The Best Things to do in Khujand, Tajikistan
This post is about the best things to do in Khujand, Tajikistan. Khujand is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. The Persians, Greek settlers, Scythian tribes, the Arab caliphate, the Mongol Hordes and the Soviets all ruled this city at some point in time.
Khujand was established by Cyrus the Great around 544 BC. His Aechemenid empire was the largest that the world had ever seen with its capital in Persepolis Iran. Hundreds of years later Alexander the Great defeated the Persians. He made it as far as Khujand that he renamed into Alexandria the furthest.
Nowadays Khujand is the second largest city in Tajikistan and the capital of the Sughd province. It is an interesting place for those that love history and culture.
For me it was the first stop in Tajikistan. The surrounding mountains were a welcome change of scenery from Uzbekistan’s desert landscapes. The friendly and pleasant atmosphere of Khujand was a great introduction to Tajikistan.
The best things to do in Khujand Tajikistan
The Panchshanbe bazaar was one of my favourite bazaars in central Asia. After Uzbekistan I thought I had seen enough bazaars, but this one is quite unique.
First of all it is one of the largest bazaars in Central Asia. The big building with rich and colourful decorations is from 1964, but the market extends well beyond the central hall.
The name Panchshanbe translates literally into Thursday and it is indeed on thursdays that the market is at its best. Culinary delights include yoghurt balls (kurut), pickled salads, dried fruits and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Sheikh Muslihiddin Mausoleum
Sheikh Muslihiddin was a poet and locals believe he was able to perform miracles. Therefore his 12th century mausoleum was popular among pilgrims. Over the years it developed into a complex where you will also find the 16th century Masjidi Jame mosque and a minaret.
The complex was one of my favourite places in Khujand, but not because of the buildings. The architecture is nice, but it were the Tajik families at the square that really caught my attention. Locals come here to entertain their kids with the hundreds of pigeons.
Khujand WW2 Memorial
Near the Panchsanbe bazaar is a small memorial about the second World War. More than 270,000 Tajik people took part in the Great Patriotic War and almost a 100,000 died fighting against Nazi Germany.
Victory Park & Lenin statue
Unlike some other Post Soviet countries, Tajikistan has been slow in removing its communist past. Rather than removing Lenin from Khujand’s central square they moved him to the suburbs.
The neglected Victory Park is now home to the largest Lenin statue in Central Asia.
Somoni Park & Somoni statue
While Lenin stands forgotten in a remote corner of the city, the Somoni statue that replaced him, has a prominent place. With a backdrop of mountains he is looking over the beautiful Somoni Park.
Ismail Somoni was a ruler of the the Samanids. An empire that stretched from what is now Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. After Tajikistan’s independence, Ismail Somoni became one of the new national heroes.
The main attraction in Somoni park is not the statue though. The colourful mosaics show Tajikistan’s complex past. National symbols include the new flag, cotton plants and silk road buildings, but also Zoroastrian and Soviet images.
The Syr Darya river cable car
From the Somoni park you can take a cable car over the Syr Darya river for some beautiful views. This is especially romantic during sunset. The cable car connects the Somoni Park with the Kamoli Khujandi Park.
Kamoli Khujandi park & museum
The Kamoli Khujandi Park was my favourite park in Khujand. The victory and Somoni park were quite empty which makes you wonder where all the people are. You will find the answer in the friendly Kamoli Khujandi park.
There are beautiful flowers, fountains and lots of smiling locals. In addition you will find some of the top things to do in Khujand such as the old citadel, the Historical museum and the Kamoli Khujandi House museum.
Kamoli Khujandi was born in Khujand. He then moved to Tabriz in Iran where he became one of the great romantic poets in the 14th century. The Kamal Khojandi house museum is interesting, because it gives an insight in traditional Tajik life during that time.
Boating on the Syr Darya river
The Kamal Khojandi park is at the banks of the Syr Darya river. This river is the longest in Central Asia and originates in Kyrgyzstan. After a journey through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan it flows into the Aral sea.
In Khujand the river is particularly beautiful with its deep blue colour, although my hostel owner told me that the river is now half its size due to the cotton fields of Uzbekistan.
At the Kamal Khojandi park it is possible to take a boatride on the river.
The Khujand citadel is at the heart of ancient Khujand. They are the oldest fortifications in Central Asia dating from the 5th century BC. The defensive structure protected Khujand for centuries, but was eventually completely destroyed by the Mongols.
Some of the original city walls are still visible and part of the fortress is renovated.
Historical Museum of Khujand
To learn more about the history of Khujand a visit to the Hictorical Museum of Sughd province is a must. It is within a renovated part of the Khujand citadel.
It’s a typical central Asian museum showcasing archeological remains, traditional clothes and jewellery. A highlight are the marble mosaics from the time of Alexander the Great.
The abandoned Soviet Airplane
At the banks of the Syr Darya river lies an abandoned Soviet plane. It used to be a restaurant, but as far as I know it hasn’t been open for years.
I couldn’t find any information about how the plane got there and whether there is a story behind it. It is a pretty remarklable sight to
Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to visit the Arbob palace in the outskirts of Khujand. However, for those that love Soviet history it is one of the most interesting places to visit in the city.
