daytime selling non, kvas, fruits, vegetables and more.
Korvon Bazaar is the place to head to pick up Tajik fabric for cheap to have your own Tajik dress made. It also has a huge clothing market. Take marshrutka #33 that departs near Sadbarg to reach here as Korvon Bazaar is a few kilometers south of the city.
Vadanosos (Varzob) Bazaar
Varzob Bazaar is located on the north end of the city, a few blocks up from the Botanical Gardens. Great place to grab cheap fruits, vegetables and other food to cook yourself, especially for those staying in guesthouses on this side of Dushanbe. This is also the place to grab shared taxis headed for Varzob and Takob.
Located just a couple blocks west of Rudaki on Niyazi Street, the Munisa Mall doesn’t have much in way of interest for most foreigners, but in the basement, you’ll find an outdoor gear shop that carries some items that you may need if you left them home (or in my case had them stolen).
Collect Visas For Onward Travel
Much like Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, Dushanbe is a good place to hang for a few days as you gather your visas for onward travel in Central Asia. Some embassies may not have any English speaking staff, so you may find it helpful if you have made a friend in Dushanbe that you can bring with you to help translate if you don’t speak Tajik or Russian.
30 Sanoi Street
Many nationalities are now eligible to enter Uzbekistan visa-free or with an e-visa. If you are one of the unlucky nationalities that still needs a visa to visit Uzbekistan, you can apply here at the embassy. You will need your passport, a copy of your passport info page, a filled application form that you can get here, a passport photo, and for certain nationalities a LOI (letter of invitation).
10 Akhunbaev Street
Oh, the elusive Turkmen visa. It seems these days it’s more a lottery than an application. It’s not uncommon for them to deny visas for no reason at all (this goes for all Turkmen embassies).
There are two visas for tourists, the transit visa and a tourist visa. The transit visas cost $55 for most nationalities and do not require an LOI or a booked tour, however, you can only get one for stays of up to 5 days in Turkmenistan (but they mostly only give them out for 3 days maximum). Another item to take note of with transit visas is that you must enter from a different country you plan to depart from, so you cannot enter and exit Turkmenistan from the same country.
Your other option which is really the only realistic option for those wanting to really see the country is to book a tour through an agency who will arrange the LOI for you and thus making you eligible to apply for a tourist visa.
Tourist visas range in cost depending on nationality (usually $50-160). Requirements for visas are: passport, copy of passport info page (sometimes they will ask for copies of visas for the country you’ll be entering Turkmenistan from and then you’ll be exiting Turkmenistan into), filled out visa application, passport photo, copies of airline tickets if you’ll be flying in and/or out of the country, a letter from you explaining how you will transit the country, where you’ll go and your purpose of visit, and an LOI for those applying for full-on tourist visas. Many visas are turned around in 1 week but can take up to 3 weeks.
18 Bokhtar Street
Many report leaving with an Iranian visa in 1-3 days. You will need to bring all necessary documents, and then head to the Iranian Bank (near Merve Cafe) to pay the visa fee in US dollars and return with the receipt. If you are eligible for an e-visa, you must apply online first and designate that you want to submit your application at the Dushanbe Embassy.
You will need to bring your passport, a filled in visa application, a copy of your passport info page, 4 passport photos (women should wear a headscarf in photo), and an LOI for many nationalities. Iranian visas range from $35 to 210, depending on nationality.
The Iranian Embassy is open Monday-Friday 8:30 am to 12:30 pm and is located next to the Afghan Embassy.
59/1 Ismoil Somoni Avenue
You can get a visa to Afghanistan in Dushanbe, but the consulate in Khorog tends to be an easier option.
You will need to bring your passport, a copy of your passport info page, a filled out application, a passport photo, a letter stating that you take full responsibility for what happens to you in Afghanistan, and the payment needed in US dollars (can range from $100-220 depending on nationality, and sometimes even the day, or because the sky is blue).
The Afghan embassy is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 4 pm. I detailed how I received my visa to Afghanistan at the consulate in Khorog if you’d like a detailed breakdown. Note that sometimes they will not issue visas to solo female travelers.
31/1 Husseinzoda Street
Many nationalities can enter Kazakhstan visa free or on e-visa. Those not eligible can apply at the Kazakh Embassy. Bring your passport, passport photos and an LOI.
50 Said Nosir Street
Many nationalities are eligible to enter Kyrgyzstan visa-free for 60 days, or able to enter on an e-visa. Some nationalities will need to bring an LOI along with your passport and passport photos.
