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Ski at Safed-Dara in Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Vahdat District, Tajikistan

based on 2 reviews


Added by Alex E

Ski in the remote mountains of Tajikistan at one of the rarest ski resorts in the world. This is a true hidden gem! Almost too hidden.

While traveling through Dubai, some friends and I decided to look for other countries we could visit in this mysterious and usually war torn part of the world. While combing the map, my eyes focused on the country of Tajikistan. Many of you are probably searching google as we speak or asking yourself, isn't that where Borat is from? Located in the heart of central Asia, sharing a border with Afghanistan, and once part of the former Soviet Union, Tajikistan may not be someones first idea for an adventure trip. 

Well if it wasn't for the famous Mark Twight and his book Kiss or Kill, I too may have never heard of Tajikistan. Tajikistan happens to be the third highest country in the world with peaks as high 24,000 feet attracting climbers. Although we weren't set up for a mountaineering trip, I was still intrigued to see and experience this unique country. Since Dubai is one of the few locations, that flies into Dushanbe, Tajikistan (the capital and largest city) round trip, we decided to book a weekend trip.

For anyone with a passport from the UK, EU, Canada, Australia, or the US, it is extremely easy to obtain your visa on arrival. If you plan well in advance, and really want to experience everything Tajikistan has to offer, you can get a Visa from the Tajikistan embassy in D.C. Be advised, if you travel to the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province, which is the very mountainous remote area know as the Pamir Mountain Range, you will need a second visa for this region. This area is located in the eastern region of Tajikistan and the mountains here are a continuation of the Himalayas. Its an extraordinary place for mountaineering and skiing, but people have been held up in the past for not having the second required visa.

As for our trip, it was smooth and casual with only our one day of skiing being the most adventurous experience. We landed in Dushanbe not really knowing what to expect. I read a little online before we left, and to my surprise it exceeded all of our expectations. We stayed at the Hyatt hotel, which is probably the nicest hotel in Tajikistan, and its still not that expensive. It was only a 7 dollar cab ride from the Airport, and there is no shortage of cab drivers waiting on the only three flights that arrive each day. 

Although its considered a Muslim country, we didn't see anyone wearing the tradition garments you would see in other Muslim countries. It has more of a Russian feel to it. Most people have a tan complexion and dark hair. It's as if Russian culture and Persian culture mixed together. The main language is Tajik which is basically Farsi, but it is written in the Russian alphabet, and most people understand Russian.

Once we arrived at the hotel, we asked the concierge how we could get to the Safed-Dara Ski Resort about 45 minutes outside of town. Since there are no rental vehicle services available in Dushanbe, we were at the mercy of a taxi. We agreed to pay the taxi driver 500 Tajik Somoni, which is about 63 US Dollars. For that cheap price, he drove us from the hotel, all the way into the mountains. The drive which was suppose to take 45 minutes ended up taking an hour and a half due to poor road conditions, and the small unequipped car we were in. The road leading to the resort is a long windy dirt road covered in ice/snow. 

Once we arrived at the resort at 10 am, the driver waited for us at the resort until 4 pm, and then drove us the hour and a half back to Dushanbe. Our driver also came in handy when it came to translating. While in Dushanbe we didn't have much trouble communicating, since most people knew a little English. But, when we got out into the mountains, it was totally different, and we couldn't find a single person that knew a lick of English. Luckily we ran into our taxi driver who saw us struggling to talk with hand signals. 

The ski lift is very different from most lifts we are use to in the states. You have to load money onto a specific card (shown in pictures) for renting gear and to purchase lift tickets. Instead of paying one flat rate for the lift to the top, every time you ride the lift, it cost 40 Tajik somoni, which is about 6 dollars. With 300 somoni on my card, I was able to rent, skies, boots, poles, and goggles for 100 somoni, but that only gave me 5 runs down the slope. So if you are looking for a full day of skiing, you either need to hike up each time, or put about 500-700 somoni on your card. Supposedly they will refund any cash left on the card, but we used all of ours. They also have a credit card machine, but I would make sure you bring enough cash. I brought 500 somoni with me that day and used it all. I wish i would have brought 700-800 somoni, which is about 100 U.S. The rental gear is actually good quality gear. They also have snowboard rentals.

The resort itself is a very beautiful property tucked away in the mountains. There is a 3 story hotel, a very nice restaurant with alcohol, an ice skating rink, a concert stage, a small T-bar that leads to a green run and a brand new 6-8 person gondola. The main groomed run is an easy blue run, but if you are willing to hike a little bit, you can find some powder and a little more difficult terrain. Don't expect anything like the states, but it is still cool to say you've skied in Tajikistan.

As far as directions go, they aren't very difficult, but you are going to be at the mercy of your taxi driver, in a foreign country, headed into a very rural part of the world. Usually a hotel as nice as the Hyatt isn't going to hire you a shady driver, but obviously be wary of shady characters trying to take advantages of travelers. But if you want to know you are at least going in the right direction, you can plot it on your personal GPS. The driver should head north out of Dushanbe on M34 for about 45 minutes. M34 follows the Varzob river the entire time until you reach another smaller river coming from the east in the town of Pugus. 

Here you turn right onto an unnamed dirt road which leads straight up into the mountains. It was so cool to see all these kids sledding down this ice covered road. The car we were in was definitely not built for this rough of a road, so the drive took us 45 minutes to make it to the ski lift. So if you can, at the hotel, I would ask for a more robust taxi built to go off road. Once you arrive you can enjoy yourself nearly as much as the states in this truly hidden gem.

Dushanbe itself is a nice place to walk around and explore. It has multiple parks, markets and delicious restaurants/street food. We ended up eating at an amazing afghan restaurant called Marco Polo's, grabed a pint at Public Irish Pub (actual name) and even caught a local professional soccer game at the stadium across from the Hyatt. Have fun and good luck.

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Ski at Safed-Dara in Dushanbe, Tajikistan Reviews

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