Tajikistan is known for rugged mountains, popular for hiking and climbing. The Fann Mountains, near Dushanbe, have snow-capped peaks that rise over 5,000 meters. The range encompasses the Iskanderkulsky Nature Refuge, a notable bird habitat named for Iskanderkul, a turquoise lake formed by glaciers. Dushanbe, on the Varzob River, is the capital of Tajikistan. On the east bank of the river is Rudaki Park, named for the classical poet. A statue of him stands under an ornate mosaic arch. Nearby is a massive Tajik flag, flying from a towering flagpole. The ancient Tajik warrior Ismoili Somoni is commemorated with a statue and gilded arch. Archaeological finds are displayed at the National Museum of Tajikistan.
Within an hour of Dushanbe lie multi-hued lakes, peaks that beg to be climbed and high passes that thrill even reluctant travellers. In among this natural splendour are scattered villages and towns that survive cheek-by-jowl through each extreme season on the roof of the world. It hasn’t been easy for these traditional communities to adapt to the changing world beyond their mountain strongholds, but despite this they are unfailingly welcoming of outsiders.