Khujand (Tajik: Хуҷанд, lit. Khujand, called Leninabad in the Soviet period) is a city in Tajikistan. Khujand is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, and is Tajikistan's second-largest city. Khujand is a cultural hub for the western portion of the Ferghana Valley. During the Soviet Union, Khujand was known as being "Lenin's Favorite City". Whether that was true or just an urban legend is unknown, but a trip to Khujand will certainly be a highlight of your time in Tajikistan.
Khujand is the second largest city in Tajikistan (191,000 inhabitants in 2019), in the Ferghana Valley on both banks of the Syr Darya river, known in Greek sources as the Jaxartes.
Khujand is an old city (at least 3000 years old). It was probably founded by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE as Alexandria Eschate (Furthest Alexandria), although there are reports of the city predating him. It might also have been the site of the ancient Persian city of Cyropolis, which was a major city in Sogdia whose remains still have not been found. Regardless of who founded it, it was here that Alexander defeated the Sakai horsemen (Scythians), and the southern bank of the river marks the northernmost point that Alexander ever got to.
It sits on the historic Silk Road in a strategic position, at the exit of the valley, where it can tax trade and resist invasions. Khujand was a moderately important trading city on that route for centuries. However, modern Khujand has very few authentic pre-Soviet historical sites. The only acknowledgement of Alexander is in the form of the major local bank chain, "Esxata Bonk" (Эсхата Бонк), and the fortress you see today is a contemporary reconstruction. There are a handful of Sufi sites in and around the city, but essentially all of the city is like any other Soviet-built city. Khujand does make a good base of operations for visiting other nearby historical sites, like Istaravshan and Isfara, and it's a 4-hour drive to Panjakent.
- 1 [dead link] Khujand Airport (LBD IATA) (in Buston, Gafurov district, 10 km from Khujand). An international airport, often referred to by its Soviet name, Chkalovsk, formerly known as Leninabad (during the Soviet era). Khujand airport has many flights from Russia.
There are weekly 40-minute flights from Dushanbe through Somon Air. During the winter months, when the pass between the cities is treacherous (due to snowfall and avalanches), these flights become the safest way to get between the cities.
By bus or taxi
The ride from Dushanbe cost 120 somoni in a shared taxi (2017). Shared taxis and marshrutkas also arrive from to the town of Isfara, about an hour to the east.
Marshrutkas and taxis to the Uzbekistan border depart from the northern bus station. Taxis to Oybek post should cost about 50-80 somoni.
The road between Khujand and Dushanbe (especially between Istaravshan and Ayni) can be very dangerous in the winter and spring. It is a quintessential mountain pass at upwards of 3000 m in height, with no guardrails or safety corridors. While an absolutely stunning drive, it should not be attempted in bad weather or by those who have a fear of heights. Going north (from Dushanbe, Ayni, or Panjakent to Khujand) is easier than going south (from Khujand to those places) for those with a fear of heights, as you'll spend more time on the inner lane of the pass.
The Kyrgyz-Tajik border has been closed to international travel since the outbreak of hostilities in 2021. But when the border is open, it is easy to get between Osh, Batken, and Khujand. Also, the Khujand-Isfara road is the disputed border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Check with your embassy before traveling on the road just in case hostilities erupt between the two nations.
Khujand is a pretty walkable city, although distances may seem shorter on maps than they actually are (the local running club considers a loop that goes from one bridge to the other and back to be 5K). Both of the main bridges across the Syr Darya in the center of town have sidewalks.
Taxis start at 9 somoni per ride for short cross-river drives. The average price for a taxi between the "fortress-to-Panjshanbe" region is 12 somoni. Taxis to Somon Bazaar and Avtostantsiya cost 21 somoni. Taxis to the airport (which is in Chkalovsk) cost about 30 somoni. Some of the taxi companies that operate in Dushanbe also operate in Khujand (like Rakhsh), and can be ordered via phone call. Maxim Taxi only operates in Khujand and surrounding villages, and it has a very efficient phone app à la Yandex. It is rare to hail a cab by waving your hand or whistling.