Where To Eat
Dushanbe is the best place in the country for international cuisine for those looking for a much needed break from Central Asian dishes. But not to worry if you’ve just arrived to Central Asia, there are plenty of chances to try out Tajik and Central Asian dishes such as kurutob, osh (plov), samsa, and shorbo.
Check my Dushanbe Restaurants Guide for the city’s best dining options
Offering up Mexican, Italian, and even a few Ecuadorian dishes Salsa is a favorite of mine in Dushanbe.
Hands down the best place in Dushanbe to grab the uniquely Tajik dish Kurutob.
One of the best pizzas you’ll get in Dushanbe, and the staff is very friendly.
Decent, inexpensive Tajik dishes in a more authentic chaikhana style. You will need to be able to order in Russian or Tajik (or not be afraid to point at things, mime, and be laughed at). The staff is friendly even if you’re struggling with using your newer-gained language skills.
Where To Sleep
Budget accommodations are popping up more and more in Dushanbe with a handful of hostels with cheap dorms and even allowing you to pitch a tent in the yard. Then, of course, there’s the Soviet-era relics that don’t appear to have been upgraded much at all since the late ’80s, and then onto more lux and modern accommodations
Hello Hostel Dushanbe
Hello Hostel Dushanbe is located in a quiet neighborhood just a short walk from Ayni Street and Rudaki Avenue in the southeast of Dushanbe. The staff is very friendly and helpful, one of the brothers that run it speaks good English for those non-Russian/Tajik speakers. Has less of a backpacker feel than Greenhouse and Yeti Hostels.
Airport pickups can be arranged, however, the hostel is located fairly close to the airport. Hello Hostel is my personal favorite accommodation in Dushanbe.
Greenhouse Hostel is located in the same neighborhood as Hello Hostel Dushanbe and Yeti Hostel, in the southeast of Dushanbe. The staff is kind and helpful. For those who have arrived and need to buy gas canisters for camp stoves Greenhouse usually has them for sale, just walk in the front door during the day and ask.
Rohat Hotel is a decent midrange option. Reviews claim that the hotel is clean with friendly staff. Located just across the street from Ayni Ballet & Theatre.
Atlas B&B Hotel
Atlas B&B is a more upscale option to the hostels and guesthouses in Dushanbe. Has a nice courtyard and recently renovated rooms. Located in southeast Dushanbe, not far from the airport.
Hilton Dushanbe Hotel
The Hilton is located in southeast Dushanbe on Ayni Street. Of course, you can expect western-style amenities and even indoor and outdoor swimming pools here. This was the Sheraton for many years and in summer 2019 it was changed to a Hilton, then an H by Hilton… I’m not sure which it actually is, though it doesn’t really matter (it seemed to be undergoing an identity crisis during my two months in Tajikistan in 2019).
Dushanbe Serena Hotel
The Serena Hotel is located on the south end of Rudaki Avenue. You can expect top-notch Tajik treatment here with a rooftop pool, spa and wellness center.
Hyatt Regency Dushanbe
The Hyatt Regency is where to find 5-star luxury in Dushanbe. Centrally located on Lake Komsomol with views of the ornate Kokhi Navruz and a short walk to Rudaki Park. Includes both outdoor and indoor swimming pools.
Getting Around Dushanbe
Dushanbe is a fairly walkable city, especially around the city center. However for those wanting a break off their feet, or planning to head longer distances there is a network of buses, marshrutka, and taxis around the city.
Marshrutka & Buses
You can zip around much of Dushanbe by marshrutka or by bus. Public buses charge 1 TJS per hop, but forget getting on a bus unless you want to figure out how to purchase fares at one of those orange-and-blue machines that you use your Tajik SIM card to pay with. Marshrutkas cost 1 TJS for short trips and 2 TJS for longer trips across the city or to the outskirts.
Note that marshrutka and public bus numbers run loosely on the same routes.
Bus #1 and #3 make trips up and down Rudaki Avenue (if you can manage to buy fare credits). Marshrutka #8 runs between Zarnisor Bazaar and Somoni Avenue and eventually onto the Badashanskaya Avtostansiya. Marshrutka #33 runs from the Dushanbe Airport to Sadbarg and onto Korvon Bazaar.
Marshrutka #25 runs from the University of Central Asia, stopping at Dushanbe Mall, across Rudaki Avenue to eventually end at Zaravashan and Zarnisor Bazaar in the west. Marshrutka #67 runs up and down from Green Bazaar to Karamova in the north of the city.
Many marshrutka routes go to Mehron Bazaar in the far north of the city, I noted Marshrutka #1, #2, #3, #12, and #44 went there, but more do make the trip. If in doubt stick your head in the marshrutka and say the name of your intended destination and they’ll say da or nyet.
