A Day Trip To The Taboshar Uranium Mines in Istiklol, Tajikistan
Updated March 2022, A Day Trip To The Uranium Mines in Istiklol, Tajikistan was originally published in September 2021
The odd little town of Istiklol (formerly Taboshar), located about 40 minutes drive from Khujand makes a great day trip for those wanting to get a little off the beaten path in Tajikistan’s Fergana Valley. Taboshar, as this small town came to be known as essentially didn’t exist until the First World War, a uranium deposit was discovered there.
During WWII this area would see German prisoners of war arrive, people captured in battle by the Soviet Union, brought here specifically to further develop the town and a new mining site. The Germans left their mark here in way of architecture featuring German-style stone houses and shaded tree-lined streets.
Throughout the 1930s, Taboshar would go on to become the Soviet Union’s largest uranium mine and the town would experience a boom seeing even more German prisoners and German-Russians sent here to work the uranium mine and continue building the town. However, it wasn’t really widely known what Taboshar’s main export was as it was kept a secret until the 1970s.
Looking for other day trips from Khujand? Don’t miss the beautiful Asht Salt Flat
Uranium mining would continue in Taboshar until the early 1990s. Following the closure of the mine, many of the German inhabitants of Taboshar left back to Germany or to other countries, seeing the population dip significantly. As of 2020, approximately 17,000 people still live in Taboshar.
The waste reservoir, uranium pits, and much of the mining equipment used in Taboshar over the years was abandoned here in the 90s, so getting very close to the mine itself is considered dangerous because of radiation, though looking at the waste pond and machinery from a distance is fine.
In 2012 Taboshar was renamed Istiklol, the Tajik work meaning independence.
Plan your time in Khujand: The Khujand Travel Guide
Things to see in Istiklol
You can see most of what Istiklol/Taboshar has to offer in around an hour or so.
The square near the WWII monument is a good place to start. Inside of a small park, you’ll find a monument to the Great Patriotic War. From there if you continue walking west you’ll eventually come to a bust of Rudaki and eventually at the other end of the park, a statue of Lenin (though he was covered in a white sheet when I visited).
Walking along this park will also give you the opportunity to appreciate the German-style stone houses that line the street on either side of the park. Back along the square in Istiklol, you’ll also find a museum where you can learn a bit more about the history of the town.
Things to see at the Taboshar Uranium Mine
Located about 2.5 kilometers northeast of the small town of Istiklol proper, you’ll find the remains of the once-largest uranium mine in all of the Soviet Union- the Taboshar Uranium Mine. The road first climbs uphill where you’ll see mounds from the uranium pits and crumbling structures left over from mining operations in the past.
Continuing beyond, you’ll eventually arrive at the radioactive reservoir leftover from the Taboshar Uranium Mine. The water down inside the depression is a neon turquoise, which seems alluring, but it’s wise to not get anywhere near the water.
How to get to Istiklol
The best way in my opinion to visit Istiklol and the Taboshar Uranium Mine is by heading to the Abreshim Bus Station in the north of Khujand and hiring a car to make a half-day trip. Plan to pay about 200 TJS for the return trip. When you arrive at Abreshim Station, just start asking for Taboshar or Istiklol and you’ll be pointed to the cars waiting to depart there.
You can also try to grab a marshrutka bound for Istiklol from Abreshim Station. A seat should cost around 15 TJS (one-way). The marshrutkas will drop you in the lower part of Istiklol, but it’s a small enough town that everything is within walking distance.
Finally, if you don’t want to deal with making arrangements on your own, you can get in touch with my friend Alovaddin at Paramount Journey to arrange transport and a guide to Istiklol and the Taboshar Uranium Mine.
Have any questions about Istiklol and the Taboshar Uranium Mine?
Ask in the comments section below.