There are also some minibuses called marshutkas, which can get you from Panjshanbe to many other places such as Somoni Park and Kamoli Khujandi Park. Prices are 2.5 somoni for one adult in 2023. Each marshrutka has a placard in the windows that says the route number and major destinations (in Tajik). For most purposes, the specific number of the route will not matter - instead, look for certain place names:
- Универмаг (Univermag - main shopping street)
- Ёва (Yova - district where many marshrutkas congregate)
- Панҷшанбе (Panjshanbe - main market near Univermag and marshrutka "nest")
- Сомони (Somoni - major park)
- Ҷумъа (бозор) - (Jum'a - major market on the north side of the river)
- Автовокзал - (Avtovokzal - where many shared taxis and marshrutkas that go to Istaravshan, Panjakent, and Dushanbe wait)
- Аэропорт - (Aeroport - Khujand's airport (LBD) in the town of Chkalovsk)
Be careful at the Panjshanbe marshrutka station: there is a difference between Сомони and Сомон. The former is a city park and the latter is a major clothing bazaar on the outskirts of town and marshrutkas that go to each destination stop at Panjshanbe.
To Istaravshan and south:
- Автовокзал (Avtovokzal)
To Gafurov, Chkalovsk, Isfara, and Konibodom (you pay for these marshrutkas when you disembark):
- Автостанция (Avtostantsiya) — located just before Somon Bazaar on the south end of town
For an almost 3000-year-old city, there are very few historical sites left. Still, Khujand has plenty to offer. Here are some places to see in town:
- 1 Somoni Park, Ave Ismoili Somoni. There is a monument to Ismail Somoni on the right bank of the Syr Darya. It stands on top of a hill surrounded by fountains. As of 2023, the fountains are empty.
- 2 Mausoleum of Sheikh Muslihiddin (Мавзолей Шейха Муслихиддина), Sharq Street (next to Panjshanbe Bazaar). The resting place of Sheikh Muslihiddin, author of the important Islamic text Sahih e Bukhari.
- 3 Victory Park (Парк Победы). Home to Khujand's giant Lenin statue and memorials to Khujandis who fought in World War II. In the evenings, it becomes an amusement park for locals.
- 4 Historical Museum of Sughd Region (Осорхонаи таърихии вилояти Суғд), ☏ . Tu-Su 08:00-16:00, closed M. Possibly the most notable aspect is the building the museum is housed in, the reconstructed Khujand Fortress/citadel from approximately the 10th century, but the museum too is quite remarkable, tracing the history of the area from the time of Alexander the Great. Part of the gallery is built within the reconstructed wall.
- 5 Kamoli Khujand Park (Боги ба номи К. Худжанди). Site of a mausoleum-like building with earth from the grave of the poet Kamal Khujandi, three music stages with beautiful wooden carvings, springs and a reconstructed house exhibit of a rich Tajik from Khujand. Also where you can catch the tramway (Kanatnaya Doroga) over the river.
- 6 Arbob Palace (Дворец культуры «Арбоб»). A government building that was built in the 1950s as headquarters for a Soviet kolkhoz (collective farm). It was modeled after the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg and is where the independence of Tajikistan and flag design were drafted. Probably not a place you can just go snooping around snapping photos ad nauseam.
- 7 Independence day monument. A stele next to the river and a very tall Tajik flagpole. Just to the east of here is a monument to the illustrious poet Rudaki, a founder of classical Persian literature.
- 8 Stella Khujand (Стелла Хуҷанд), Prospekt Tashkentskiy (in the middle of the roundabout). Not really something to "do" (although there is a seating area inside), but this observation tower modeled after the Tajik crown symbol makes a good reference point, as it is visible from most of the central city.
