South Tajikistan does not have the dramatic splendours of the mountains. But what it does have, in abundance, is a rich sense of antiquity built in many layers. Alexander, Genghis Khan and Babur all passed this way. The most magnificent Buddhist findings in Central Asia come from southern Tajikistan, as does the Oxus Treasure now in the British Museum in London.
The south is dust dry for most of the year. But in spring the broad Vakhsh river valley is a delightful place, with its many channels interspersed with islands covered in mature trees, and with meadows of spring flowers. The traveller passes through irrigated fields of cotton, wheat and vegetables. Always there is the backdrop of the hills to the west bordering Uzbekistan. The friendly and hospitable villagers often wear traditional dress. Most of the houses and walls are built of local materials and blend with the landscape.
The south is accessible throughout the year. There is a good road south all the way to the Uzbek border. Virtually no foreigners come to the area. If you do come you are likely to be on your own when visiting any of the sites.
The best time to visit is the spring or autumn. Winters are mild, but it can be windy, and the there are frequent power cuts. The summer is unbearably hot with temperatures in June, July and August in the 40 to 50 degrees Centigrade range. Not for nothing are these months referred to as "Duzakh" or Hell.
Highlights here are the Tigrovaya Balka National Park, the springs at Chashma Chehel o Chahar, the ruined mosque of Khoja Mashad and the Temple of Oxus at Takht-i Sangin. All can be reached in a one-day journey from Dushanbe.
At current time permits are required for visits to the far south, including Aywaj and Takht-I Sangin. Check with a local travel company, and allow plenty of time for them to obtain the permit, or ask them to obtain in advance of your arrival.