The glorious Zerafshan Valley (Долина Зеравшан) has two distinct characters: its deep river gorge in the east remains pretty much an undiscovered wilderness dotted with remote villages and hamlets, while the flatter, fertile agricultural plain around Penjikent in the west is home to one of the most populous parts of the country. The area attracts visitors for good reason.

Edged to the south by the Fan Mountains, an easy two-hour drive from Dushanbe or a one-hour drive from Penjikent, this is an easily accessible trekking, climbing and 4WD destination, offering not just an inspiring snow-capped landscape of colourful alpine lakes and flower-strewn meadows, but also a fascinating cultural experience among communities who live life on the edge.