Though extraordinary landscapes and wildlife are Tajikistan’s calling card, don’t forget that the country is equally rich in historical and cultural attractions. After all, Tajikistan is one of the longest continually-inhabited countries in the world: people lived here even before the mid 1st millennium BC, creating the famous ancient states of Sogdiana and Bactria. The Achaemenids ruled this territory, Alexander the Great conquered these lands, and powerful empires from the Kushans to Russians all ruled over what today is Tajikistan. Of course, such a turbulent history left its mark. Together, sites such as Hissar Fortress, the Mausoleum of Khoja Mashhad, the remains of 7th century Buddhist monasteries, and many other monuments tell the historical milestones of Tajikistan.
History lovers should definitely visit Khujand, a city which, along with Bukhara and Samarkand, was one of the most famous centres of science and culture in Central Asia. The origins of Khujand Fortress date back more than 2,500 years, and there are some well-preserved 16-17th century monuments, including the Mausoleum of Sheikh Muslihiddin and the Masjidi Jami Mosque. Also of interest is Penjikent, nicknamed the “Central Asia’s Pompeii”, an ancient settlement with a mediaeval citadel surrounded by residential and public buildings, some of which were decorated with frescoes. Close to Penjikent is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sarazm, famous for its Zoroastrian temples.