Lakes of Tajikistan
The truly beautiful country of Tajikistan has a landscape full of magnificent mountains and many breathtaking lakes guarded by snowy peaks. Turquoise, blue, green, dark you name it, they are situated comfortably along the trekking routes and highways. We have picked some of the most beautiful lakes every traveler should make an effort to see on their trip to Tajikistan.
Nestled between dry yet spectacular mountains lake Iskanderkul named after Alexander the Great who is believed to pass by it on his way to India, is the most visited lake in Tajikistan. Indeed its turquoise waters contrast wonderfully with its mountainous surroundings and offer beautiful views from all sides. Fed by the melting snow of surrounding glaciers at 2000 m above sea level the lake is 4 km across, 70 m deep and always cold. In 30 minutes walk from the lake there is a waterfall locally named as Fann Niagara and a snake lake with a beautiful forest behind. The ride from Dushanbe to the lake takes 3-4 hours (140 km) which makes it a perfect day trip from Dushanbe. For those willing to stay more there is a Soviet-era resort at the lake with small chalets and basic amenities to sleep or an ideal ground to set a tent for nature lovers. It is also possible to stay at the local homestay in Sarytag village located 9 km from the lake which in addition offers a possibility for more hiking in Fann mountains. See Trekking and hiking routes in Tajikistan article
Marguzor lakes (Haft kul in local language) or simply Seven lakes are a chain of lakes located in the western part of Fann mountains about 60 km from Penjikent city. Still and tranquil with different colors and characters, each more beautiful and higher than the last, the lakes have been attracting visitors since Soviet times. Interestingly named depending on the shape, character and features Mizhgon, Soya, Hushyor, Nofin, Khurdak, Marguzor and Hazorchashma hold the legend that they were formed from the tears of seven sisters who lost their father. The villages around the lakes are another highlight of the area. They offer an authentic homestay experience where one can see how local people live and experience warm and sincere hospitality.
Blue and magnificent freshwater lake at an altitude of 3700 meters in the Central Pamir, Yashilkul is stretched 19 km long and 1-4 km across in an area of 3600 hectares and a maximum depth of 52 meters. Clean and transparent water of the lake never goes higher than +14 Centigrade. Surrounded by the rugged Pamir mountains, glass-like surface of the lake offers breathtaking scenery especially from the west end where it gives beginning to the Ghund river which eventually flows to Panj. The water of the lake is so fresh and clear that it is possible to observe the underwater aquatic life and fish for trouts. Local Kyrgyz shepherds believe the lake is home to the magic animal called Tuya Suu - a water camel. Yashikul is reached from the Pamir Highway with a detour of 16 km drive passing by a nearby village of Bulunkul with roughly 32 houses where one can find a nice homestay lodging with sauna. Further east north from the lake there is a hydrogen sulfide - Issyk Bulak hot spring coming from the bottom of the granite mountain considered to be sacred by locals.
Deep in the Pamir mountains, lake Sarez was formed by a massive landslide which created a dam on the Murgab river triggered by a great earthquake, thus giving birth to a lake in 1911. The 28 km lake has grown to 75.8 km in length since then. Today Sarez is a spectacularly beautiful lake set at 3340 meters surrounded by mountains which rise more than 2300 m above the lake level. The name of the lake stems from the name of the village that submerged at its bottom. A well constructed 16 km steep path leads to the lake with 800 meters height difference from Barchadiff village in Bartang valley from where a trekking route goes to Bachor village or Yashilkul lake in 4-5 days. The lake can be reached with a 4 wheel drive from the road which starts on the eastern part of the Pamir Highway near Karakul lake (150 km) or from Vomar town in the Western Part of the Pamir Highway (130 km) and a special permit needs to be obtained before visiting it.
Kuli Kalon lakes
Located in the heart of Fann mountains Kuli Kalon lakes are a group of glacial lakes in an area called Kulikalon cirque. Linked by cascading streams the lakes are surrounded by remnants of Juniper trees which are considered to be a symbol of Fann mountains. The biggest of the lakes is Kulikalon lake translated from Tajik as "a big lake" and is the second biggest lake in Fann mountains after Iskanderkul. Set at the foot of the highest peak in Fann mountains - Chimtarga the glacier-fed Kuli Kalon lakes are a perfect place to observe the wildlife accompanied with breathtaking views. The area has been named as an important Bird area, Eagles, Lammergeiers, Black Vultures and Himalayan Vultures can be found here. Due to the lack of the road to the lakes, they are mostly visited by hikers, who consider the place to be a paradise for hikers. The path to the lakes start from Artuch tourist camp with an easy 3-4 hour hike and continues to Alauddin lake over the Alauddin pass (3860 m) from where a stunningly beautiful view of surrounding mountains and lakes reveals.
Surrounded by the high summits Alaudin lakes are another gem in Fann mountains. Accessible only by foot, 3 km from Vertical base camp the lakes are situated in a rocky bowl and surrounded by stands of pine trees. The crystal clear blue water of the lakes mesmerizes every visitor. Vertical base camp, which is the starting point of the hike to the lakes is situated at the junction of two valleys one leading to Alaudin lakes another to Kulikalon lakes over Laudan pass (3630 m) and has a house with a couple of rooms and a shower. The base camp is accessed from Saravoda village on the main road from Dushanbe to Aini. The trail leading from the base camp to the lakes offers stunning views of alpine mountains around. The area around lakes is a glorious place for camping and a possible base for walking deeper into Fann mountains. A popular day hike to Mutniy (Mudy) lake can be taken from the lakes. Alaudin lakes along with Iskanderkul lake are perfect destinations for weekend tours from Dushanbe.
The spectacular lake Kara Kul set comfortably on the Pamir Highway at an altitude of nearly 4000 meters is the biggest natural lake in Tajikistan. 25 km in diameter the lake is located in the Tajik National Park in the northeastern part of Tajikistan, just 58 km from the Kyzyl-Art border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Despite its name translated as a black lake, it is almost always turquoise blue in spring, summer, and autumn. The lake was formed from a meteoritic impact approximately 25 million years ago. Usually described as mysterious, remote and insanely beautiful, the surrounding snowcapped mountains and moonlike scenery make this lake an ideal retreat for adventure seekers. Every year at the end of July kite-surfers, sailors and kayakers gather at the lake to celebrate and participate in one of the most adventurous events held in the world - Roof of the World regatta. The nearby village also named Karakul offers home stays and yurts for tourists.