If wanting to travel by private taxi expect to pay around 10-25 TJS for most rides around the city. Taxis with ‘3333’ and ‘7000’ written on the doors are reputable and use an app to calculate fares.
Dushanbe Day Trips
For those headed to Tajikistan on a short trip and want to base from Dushanbe and explore nearby sites in the country while being able to return to the creature comforts of the city there are plenty of options for you.
Timur Dara Lake
Timur Dara is a lovely turquoise lake located northwest of Dushanbe in the Karatag Valley about 45 km away. If trying to get here on the cheap you could try to hop on a shared taxi bound for the Tursunzoda border with Uzbekistan and ask to get off at Shahrinav Village, and from Shahrinav try to find a taxi to Hakimi village where the trek beings, but it may just be easier to find a few other backpackers wanting to head that direction and charter a taxi and split the cost to Hakimi Village.
The trek to Timur Dara begins from Hakimi Village taking you into Karatag Valley to Timur Dara in about 3 hours walking. You can opt to make this a 2-3 day trip by continuing onto Payron Lakes or continue trekking north to meet Munora Pass and then connect with many other popular hikes in the Fanns. It is possible to arrange a tour out here through Peak Adventures. Learn how to reach Timur Dara on your own here.
Plan your trek: The Timur Dara Guide
Hisor is well known for its ancient fortress as well as its mosque and madrasa. The ruins of the fortress have over 3,000 years of history.
To get here take a Marshrutka #8 to Zarnisor Bazaar, just west of Dushanbe. From Zarnisor grab another marshrutka bound for Hisor (signs in the window will say ‘Xисор’). Once to Hisor, walk across the street and get a taxi to Hisor Fort (ask for Hisor Kala).
Read more about visiting Hisor Fort here.
Learn how to get to Hisor Fort
Not only is Nurek Dam the second-highest manmade dam in the world, but the reservoir itself is a beautiful sight.
The Nurek Dam dams off the Vakhsh River, just 80 km southeast from Dushanbe. For those heading out on the Pamir Highway, you’ll pass by Nurek en route, but those who want a nice day trip Nurek is a good option.
The bad news is that a permit is required to go up onto the damn, which can be a pain in the ass to obtain. The good news is for those who don’t mind shelling out 170-350 TJS for use of the AquaClub facilities can bypass the need for the permit. Aquaclub has houseboats and accommodations as well.
The easiest way to reach Nurek would be to charter a taxi out there. But you could hop off near the reservoir on a shared taxi bound for Kulab.
The Varzob Gorge area is beautiful with views of the nearby Gissar Mountain Range. Not far is the Gusgarf Waterfall, which makes a trip to both a good combination on a day trip. To reach Varzob, grab a shared taxi (4 TJS) from Vadonasos (Varzob) Bazaar on the north end of Rudaki.
Gusgarf Falls is a beautiful 30 meter waterfall near the village of Gusgarf. To reach the falls the cheapest and easiest route would be to take a shared taxi bound for Varzob (4 TJS) from Vadonasos (Varzob) Bazaar on the north end of Rudaki and asked to be dropped off at the turn off for Gusgarf Village.
From the drop off point, it’s roughly an 11 km trek roundtrip, back to the main highway. You should be able to flag down a passing shared taxi bound for Dushanbe to hitch a return to the city. For those not wanting to deal with logistics you can book a tour here.
Takob/Safed Dara Valley
Just a little north from Varzob, 36 km north of Dushanbe is the turn off for the Safed Dara Ski Resort (formerly Takob). You usually can get a shared taxi to Takob from Vadonasos (Varzob) Bazaar in Dushanbe for 6 TJS.
In wintertime, you can come here for skiing but in summers it offers some great trekking. This is another good spot in which you could do an overnight trip or more.
Take a hike: The 10 best treks in Tajikistan
Qurgonteppa (which can be spelled a variety of different ways in Latin script), is a city in southwestern Tajikistan which can be reached by Asian Express Buses from the main bus station for 15 TJS.
Shared taxis are the same price and depart from the Vaghzal Qurgonteppa, south of the city center, across from the Sakhovat Bazaar (you can grab a marshrutka bound for Sakhovat Bazaar and walk across to the Vaghzal). Shared taxis go for about 15 TJS per seat as well.
Things to see in Qurgonteppa include the Chiluchor Sacred Spring, the Ajina-Teppa Buddhist Monastery, Childukharton Valley, and the Mausoleum & Museum of Bibikhonum.
Hulbuk Fortress is a reconstructed 11th century palace in the village of Pingan about 28 km before you reach Kulob from Dushanbe.
