Get mesmerized by Tajikistan’s magnificent Fann Mountains, a trekking destination with dazzling blue and green alpine lakes, dramatic river valleys and countless mountain villages you probably didn’t even know existed!
Tajikistan had been on my “countries-to-visit-list” for a long time when Niko and I were living in its neighboring country Kyrgyzstan in 2017 – 2018. But somehow, even after spending nearly one year in Central Asia, I just never made it there until recently.
Finally made it to Tajikistan!
When I got invited to go on an assignment with USAID to the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan, I didn’t have to think twice about joining this trip. I was super excited to finally visit Tajikistan and its… euhm, wait a minute, which mountains?!
The Fann Mountains!
During my time in Central Asia, I met many overlanders who just got back from an adventurous road trip on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan so I had heard many stories about the Pamir Mountains. But I hadn’t met anyone yet who had been to the Fann Mountains in the north-western corner of the country.
I started googling the name and was surprised to see such stunning scenery popping on my screen. Why did nobody tell me about this region before?
Why did nobody tell me about this beauty before?!
The photos I found weren’t lying. The Fann Mountains – or in short “the Fanns” – are in real-life even more mind-blowingly beautiful than on the pictures! I felt it was my duty to dedicate an entire article to this largely undiscovered part of Tajikistan.
The pictures definitely didn’t lie…!!!
And while I’ll dazzle you with the jaw-droppingly beautiful photos, I’ve also added some useful travel information about visiting the Fann Mountains.
I’m just super confident that you’ll want to see the utterly scenic Fann Mountains before you’ve even reached the end of this post!
I bet you’ll want to hike here yourself after reading this article!!
And yes, I know, I’ve already been using a lot of synonyms for the word ‘extremely beautiful’ here. Now I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.
And this has just been the intro…
Where are the Fann Mountains and what makes them so special?
If you love mountains, you’ll definitely have a blast in Tajikistan as 93% of the country is covered by mountains.
While most travelers venture out into the Pamir and/or the Alay mountains in the center and east of Tajikistan, they often overlook the Fann mountains in the north-western corner of the country, just across the border from Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
The Fann Mountains are a group of about a hundred mountain peaks with several rising above 4000 meters. The highest peak in the Fanns is Chimtarga peak at 5,489 meters above sea level.
The mountainscapes aren’t only extremely scenic and a paradise for outdoor and trekking lovers, the Fann Mountains are also home to many stunning river valleys and azure-colored alpine lakes.
Some of the most beautiful and well-known lakes are Iskanderkul lake (also known as Alexander lake), the Seven lakes (also known as Haft Kul or Marguzor lakes), the Kulikalon Lakes and the Alaudin Lakes.
One of the Seven Lakes (Haft Kul)
Those lakes are so divine that they each earned their own special section later on in this post!
And last but not least, one of the best experiences of my time in the Fann Mountains was meeting the people living in rural villages.
I suspect that the Tajiks living in this part of the country aren’t really used to seeing many travelers because every time we passed by a village, we were welcomed like old friends.
While some women were a bit reluctant – the people from the Fann mountains are very conservative – the men and children greeted us with big smiles and waving hands. They also just loved having their photo taken!
Young Tajik boys proudly posing for the camera!
It was hard to communicate in a common language but you could just feel the genuine interest the people had in us and they were extremely kind-hearted and hospitable.
Unfortunately, as we were limited in time, we couldn’t really stay long in the villages to spend real quality time with the people.
I already know though that I’m going to pay the Fann mountains a second visit. Not only because it’s just so incredibly beautiful there but I also want to get to know the people better and learn more about their daily life in the mountains.
So if you love spectacular mountains and jaw-dropping landscapes, picture-perfect camping spots on impressive lakes shores and local people who are genuinely happy to meet you, you should definitely visit the Fann Mountains!
5 highlights of Tajikistan’s Fann Mountains you shouldn’t miss
1. Discover the Fann Mountains’ Seven Lakes area by car and/or on foot
The Seven Lakes in the Fann Mountains are also referred to as the Marguzor Lakes or Haft Kul. Haft Kul literally means Seven Lakes in Tajik.
Nofin, lake #4 of the Seven Lakes
The Seven Lakes are a series of glacial-melt lakes that form a chain along a narrow windy road in a rocky valley. Each lake has a different name, shape and color and they are all connected by the Shing River.
The name of the lakes are as follows: Mijgon (lake #1) – Soya (lake #2) – Gusbor (lake #3) – Nofin (lake #4) – Khurdak (lake #5) – Marguzor (lake #6) – Hazorchazma (lake #7).
Marguzor, lake #6 of Haft Kul
There’s a – rather sad – legend about the formation of the lakes. A long time ago, an old man got lost in the valley. His seven daughters went searching for him but never found their father.
The girls cried so much that their tears filled the valley and they drowned. The daughters died but the 7 lakes remained in their memory. Pretty sad story, isn’t it?
In reality, the lakes were formed by a landslide that dammed the Shing River in 7 different places.
Mijgon, lake #1 of the Sevan Lakes
To visit the Seven Lakes, you could hike the whole length of the road that winds its way through the narrow valley and the lakes.
