Top things to do in Zerafshan Valley

Top Choice Central Asian in Penjikent


Penjikent's most imaginative eatery, this eccentric wooden structure with its timber stairways and cosy booths is festooned with traditional artefacts and beautiful Tajiki textiles. The delightful owner, Sharif Bada…
Lake in Iskander-Kul & Sarytag


Measuring around 4km in length, this stunning lake (2195m), high in the Fan Mountains, is a spectacle not to be missed. Willows, feathery tamarisk and mulberry dress the edges of the shore, and at certain times of t…
Central Asian in Penjikent

Café Safina

This popular meeting point has menus (unlike most chaikhanas), curtained booth seats for private soirées and a large outdoor terrace on the street made cheerful with fresh flowers and fairy lights. With a tasty rang…
Archaeological Site in Penjikent

Ancient Penjikent

On a terrace above the banks of River Zerafshan, 1.5km southeast of today's Penjikent, the ruins of a major Sogdian town slowly bake to dust. Looking across the minimal ruins, dubbed the 'Pompeii of Central Asia', i…
Tajik in Ayni


Around 20km west of Ayni, this characterful roadside teahouse has capitalised on the mountain water that rushes through the premises. Cauldrons of chicken boil on minimal cooking facilities, attracting those-in-the-…
Museum in Penjikent

Rudaki Museum

This elegant single-storey museum, with its white Doric columns and fine floral display, assigns a room to its namesake, Abu Abdullah Rudaki (858–941), the 'father of Persian poetry'. The museum is of more interest,…
Teahouse in Penjikent


A smart chaikhana with traditional pillars and painted ceilings. The riverside tea-beds offer a delightful perch for lazy afternoons, but on summer evenings the mosquitoes are fearsome. It's a 1.5km dogleg walk, dow…
Central Asian in Penjikent


Behind a vine-fronted facade, eight tables are arranged around a central fountain pool in a shaded courtyard, making this a lovely choice for lunch or tea on a tranquil summer evening.
Mausoleum in Penjikent

Rudaki Cultural Complex

This important shrine complex marks the spot where the remains of the great Persian poet Rudaki (858–941) were found in 1958. The modern complex, built in 2008 to mark the 1150 year anniversary of the 'founder of th…
Mausoleum in Penjikent

Mazor-i Sharif

By some accounts, Mazor-i Sharif (meaning 'noble shrine') marks the ancient last resting place of an 8th-century missionary from Basra, Mohammad Bashoro. With 14th-century elaborations, this active pilgrimage site i…