Grab an Asian Express Bus from the main bus station in Dushanbe bound for Kulob for 35 TJS (leaving at 7:30 am and 9 am). Or head to Badakhsnskaya Avtostansiya and get on a Kalaikhumb/Khorog bound shared taxi for 50 TJS and asked to be dropped off at Pingan as they will pass the town. Arrive early as most of the shared taxis headed this direction depart before 9am.
Iskanderkul is really pushing the boundaries for a day trip, but for those determined to visit the lake and spend a little time taking in nature around it, it’s possible in a long day.
In order to visit Iskanderkul as a day trip, it will be best to charter a taxi with a group of other travelers. Iskanderkul and nearby Sarytag make for a great overnight trip, as well as offering several hiking options further afield into the Fann Mountains.
If you want to reach Iskanderkul by shared taxi it is possible by getting a shared taxi north to Sarvoda and then from Sarvoda waiting for a shared taxi to fill to the village of Sarytag, just before the massive lake. Read more about everything to do and see in Iskanderkul and Sarytag here.
Plan your stay: The Iskanderkul & Sarytag Guide
Dushanbe Taxi Stands
Here are a few of the taxi stations located around Dushanbe to catch shared taxis to different cities and towns in the country.
Located near the Hilton (formerly Sheraton) Hotel.
Most will arrive here between 5 am and 8 am to catch shared taxis bound for the Pamir Highway to Kalaikhumb and Khorog. The trip to Khorog is usually around 14-16 hours in length, which is why if you have the time it’s recommended to spend a night in Kalaikhumb and then continue onto Khorog the next day.
A shared taxi from Dushanbe to Khorog should cost no more than 350 TJS. There is a small chaikhana that opens around 5 am in the avtostansiya where you can get some chai and simple Tajik breakfasts while you wait on your shared taxi to fill up.
Shared taxis headed north to Sarvoda, Ayni, Panjakent, Istaravshan, and Khujand depart from a taxi stand near the Cement Factory just north of Dushanbe. Shared taxis bound for Panjakent as well as those bound for Khujand should cost around 150 TJS per seat.
For shared taxis and marshrutka bound for Hisor head to Zarnisor Bazaar in the west of the city.
Located just a few blocks north of the Botanical Gardens shared taxis depart to Varzob and Takob from the Varazob Bazaar for 4 TJS and 6 TJS respectively.
For shared taxis to Qurganteppa head to the Qurganteppa Vaghzal in the south of Dushanbe near to Sakhovat Bazaar. 15 TJS per seat.
Main Bus Station
3 km west of the city. Buses depart for Qurgonteppa, Kulob, and Shar-i-Tuz for 15 TJS, 35 TJS, and 25 TJS, respectively.
Taxis bound for the Rasht Valley destinations of Garm, Tajikabod, and Jirgatol leave from the Garm Dok on the south end of Rudaki Avenue. Expect prices of roughly 70 TJS to Garm. You can easily reach Garm Dok by Marshrutkas #4 and #18.
Safety & Health
In general Dushanbe and the whole of Tajikistan is a safe country to visit. Apply common sense that you would anywhere else. Here are a few things to be mindful of:
- The most likely thing to put a damper on your travel in Dushanbe and Tajikistan is food poisoning. Try to eat at places where there are lots of other people. Also, try to stick to hot and fresh food if you can. At worst, pack Imodium and a broad-spectrum antibiotic to help get you through a bout with food poisoning or a bug.
- Walking around at night should be fine (I’ve done it plenty of times and alone). However, it is advisable to avoid nightclubs as a solo female to avoid any harassment. I’ve visited plenty of nightclubs with friends and have never had a problem.
- Do not drink tap water. There is no purification system in place. Outbreaks of disease do happen from time to time.
- Petty theft does happen, but it isn’t the norm. Be aware that pickpockets could operate in busy places like bazaars.
- Law enforcement can be corrupt. I have not personally been asked for even so much as a bribe or even threatened by police, border patrol, checkpoint officers, or so on. At most I’ve had them hassle me a bit for a missing stamp on my e-visa (never experienced this before), and be flirty with me at GBAO checkpoints and other border points. It is best to carry a passport copy around with you so in the event you are asked by law enforcement for ID while walking around Dushanbe you can hand that over rather than your physical passport. If the police ask to see your ID demand to see theirs first to make sure it’s not a scam.
- In the event of an emergency or you are a victim of crime, it is recommended to contact your embassy before contacting the police.
- Get a travel insurance plan just in case you do get sick or injured. While Dushanbe has the best healthcare options in the country, Tajikistan is not well equipped for serious illnesses or injuries. For more serious ailments you’ll likely need to leave the country and possibly the Central Asia region for treatment.
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