Khatlon and the South East
The province of Khatlon, to the southeast of Dushanbe is rarely visited by foreigners, yet it has some unusual and interesting sites. Within easy reach of Dushanbe, and with fast-improving road infrastructure, Khatlon is an obvious choice for visitors keen to explore Tajikistan without the physical challenges of journeying to Khujand or the Pamirs. Three national parks, hot springs and the Amu Darya and Vakhsh rivers reveal the country's natural beauty, whilst the ancient ruins of the Buddhist monastery at Ajin Teppa, the Hulbek and Utapur fortresses and the Graeco-Bactrian temple of Takht-i Sangin are indisputable highlights of Tajikistan's cultural heritage.
The town of Norak, with its beautiful lake, is easily visited there and back in a day. Kulob town, and the surrounding area, has many places of interest, which can be visited with one overnight stop. Travellers going to the Pamirs tend to take the shorter route over the pass to Kala-i Khumb (called the Khaburabot Pass, also the Saghirdasht or the Tavildara), which is open from late May to the end of October. The alternative route via Kulob is longer by about 4 hours, but it is open most of the year.
Khatlon was one of the more backward and poorest parts of Tajikistan in Soviet times. Mainly for this reason it saw much violence in the civil war. The region is the homeland of the winning side that fought its way to power in 1992-93, including President Rahmon and his closest allies.