The Seven Lakes, Tajikistan
Why have just one lake when you can have seven?
At first glance, this seems to be the main selling point of the Seven Lakes region in the rugged Fann Mountains of Tajikistan. But I soon realise that this is not a part of the country where marketing is a top concern.
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.
Like most places in Tajikistan, the locals are rather understated about their own backyard. Perhaps that’s why you don’t see a lot of promotion about the benefits of having so many lakes.
But, again, like most places in Tajikistan, there would be good reason to scream from the rooftops – or, in this case, mountaintops – about what there is to see here.
Because it really wouldn’t matter how many lakes were here at Haft-Kul, it would still be just as beautiful. In a region where you seem to discover another alpine take every time you turn a corner, these ones stand out as some of the best.
It’s no wonder that Seven Lakes has long been a destination for travellers exploring this part of Tajikistan.
It’s probably been slightly under-appreciated in terms of visitor numbers compared to other parts of the country – but no more so than similar destinations in the west of Tajikistan in recent years.
The closure of the closest border with Uzbekistan in 2012 meant there was less practical reason to travel in this direction. But the border crossing reopened in 2018 and, as the most convenient route from Samarkand into the Fann Mountains and down to Dushanbe, it’s getting busier again.
The Seven Lakes of Haft-Kul
From the highway, there’s just one main road that leads into Haft-Kul and it takes you through a perfect introduction to the Seven Lakes.
You pass each of them in order – lake number one, lake number two, lake number three. Each has its own name, it’s not known just by an impersonal number.
The first one, for instance, is called Nezhigon, which translates as ‘eyelash’ because of its curved shape. Even with the first of the lakes, you can get a sense of the rich colours that make them so special. The turquoise is so vibrant, created by the minerals in the water.
Driving along, you get to see each of the lakes from different perspectives. It’s interesting to notice how the colour changes when you’re looking into the sun and when you have it at your back.
It is particularly obvious at the second lake, which almost seems to turn violet at one point. Despite this, the lake is called Soya, which translates to ‘shade’ because apparently the surface is never in complete sunlight.
The third lake, called Gushor (meaning ‘vigilance’) is equally spectacular.
It is hard to not want to constantly stop as you drive along to take photos of all the different angles. Just when you think you have enough shots, the road to the next lake will go up a steep series of hairpin turns and you’ll get another incredible vista from the top of the hill.
The fourth lake, Nofin, is the longest of them all and it’s also likely to be your base when you stay here. It has the most development in the region (although that’s still not much) and there are several guesthouses where you can stay.
This is where I spend the night – at the wonderful Jumaboy Guesthouse, where the family welcomes me with warm meals and even warmer hospitality. It’s definitely where I would recommend staying and I’ll give you some more details later on.
The road that brings you to the fourth lake continues past the fifth lake (which is so small you would almost miss it) and on to the sixth lake.
The sixth lake is called Marguzor and some people use that name to refer to the whole series: Marguzor Lakes. It is the largest of them all and is often described as the most beautiful.
I can see why – the light blue surface of the water catches the light so delicately, and the high mountains around the edge create the perfect backdrop and framing.
But I do wonder if the people who say this is the most beautiful ever made the effort to go further. Because the road may end here at the sixth lake, but there is one more to go. And when you are there, you realise it’s worth the walk.
Hiking at the Seven Lakes
There are lots of walks to do around Tajikistan’s Seven Lakes. The standard one is just to walk from the first to the last, but I wouldn’t recommend it because it’s along a road and you can see all of that by car anyway.
Most people who stay here for a few days will tend to explore in a few directions, skirting the edges of the lakes or heading up to the top of one of the mountains.
But if you don’t have too long here, I would recommend focusing on the walk from the sixth lake to the seventh lake. It will take a couple of hours but there are great views as you follow the river for most of the way.
(If you want to make it a longer, start the walk from your guesthouse, rather than get a lift to the end of the road.)
At the right time of day, you’ll meet some of the local farmers moving their animals back from grazing – or just peacefully watching them while they eat.
For me, it’s one of those situations where I wish I could speak their language, although we manage some simple friendly communication nonetheless.
The seventh lake, you’ll realise when you arrive, feels different to the first six. Partly it’s because it is secluded, with no road to reach it, and embraced by the mountains around it so it’s half-hidden.
But what you also feel, even if you can’t easily see it, is that the seventh lake plays an important role in this water system. It is called Khazorchashma, which means ‘a thousand springs’, and the name tells the story.
There are numerous springs and rivers that feed in this lake, creating the first body of water that will then cascade down to the others, creating this natural wonder.
The Seven Lakes and the Fann Mountains
The Fann Mountains, the region where you’ll find the Seven Lakes, is not quite as famous as the other main hiking regions in Tajikistan, which are found in the Pamir Mountains in the east of the country.
But there are some incredible treks here and I’ll tell you a bit more about them in upcoming blog posts. What you need to know for now are two things.
Firstly, that the best treks in the region actually connect with the Seven Lakes, so you can visit here (and have a day or two off) as part of a longer trek.
And secondly, the Seven Lakes probably offer the best landscapes for the least amount of effort (or time) in Tajikistan. It’s quite easy to get to the Seven Lakes from Penjikent, there are a few guesthouse options, and there are lots of different walks that are easy to do as day trips.
(As an aside, the only other option would be doing day walks from Artuch, but it takes a bit longer to get there. More on that another day.)
So, if you’re looking for something that gives you a taste of the Fann Mountains without taking up too much of your time, and leaving you out in tents in the middle of nowhere, this could be your best option.
Tajikistan is such a friendly country and feels so safe. I love the food and the scenery is stunning. But logistics for independent travel can be a bit difficult. So let me share a bit of information that may help you.
Keep in mind, though, unless you have a driver and/or a guide, you’ll need a bit of patience and flexibility because nothing goes to schedule… because there is no schedule.
How do you get to the Seven Lakes?
If you’re taking public transport, I would recommend catching the share taxi (truck) from Penjikent, which should cost about 30 som per person for the 2.5 hour drive.
If you’re coming from somewhere other than Penjikent, you should be able to grab one of the share taxis when they turn off the main highway at Sudzhina, towards the Seven Lakes.
Most of the share taxis will stop at the third lake. From there, you’ll need to walk or hitchhike if you want to go further.
Where you should stay at Seven Lakes?
I would certainly recommend the Jumaboy Guesthouse at the southern end of the fourth lake. It costs about US$12 a night per person, including breakfast. A hearty lunch or dinner is US$7.
There are 35 beds, so it’s not normally full, but you can make a reservation in advance at the Penjikent tourism office, or call directly on +992926366748.
I can’t speak from experience about any of the other guesthouses but, like all of them, expect basic facilities but wonderful hospitality.
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