The palace was built in 1950 to become the headquarters of a collective farm. It includes a huge theatre, rose gardens and fountains with an interesting mix of Soviet architecture meeting Oriental Tajik design.
Ironically it was in the Arbob palace that the Soviet Tajiks held the first meeting about Tajik independence in 1992.
Khujand Travel Tips
Where to eat in Khujand
Even though Khujand is the second city in Tajikistan and one of the oldest in Central asia, it receives few tourists. Therefore the choice of restaurannts is a bit limited.
Most of the places to eat in Khujand are located near the Kamoli Khujandi park as well as the Panchshanbe bazaar. In fact, the bazaar is probably the best place to eat on a budget. But even the more midrange restaurants are relatively cheap.
Zaytun: This restaurant was recommended by our hotel owners. It has nice Tajik style decorations and pretty good Tajik food. I can recommend the javari soup. This recipy is unique to Khujand because of the use of a local pulse called javari. It was absolutely delicious.
Cafe Ravshan: Cafe Ravshan is a nice budget restaurant near the citadel and the Kamoli Khujandi park. It has an extensive menu in english and a nice outdoor seating area.
Where to sleep in Khujand
Leninabad hotel: The Leninabad hotel is a journey back in Soviet times when Khujand was called Leninabad. Its history is pretty similar to the Soviet era hotels like Cosmos hotel in Chisinau, The Moldova hotel in Iasi, Hotel Kazakhstan in Almaty and Hotel Uzbekistan in Tashkent.
Once the center of Soviet recreation and entertainment, now struggling to get enough costumers. Only the first two floors are still open and the interior hasn’t changed much since 1990.
Golden Appartments: I stayed in the Golden Appartments. I was quite happy with the appartment I got and thought it was very good value for money.
For more information about Backpacking in Tajikistan I can recommend my practical travel guide about travel in Tajikistan, my post on the best things to do in Tajikistan and my 3 week Tajikistan itinerary.
How to get to Khujand
From Dushanbe: If you are in Dushanbe, you can travel to Khujand by road. The distance between Dushanbe and Khujand is approximately 300 kilometers (186 miles), and the journey takes around 5-6 hours by shared taxi or minivan.
From Uzbekistan: Khujand is located near the Tajik-Uzbek border, and you can reach it from Uzbekistan as well. If you are in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, you can take a shared taxi or a bus from Tashkent to Khujand. The journey takes around 4-5 hours, depending on the border crossing procedures.
When to visit Khujand
The best time to visit Khujand is during the spring and autumn seasons when the weather is mild and pleasant. The temperatures are generally comfortable, ranging from around 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). It’s a great time for outdoor activities and exploring the city’s attractions.
In spring you can also witness the Nowruz celebrations. Nowruz is a widely celebrated festival in Tajikistan and marks the Persian New Year. It is a vibrant and joyous occasion that welcomes the arrival of spring. In Khujand, you can expect to witness traditional music and dance performances, street parades, and the festive atmosphere with locals wearing traditional clothing.
Sustainable travel in Khujand
Tajikistan is seeing more tourists every year. While Tourism is a welcome source of income it can also have negative consequences. Traveling sustainably in the country, involves conscious choices that minimize your environmental impact and support the local community.
Support the local community: You can support the community by purchasing goods and services from local vendors, artisans, and restaurants. It is better to try Tajik cuisine that uses local ingredients rather than imported foreign foods.
Stay in small scale sustainable hotels: It is also better to stay in locally-owned guesthouses or homestays to support the local economy directly. These accommodations often have a more positive impact on the environment compared to large hotels. Where possible, I can recommend staying in a homestay for an authentic cultural experience. You might want to bring a small book with pictures of your family to break the ice.
You can try to look for guesthouses or homestays that prioritizes sustainable practices. That said, environmental awareness is still low. It’s up to you to use water sparsely, turn off lights, air conditioning, and heating when leaving your accommodation.
Use public transport: Tajikistan has a well-developed public transportation system with shared taxis and marshrutkas. Opt for public transport, whenever possible, instead of private cars to reduce carbon emissions. Avoid internal flights. The journeys on road might be long, but the views are spectacular.
Leave no trace principle: Tajikistan is famous for its natural beauty and mountains. When hiking, stick to designated trails when they are there, avoid disturbing wildlife or picking plants, and leave no trace of your presence. Ensure you take all your trash back with you and dispose of it responsibly.
To avoid single-use plastics, invest in reusable items. For example, you can bring your own water bottle with a filter that you can refill at your accomodation. At last, use biodegradable and eco-friendly personal care products to minimize pollution of water sources.
Respect the culture: Besides environmental concerns it is also important to respect the culture. Tajikistan is an Islamic country that is just opening up to tourism. Therefore, learn about the local customs and traditions beforehand and be mindful of your behavior.
People will appreciate it, if you dress modestly, especially at religious sites. Learning a few basic phrases in Tajik or Russian, can go a long way in building meaningful connections and to learn more about the local culture. Not everybody is happy to have their picture taken. When in doubt, ask permission.
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