You can start hiking from the village of Mogiyon, located just before the first lake. This village can be reached by taking a shared taxi from the city of Penjikent.
The trail goes along a dirt road and is very straight forward. You can’t get lost here.
Walking along Gusbor, the 3rd lake of the Seven Lakes
The total distance between the first and the seventh lake is about 15km one way. The elevation gain is also quite moderate, knowing that the first lake lies at an altitude of 1598 meters and the seventh lake at an altitude of 2400 meters.
In addition to the beautiful lakes, the various villages surrounding them are also a highlight. If you have some time to spare in this region, go to the villages and meet with local shepherds!
You’ll meet many villagers along the way…
…and their herd of goats
However, I personally don’t think that hiking the trail from the 1st until the 5th lake is so pleasant. You have to share the dirt narrow road with passing cars who’ll leave you in a cloud of dust.
You’ll also have to share the road with donkeys!
The best way to visit the Seven Lakes – according to me – is by driving there yourself or hitch a ride until Khurdak, the 5th lake.
Sunset at Kurdak, the 5th lake of Haft Kul
You could also drive to the 6th lake but Hazorchazma, the 7th lake, can only be reached on foot. The trail between the 6th and 7th lake can be steep at certain points but is really doable. I’d describe this hike as an easy-moderate one.
Hazorchazma, the 7th and final lake of Haft Kul
Haft Kul was my first introduction to the Fann Mountains and it was love at first sight! I visited this area during my second day in Tajikistan and already knew I was going to return there!
Where to stay at the Seven Lakes?
There’s a beautiful homestay called Najmaddin Homestay in the village near Nofin lake (lake #4) where you can leave your heavy gear before hiking towards the upper lakes. The homestay is run by Jumaboy and his lovely family.
Jumaboy with his wife and daughter
You could also camp in the garden or rent a private room with access to the shower for $20 per night.
2. Camp on the shores of the Kulikalon Lakes
The shores of the gorgeous Kulikalon Lakes have been one of the most beautiful places I’ve camped so far – and I’ve done a lot of camping in the past 8 years of my travels!
Setting up camp at the Kulikalon Lakes
The Kulikalon Lakes are a group of 3 glacial lakes located in the Kulikalon cirque on the northern slope of the Chimtarga Mountain Peak. They lie at an altitude of 2800 meters.
The largest one is called Kulikalon lake, which translates to “a big lake” in Tajik. It’s also the second largest lake in the Fann Mountains.
The lakes are surrounded by juniper forest and grassy patches where you can pitch your tent. In the summer, shepherds from nearby villages use the lakes’ shores as their temporary summer dwellings.
You’ll have to pay the shepherds some kind of tax if you want to camp on the shores. The standard price is 20 somoni (around 2 US$) per person.
Big and small cascading streams connect the lakes so at night you have to be careful where you walk if you don’t want to end up with wet feet.
The shores of the Kulikalon Lakes can be a perfect base if you want to hike and climb the surrounding mountains.
Just bring enough food as there aren’t any supermarkets nearby. However, a few smart shepherds have set up some small self-made shops where you can buy beer or cola for 20 somoni ($2) or order a meal – potatoes, meat and bread – for about 30 somoni ($3).
How to get to the Kulikalon Lakes?
The only way to reach the Kulikalon Lakes is on foot.
The easiest path leading to the Kulikalon Lakes starts at the Artuch Alpager base camp (2107m). This is an easy trail (if you’re used to hiking) and it will bring you in 3 to 4 hours to the lakes.
Start of the trail at Artuch Alpager Base Camp
If you want a bigger challenge – and a stunning panoramic view over the lakes – you could also hike across the Chukurak Pass (3106 meters).
View over the Kulikalon Lakes from Chukurak Mountain Pass
The hike is quite steep but definitely doable if you’re a physically fit person.
The hike towards Chukurak Pass seen from above
It usually takes 5 to 6 hours to hike from Artuch Alpager base camp to the Kulikalon Lakes across the Chukurak pass but it took my group and me 10 hours as we constantly stopped to snap photos along the way…
After spending one or more nights on the shores of the stunningly beautiful lakes – I could have stayed a whole week there! – you can return to Artuch or continue hiking towards the stunningly beautiful Alauddin lakes.
Sunrise at the Kulikalon Lakes
3. Watch the sunrise at the Alauddin Lakes
I’m not exactly what you would call ‘an early bird’. I don’t like getting up before the first rays of sunlight hit my bedroom or tent. But I would really have regretted missing the sunrise at the Alauddin Lakes!!
The Alauddin Lakes (also spelled Alaudin/ Alovaddin) are located in the Chapdara River Valley, at an altitude of 2850 meters. The crystal-clear water of the lakes is mesmerizing and changes colors, depending on the sunlight.
The lakes are surrounded by stands of pine trees and have many – relatively – flat patches on the shores where you can pitch your tent.
You’ll also have to pay if you want to camp close to the shore. The price to pitch one tent per night is 20 somoni ($2).
