Tajikistan is a mountainous country, where you find the third highest mountain range in the world, after the Himalayas and the Karakoram.
While most travellers venture straight into the Pamir-Alay mountains in the center and east of Tajikistan, they often overlook the Fann mountains in the Northwestern corner of the country bordering Uzbekistan. That was because the Samarkand– Penjakent border had been closed to foreigners previously until 2018. On our recent trip in 2019, we decided to explore this remote part of the region even though we knew nothing much about it.
Unlike the Eastern Pamirs, the Fann Mountains are highly accessible and you can trek without any permits. It consists of around 100 peaks, the highest one being Chimtarga at 5,489-meters, and may possibly be one of the best trekking destinations you probably never heard of. The trek can be as short as 2-days or extend to 2-weeks long. Wholly and utterly magnificent, you find yourself surrounded by sky-scraping jagged mountains, crystal clear turquoise lakes and meet the warm hospitality of real Tajiks.
Best time to trek Fann Mountains
The best time to trek in the Fann Mountains is during the Tajik summer from July to September. Outside of this months, it might still possible to do the trek but there is likely to snow on the high passes and high river levels, making it dangerous to cross all together.
We were in Penjakent in June, after a detour trip along Pamir Highway. The only trek that’s feasible to do was Seven Lakes as the rest of the treks were still icy and dangerous to cross over.
Getting to Seven Lakes
The recommended place to start off your Seven Lakes trek is from Panjakent, where you can get your necessities from the bazaar first.
- Dushanbe – Panjakent: 80 TJS (US$8)
- Border – Panjakent: 10 TJS (US$1)
From Panjakent, we had a ride arranged by our homestay host to Padrut, a village located between the fourth and fifth lake. It cost 40 TJS (US$4) for a 2-hours bumpy ride but the experience was totally worth it.
If you want to start trekking from the beginning, you may ask to stop a small village called Rachnapollon, which is a few kilometres further down from a bigger village called Shing. From Rachnapollon to the seventh lake takes around 7 or 8 hours, with breaks included.
What to expect?
Welcome to the Haft Kul! The name Seven Lakes is a direct translation of the local name Haft-Kul and it’s just a simple description of what you’ll find here – seven lakes. The lakes were created through years and years of earthquakes and mudslides. The resulting debris built up in the Shing River, eventually blocking off the flow of the river and forming what we now know to be the Haft Kul in Fann Mountains.
Most will take two days to explore the valley, but others may opt to spend several days slowly making their way from lake to lake. However, the first 6 lakes are not ideal for camping as the ground is quite dry and rocky. The only cool place to camp is the shore of the seventh lake, where you will find a comfortable meadow.
Since we were only doing 7-lakes trek, it’s a one-way in and out trail. Therefore, we took a ride up and slowly trek downwards. The moment we reached the first of the lakes, we got excited just by seeing the rich azure colours created by the minerals in the water. All lakes actually has their own names instead of just first lake, second lake and so on.
The first lake is named Mizhgon, translated as ‘eyelash’ because of its curvy shape.
The second lake is soya, meaning ‘shade’ because of its location, the lake surface is never in complete sunlight.
The third lake is known as Hushyor, meaning Vigilance due to a large number of poisonous snakes found nearby.
Nofin is the fourth and the longest lake. It has the most development in the region, though it’s still not much. If you trek from the beginning, you may base here as there are several guesthouses to stay.
Khurdak, the fifth lake, which means ‘Little One’ is the smallest yet equally spectacular like the rest.
The sixth lake, Marguzor is the largest and easily the most picturesque. From where we dropped off, it took about 1-hour to reach Marguzor lake. There is a secluded homestay which we think is the best place to stay, unless you’re planning to camp, then you should continue to 7th lake.
We woke up early and start to trek up to the 7th lake, Hazorchazma. The 7th lake is super secluded and only accessible by foot, about 45-minutes. Translated as a Thousand Springs, the lake boasts an abundance of natural springs and creeks and was once a famous landmark along the Great Silk Road. The highest point on the seventh lake is at 2,400-meters and plays an important role in this region’s water system.
I hope you enjoyed this article and hopefully you are feeling inspired now to add the Fann Mountains on your bucket list!
Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!