Khujand is a major city located in the Tajik part of Ferghana valley at the both banks of the river Syr Darya nearby the border to Uzbekistan, not far from Kyrgyzstan and separated from the rest of Tajikistan by the Fann mountains. It is said that the city was founded by Alexander the great during his conquest of the area already 2500 years ago and it is still an important center, quite often referred as the Tajikistan’s Northern “capital”. It is also told that there was a city called Cyropolis at the same places founded by Cyrus the great about two centuries before Alexander arrived here.
Khujand is a lot more wealthy than the other Tajik cities except of course Dushanbe. Nowadays the city houses about 175 000 citizens and a lot more in the surrounding Sughd province, which is the wealthiest province of Tajikistan. The city has gotten its name from a very well known Persian poet called the Kamoli Khujandi who was born in here.
Khujand has a feel of a more real city compared to Dushanbe having it’s drastic contrast with the new decorated high rises and the clay houses hidden away from sights. Khujand respects it’s history more and has some vibes of an Uzbek city, which is natural as it is located in the mostly Uzbek Ferghana valley and actually Khujand was actually originally an Uzbek city in contrast to Bukhara and Samarkand being Tajik cities but this is the way the lands and cities were divided to the Soviet states.
Some say that giving the town to Tajiks was a punishment for the disobedience of the Uzbek republic together with the founding of the Tajik republic officially, which used to be previously ruled under the Uzbek Soviet republic.
Khujand was earlier named Leninabad and is mixing together with the Soviet monumentalism and is the home of the largest Lenin statue in Central Asia, though the 24 m Lenin has now been moved further from city center to the victory park. The Lenin statue here is the largest standing Lenin in all Central Asia.
The major Khujand sites are located at the park area located on both sides of the Syr Darya and the Khujand registan area about 1 km southeast from the park/monument area and are best reached by walk with most of the at the south bank of the river. Most of the hotels are located around the park area as well.
At the North side of the Syr darya there are several large complexes celebrating the 20 years of independence of Tajikistan including a football stadium, swimming pool and exhibition center and a hippodrome. The very popular Somoni park with a huge statue of Ismail Somoni is also located there and is a popular place for locals to walk around and to admire the lit fountains of the park.
Khujand park area at the south bank of Syr Darya
The Kamoli Khujandi House Museum located at western end of the Khujand park area that shows what wealthier homes, such as that of Kamoli Khujandi, in the 14th century would have looked like. The Kamoli Khujandi mausoleum (under a large dome with nice wooden decoration) is at a very center location a little bit North from the house museum inside the park and next to Amu Darya but he is not really buried there.
Kamoli Khujandi is considered being one of the greatest romantic poets of the 14th century. He was born in Khujand but lived most of his life in Tabriz, Iran where he died and is buried. There are also several other monuments and fountains in the park stretching West to East and also South along the Ismoil Somoni street and Maksudjon Tanburi street towards the the Kamoli theatre.
Panjshanbe Bazaar & Registan Square of Khujand
The Panjshanbe two-floor bazar is the best place in town to acquire anything you need. The name of the bazar means Thursday in Tajik and is one of the largest bazars in Tajikistan and Thursday is still the busiest day of the bazar. The architecture of the bazar is a kind of a mix of Soviet and Uzbek/Arabic styles with the green and pink colors together with large arches at the roof held up by large columns reminding somewhat of a madrasa in its shape and design.
Khujand has a lively, populated registan with the bazar, Majid I Jami Mosque and a madrasa, and the mausoleum of Sheikh Musil ad-Din mausoleum. Look for a giant blueish/greenish dome and you can’t miss it. This is the Sheikh Musil ad-Din Complex dating back to 1394. It was built as a tomb for the Khujand-born 12th-century poet and miracle maker Sheikh Musil ad-Din. The original tomb was built in the 12th century, razed by Mongols like almost everything in the region and later rebuilt in 1394. The older minaret of the two at the square dates back to 1865.
Khujand citadel fortress and museum
The Khujand Citadel has been partly restored and at the southeast corner of it is the Historical museum of the Sughd region with big doors and several floors underneath has been built for it. The museum is well laid, has English speaking guides and tells about the history of the fortress and has many archaeological findings made in the fortress, for example a 4 meter statue of Temur Malik.
You can get a good view of the size of the citadel by climbing on top of it and walking along the ruins of the clay made mounts. From here you can also observe the surrounding park area and the Syr Darya.
Palace of Arbob
The arbob palace was built to copy St. Peterburg’s Tzarist winter palace standing on a collective farm outside Khujand just about a 15 minute (or 10 km) drive towards South-East. The palace is filled with Soviet propaganda yet having a nice un-Soviet water garden and a very Tajik teahouse with wood carved columns outside in the garden with the same joining of Tajik and Soviet style arts continuing inside the palace.
The palace was constructed by a social collective farm leader Urunkhujaev who had been impressed by the original winter palace and was built as a communal hall for the peasants. The palace had it’s peak moment in history when the counterparts of the Tajik civil war used it as a place of negotiations for ending the war.
Kairakkum reservoir is about 20 km drive east from Khujand and is called often the “Sea of Tajikistan” by the locals. It is the largest reservoir in the Ferghana valley and has many Soviet type sanatoriums or resorts on all sides of it. Some of the places have stayed in the Soviet era but others have been recently upgraded and renovated to fulfill the needs of today and are also suited for foreign tourists.
The lake is a good place for a day trip and to cool down in the water if you are in the region during the hottest summer period.
How to reach Khujand
You can reach Khujand from Dushanbe by wheels with shared taxis within 5 hours and the road is quite spectacular with high passes, long dark tunnels and huge elevation differences and views with different colored mountains and small villages in the valleys and plateaus. Marshrutkas can take you to Isfana and Istravashan several times a day from Khujand.
Khujand can be reached by roads from many directions from the neighboring countries:
1. There is a border crossing point to Uzbekistan about 1-hour drive northwest called Oybek open 24/7 and is the easiest way to reach Tashkent which is actually only 100 km away.
3. A border south to Kyrgyzstan towards Isfana (not Isfara) is called the Kulundu – Ovchi border and can be also passed by foreigners. There are other border control points but they are only bilateral for the citizens of the two neighboring countries.
Note: Currently the Tajikistan – Kyrgyzstan border is closed due to the political relationship between the two countries).
There are two daily flights from Dushanbe to Khujand and it’s airport is also well connected to many Russian cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg as there are many people working in Russia from this area of Tajikistan as well.
Khujand can also be reached by train via Uzbekistan from Samarkand and all the way from Moscow but the trains tend to be very infrequent and the timetables might change still quite often according to the relations between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The train station is away from the city center area close to Khujand airport, about 15 km southeast from the city center. Also the visa requirements of the train traveling might become quite bothersome as you might need to obtain different type visas for Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan depending on your nationality.
Page updated 14.1.2022