- 9 Kamoli Khujandi Theatre (Театри ба номи Камоли Хуҷанди), Teatral'nyy Skver. The local theater, located on the main square across from the fortress and Kamoli Khujandi Park.
- Cultural Center Interesting building in an pseudo-ancient (and also bling-bling) style for weddings and cultural parties of the city. It is on the left river bank beside the main bridge.
The part of town north of the river is mainly Soviet- and contemporary era residential/commercial, with little interest to the traveler. However, the 10 Nur-i Islom Mosque (Нури Ислом). , one of the city's largest and nicest, is located on the north side. Women are not allowed in the mosque.
- 1 Kanatnaya Doroga (Канатная дорога). daily 10:00-22:00. Ride an aerial tramway between Kamoli Khujand Park and Somoni Park, over the Syr Darya River. It is right next to the Sugdiyon Hotel. 15 somoni for "standard", 20 somoni for "deluxe" (a loveseat instead of a bench).
There may periodically be river cruises along the Syr Darya that are offered. It is not recommended to swim in the Syr Darya. The currents can be deceptively strong, and the water is polluted. You might see locals fishing in the river though.
Haggle (or try to) with locals in one of the many bazaars.
Most tourists use Khujand as a jumping-off point for trips into the Fann mountains, where there is a lot of hiking and natural attractions.
If your Tajik and/or Russian skills are particularly good, it's worth spending the better portion of a day at 1 Panjshanbe Bazaar. . Here, you can get a wide variety of local Tajik produce, meats, clothing (imported from China or Turkey), pets/pet products, kitchen supplies, and more.
The 2 Jum'a Bazaar. and the 3 Somon Bazaar. are the other major shopping centers in Khujand, although they will most likely be of little interest to the traveler, since they primarily sell appliances (Jum'a) and generic clothing (Somon). If, however, you are in urgent need of a new washing machine or pair of shoes, they are great places to get good deals.
4 Univermag. region is host to a smattering of stores that range in theme and quality. A large amount of these will be no different than the stores in your hometown, but if you're a shopaholic, it's a good street to walk down and window shop. It is the street that connects Khujandi Park with Panjshanbe, so it can easily be strolled on the way to/from Panjshanbe.
Locals claim that they have the best food in all of Tajikistan! While you may (or may not) agree, it certainly is worth trying. The Khujandi version of plov is very similar to the Samarkandi style, as opposed to the Dushanbe style found in the southern half of the country. There are numerous small restaurants and cafés throughout the town, as well as street vendors.
- Taj Burger - a local fast food chain, there are Taj Burgers on almost every block. They serve burgers, fries, pizza, and shwarma.
- 1 Cafe Suman (Кафе "Суман"), Yagodka Street, ☏ . Daily 07:00–21:00. A large cafeteria popular with locals. Serves generic Russian and Tajik food (borscht, shchi, meats, salads, etc.) for a very low cost. About 20 somoni for a full meal.
- 2 World of Shish-Kabobs (Sikhkabobi Mir, Сихкабоби Мир), Prospekt Rakhim Dzhalilya, ☏ . Daily 09:00–22:00. A restaurant that specializes in serving shish-kabobs.
- 3 Zaytun (Зайтун) (above the AMID grocery store), ☏ . Daily 07:00–23:00. A restaurant serving traditional Tajik food in a faux traditional Tajik setting (walls with Silk Road motifs and fake plants hanging from the ceiling). The food is excellent.
- 4 Saray (Сарай) (as of 2023, it is hidden behind new construction; take the road that passes through the construction site and you'll find the restaurant), ☏ . Daily 10:00–23:00. A good Turkish restaurant on the north side of the river. As of 2023, there is a new apartment building being built in front of the restaurant, so you have to take the road through the construction site to find the restaurant (there are signs posted telling you how to get to the restaurant).
