Over a hundred peaks jut out south from the Zarafshan Valley, hiding intact mountain villages, jeweled lakes and glistening glaciers. It also proved a shortcut to the Pamirs, yet it still challenged and delighted.
Nestled at the base of Mount Chimtarga, the towering 5,489 meter apex of Tajikistan's Fann Mountains, lies an expanse of shimmering sapphire jewels - the glacial Kulikalon Lakes. Arriving at the lakes feels like a treasure has been found, especially after a long and grueling trek. As the jagged Fann peaks pierced the heavens above, an invitation to sit, rest and observe the art of nature unfolds. Watching the dying embers of sunset turn the glassy waters first gold, then fiery orange, before fading into inky blackness dusted with stars remains etched in memory as one of the most magical in Central Asia.
Yet the sublime Kulikalon basin, and the Fann Mountains in general, was once witness to a less tranquil period of history. Situated halfway between the Ferghana Valley and the storied Pamir “Roof of the World,” the tricky traverses of the Fann Mountains challenged merchant caravans burdened with silks and spice. Avoiding the floods and bandits stalking lower passes, traders paid steep tolls to local mountaineers for access through these high passes. Later, the remote location sheltered and saw a range of figures throughout history, from Alexander the Great to Amir Timur to the Soviet Union. Today, even the memory of those travelers has faded, like the lingering pink alpenglow on Chimtarga's snowy ridges as darkness blankets the peaks.
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
How We Got Here
The Fann Mountains is reached by several roads jutting off the Zarafshan Corridor, which is how we reached the landscape by car.
Exploring the string of glacial lakes known as the "Seven Lake." Each one revealed a new beauty, pushing the boundaries of blue. It is a rugged yet stunning valley.
Tbilisi Reaching the Kulikalon Lakes by hiring a donkey to carry our boy and belongings. Setting up tent on one of its shores remains an unforgettable memory.
S N A P S H O T S O N T H E R O A D
W H E R E W I L L Y O U R J O U R N E Y T A K E Y O U N E X T ?
Don't be led to believe the Fann Mountains were the apex of difficulty along the Silk Roads, as the next stretch is known as the breaking point for countless caravans over the centuries. The Pamir Mountains are stark and solemn, a reminder to the power of nature. Take each step wisely as the journey continues.