Nowadays you can also find some made-up chaikhanas (little tea houses) near the shores of the lakes where you can get tea, beer, coke or a simple Tajik meal for around 30 somoni.
How to get to the Alauddin Lakes?
The Alauddin Lakes are, like the Kulikalon lakes, also only accessible on foot.
If you’re limited in time or don’t like hiking that much, the fastest trail starts at Vertical Base Camp. The 2.5 km-long trail that starts from the base camp to the lakes is very easy to hike and offers stunning views on the surrounding mountains.
View over Vertical Base Camp
Views along the trail between Vertical Basecamp and Alauddin Lakes
If you want to make a multiple-day trek, you can hike from the Alauddin Lakes to the Kulikalon Lakes (or vice versa) across the Alauddin Mountain Pass (3630 meters).
Taking a break on my way towards the Alauddin Lakes
It’s quite a steep hike but relatively short as it can be done in 5 hours. Unless you’re with a group of photographers who, including yourself, stop every 5 minutes to take pictures, then add another 2 to 3 hours to the hike…
Taking a lot of breaks along the way, for photography but also just to enjoy the views!
4. Multiple-day Trekking in the Fann Mountains
The Fann Mountains are a true paradise for outdoor and trekking lovers!
There are several trekking routes during which you could spend 2 days up to 2 or 3 weeks in the Fann Mountains.
I did a 3-day trek, starting from Artuch Basecamp all the way to Vertical Basecamp, across the Chukurak and Alauddin Mountain Passes.
Crossing the Chukurak Pass towards the Kulikalon Lakes
This route brought me to the Kulikalon and Alauddin Lakes.
You could also hike from the Seven Lakes/ Haft Kul to the Kulikalon and/or Alauddin Lakes across the Chimtarga Pass. Or you could make a loop around the lakes crossing the Chimtarga Pass.
It doesn’t really matter where you go in the Fann Mountains, it’s just stunning everywhere!!!
There are many options, depending on the amount of time you have and how much of a challenge you’re up for.
If you want to know more about trekking independently in the Fann Mountains, here are 2 very comprehensive guides:
- A Guide to Trekking Tajikistan’s Fann Mountains by Adventures of Lil Nicki
- Fann Mountains Trekking Routes and Practicalities by Going the Whole Hogg
You could also rent a pack donkey and its owner for $15 per day
Do you love trekking and outdoor adventures?
Also read our Complete Trekking Guide to Kyrgyzstan!
5. Relax at Iskanderkul
Iskanderkul is the largest lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan. It’s a popular destination for local tourists to spend the weekend as it’s only 130 km from Dushanbe.
The name Iskanderkul means ‘Lake of Alexander the Great’. There are some legends about the lake that are connected to this conqueror and king of Macedonia.
Maybe Alexander The Great went for a relaxing swim in this lake?
Iskanderkul is a great place to relax after trekking around for multiple-days in the Fann Mountains or to recover from a road trip across the Pamir Highway.
Sunrise at Iskanderkul
There are also some fun things to do in the area of Iskanderkul. You can read more about this and how to get there in Things to do around Iskanderkul‘.
One of the things you can do is visiting the lake by boat
Visiting the Fann Mountains – some practicalities
1. How to get to the Fann Mountains
Penjakent is the general starting point for a trip to the Fann Mountains.
Penjakent, the gateway to the Fann Mountains
From Penjakent you can find public transport (shared taxi or minibus) near the bazaar to:
- Mogiyon – to visit Haft Kul/ the Seven Lakes
- Artuch – the nearest village to the base camp if you want to do some in the Fann Mountains. It’s also the closest starting point to visit the Kulikalon lakes.
You’ll need to rent a car if you want to get to Vertical Basecamp from which you can hike to the Alauddin lakes.
Hiking towards the Alauddin Lakes
You can get from Dushanbe to Penjakent by shared taxi for around $10 per person.
You can take a shared taxi in Samarkand (around $3) until the border with Penjakent. Once you’ve crossed the border, you can take a shared taxi (between $1 to $3) to the city center of Penjakent.
Or… you could travel to Tajikistan on a donkey?
2. Visa and permits to visit the Fann Mountains
You don’t need a special permit to visit the Fann Mountains but you do need a visa for Tajikistan.
3. What is the best time to visit the Fann Mountains
The best time for visiting the Fann Mountains is between mid-June and mid-September, especially if you’re planning on doing some trekking and camping.
It’s really worth it to camp in Tajikistan!!
You could visit the Fann Mountains in late spring or early autumn but be prepared for cold weather!
Visiting the Fann Mountains during wintertime (November – April) will be challenging as most roads and mountain passes are inaccessible due to the snowfall.
The summer (June – September) are the best months to visit the Fann Mountains
I hope you enjoyed this article and that the photos carried you away to the stunning Fann Mountains! Hopefully you’re feeling inspired now to add the Fann Mountains on your bucket list!
All these photos are taken with my Panasonic Lumix G90 camera, a light and compact weather-sealed mirrorless camera, perfect for travel and outdoor photography!
Have you been to Tajikistan and/or the Fann Mountains before or are you planning to travel there soon? Do you still have questions? Let me know in the comments below!
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