- 5 Oshi Palov (Оши Палов) (next to the Nur-i Islom mosque), ☏ . Daily 08:00–21:00. A fancy restaurant next to the Nur-i Islom mosque (the main mosque on the north side of the river). You can only get plov/osh here plus tea and bread, but it's the best place in town to try the Khujandi variety of plov. It gets extremely packed on Fridays between 11:30 and 14:30 (Friday prayers are from 12:00-13:00). about 20 somoni for a 2-person meal with bread and tea.
- 6 Golden Fish (Ресторан Golden Fish), Аминчон Расулов 1а, ☏ . Daily 10:00–00:00. A restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. Offers fish dishes, pastas, soups, and kebabs.
- 7 Omar Khayyam (Ресторан "Омар Хайям") (entrance next to the hotel entrance off the patio), ☏ . Daily 07:00–22:00. The finest dining in Khujand. Despite the name, the restaurant serves Georgian food, in addition to standard Tajik food and pizza. A good place to take guests. Located on the main square in the Omar Khayyam Hotel. ca. 200 somoni for a 2-person meal with drinks..
- 8 Fоrel' (Форель) (adjacent to the "Jubilee" bridge on the north side of the river), ☏ . Daily 08:00–23:00. An upscale restaurant with a fish-focused theme (Forel' means "trout" in Russian). Has lots of meat and seafood dishes at a good price. If you want a full fish, call ahead unless you want to wait a while.
There aren't many nightclubs or bars in Khujand, but alcohol stores can be found on most streets. Prices are generally slightly cheaper than in countries like the US or most of Europe, but the quality may reflect that.
Being a former Soviet country, Tajikistan is a good place to find Georgian wines. There are also Tajik-made alcohols, although they are nowhere near as good quality as French wines, Russian vodkas, or Irish whiskeys.
- 1 Sugdiyon (Сугдиён), ☏ . Affordable Western-style hotel located in the heart of the city, near the Citadel and the Rudaki monument. Rooms show their age, but probably has the best location in the city. Also has a pool and sauna in the basement for both guests and outsiders (charged different fees). Usually lit up at night so can serve as a landmark while exploring the town.
- 2 Somoni-Hostel, Ave Ismoili Somoni 7a, ☏ . If you're looking for something very budget, this might work. Might be kind of basic but location is good, next to museum and parks and river, plus there's breakfast. 186 som.
- 3 Parliament Palace (МГК "Гостиница Парламент"), Sir-darya Street 28, ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. The high-end hotel in the city, located on the north bank of the Syr Darya river. Around 900 somoni per night.
There are a plethora of T-Cell and Megafon stores and kiosks in the city. If you haven't already acquired a Tajik SIM card, you can go to any of the stores and get one (you'll need your passport for registration). You can also use any orange kiosk to add funds to your account.
There are ATMs virtually everywhere, but the most trustworthy are connected to banks. Esxata Bank (Эсхата Бонк) and Dushanbe-City (Душанбе-Сити) are abundant in the city.
To the east the Kairakum reservoir is located near the city of Guliston (not to be confused with the same-named city in Uzbekistan). Marshrutkas run to Guliston, but you may prefer to take a taxi.
Marshutkas go to Istaravshan, Isfara, and the neighboring towns of Chkalovsk (where the airport is), Buston, and Histevarz. For further afield (like to Panjakent), you'll want to take a shared taxi (they pool at the same places that the marshrutkas wait).
Dushanbe: There are only shared taxis going from Khujand to Dushanbe. The cost seems to vary between 60 and 120 som depending on the time of day, week, waiting time and type of car. The roads have been much improved from 2005, and a 2WD is (May 2019) as good as a 4WD. Drivers do not tend to rip tourists off for this route as the competition is so high. Haggling is possible within about 20 som on any given day. The drive takes 4-5 hours depending on whether the drivers stop for lunch, and the views of the Fann Mountains are stunning. Talk of the Anzob Tunnel being risky is outdated, the infrastructure in the "Tunnel of Death" is improved now and its reputation is no longer deserved, although cycling or walking through would be a very bad idea.