• FANN MOUNTAINS TAJIKISTAN

    TREKKING ROUTES & TRAVEL GUIDE

    Alauddin Lake at sunrise in the Fann Mountains Tajikistan
  • FANN MOUNTAINS

    TAJIKISTAN

FANN MOUNTAINS TREKKING ROUTES & TRAVEL GUIDE

*Updated November 2020*

Trekking in the Fann Mountains is a truly spectacular experience. Some of Tajikistan’s most jaw-dropping scenery awaits those ready to explore on two feet. Impossibly blue lakes shimmer below dramatic mountain peaks. Welcoming locals beckon you in for chai multiple times a day. Juniper forests punctuate dry, dusty trails. Whether you visit for a day, week or month, the sense of awe felt in the presence of such dramatic landscapes is hard to shift.

Tucked away in the north-western corner of Tajikistan, the Fanns are remote enough to be unheard of by many, yet easily accessible to those with an intrepid nature. With around a hundred peaks, numerous lakes, plus countless villages and seasonal settlements, it can be hard to know where to start when planning your Fann Mountains trek.

Preparing for our own multi-day hike took a lot of research. At the time when we trekked (and first published this guide) there weren’t any online resources with detailed route maps. So, in order to make it easier for future hikers, we sat down and mapped out a multitude of Fann Mountains trekking routes, from easy two day tasters to challenging multi-day adventures. In the process, we spent far too long staring at Google satellite view and falling down internet rabbit holes, trying to pinpoint suitable camp spots and piece together the ideal itinerary for each route.

These days, many more Fann Mountains trekking trails are marked on open source maps like Maps.me, and other online resources have updated their guides to include route maps, camp spots, and so on. All of this is great news for hikers, making it easier than ever to plan a Tajikistan trek. 

In this guide, we’ll help you figure out the best Fann Mountains trek to suit your level of experience and/or time available. We’ve included detailed route maps, with GPX and KML downloads for each trek, plus practical advice like what to pack, how to get there, and when to go. 

Read through the whole guide, or jump to a particular section by clicking the links below.

FANN MOUNTAINS TREKKING MAP

All of the Fann Mountains trekking routes outlined in this guide are marked on the map below, along with suggested camp spots, mountain passes, homestays, and other points of note. Tap the menu button at the top left to see detailed trekking route outlines, toggle routes on and off, and switch between satellite and terrain view.


To save this map to use online on desktop or mobile just tap the star symbol at the top. When you open Google Maps on your phone, navigate to ‘Saved’ at the bottom, then swipe along to ‘Maps’ at the top. You’ll find this map in your list of maps. On desktop, click the three lines at the top left, select ‘Your Places’, then ‘Maps’. Click the map, then scroll down and select ‘Open in My Maps’ to access the interactive version. Alternatively, just tap the rectangle symbol at the top right of the map in this blog post to view the My Maps version larger on desktop. Note that this map is best viewed on desktop, using the ‘My Maps’ version instead of the mobile Google Maps version (which is less interactive).

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to view this map offline, but we’ve created a similar version for offline use as per below, and provided GPX and KML track downloads for each trek.


To use an offline version of this map with all the same pins and routes marked, first download Maps.Me (iOS/Android), then download our Fann Mountains GTWH bookmarks, and select open with Maps.Me. We’ve marked all of the main villages (orange), camp spots (red), mountain passes (green), lakes (blue), and chaikhanas (yellow). Second, download our Fann Mountains Trekking Routes, and select open with Maps.Me. You can toggle the routes on and off in the bookmarks tab.

You can easily plan your trekking route in Maps.me by tapping the bookmark for your start point and selecting ‘route from’, then tap your end point bookmark and select ‘route to’. If you want to plot a different route to the one suggested by Maps.me, just tap a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) bookmark between the start and end points and select ‘add stop’. You can use Maps.me offline, which is ideal when you’re out on the trail.

You can also download all of the routes and markers from this map to another app such as Gaia (iOS/Android) and use it offline. 


While we’ve tried to be as accurate as possible with the map routings, don’t rely solely on these for navigation. Be sure to cross-reference them with the excellent EWP Fann Mountains map, Maps.Me, and any other mapping devices you have available to you, such as Gaia.

This list of Fann Mountains trekking routes is by no means exhaustive (you just have to look at the EWP map to see the endless number of passes and trails out there!). There are various other passes and alternative routings. We’ve covered the main trekking routes in this guide. You can download each route individually – download the KML files for use with Maps.me or the GPX files for use with Gaia (and many other apps).

The number of days/nights outlined for each trek is the minimum time it takes to cover the distance. It doesn’t include getting to/from the Fanns. Be sure to factor in an extra couple of days either side for travel. It’s also entirely possible to spend longer on each trek, for example camping a few extra nights around Kulikalon, relaxing in homestays in the Haft Kul, etc.

FANN MOUNTAINS TREK VIDEO

FANN MOUNTAINS TREKKING ROUTES

ALAUDDIN & KULIKALON LAKES

Boasting numerous high altitude lakes of dazzling blues and greens, Alauddin and Kulikalon are the highlight of the Fanns for many. Both areas are only accessible on foot, although there is road access to an old Russian climber’s camp a couple of kilometres away from Alauddin Lake. This makes it ideal for those short on time, but determined to experience the beauty of the Fanns. If you have longer to explore, the two areas can be combined into one circular trek, or a one way route. For an extra challenge and bonus lake, include Chukurak Pass and Lake, making a fantastic extended lakes loop trek. 

The English spelling of place names varies a lot. For example, Alauddin is also commonly spelt Alaudin or Alovaddin. Bibidzhonat also appears as Bibijonat or similar. Dushakha is sometimes written Dushoka, Mutnyi appears Mutnoe, etc.

1N/2D
(OR MORE)


A straightforward and easy hike, but highly rewarding in the scenery stakes. Start your hike at the old Russian climber’s camp, Vertical Alauddin. After a couple of kilometres of gentle climbing past a few smaller lakes, you’ll reach the magnificent Alauddin Lake. A couple of chaikhanas at the north shore serve food and drinks. The best camping is at the green patch of flat (ish) ground on the south-west shore. Pitch up your tent for the night and head back down to Vertical the following day.

Enjoying the perfectly still morning reflections at Alauddin Lake



Enjoying the perfectly still morning
reflections at Alauddin Lake



If you’re looking to stay a little longer you can add on a day hike to Mutnyi Lake and back (around 12KM total), or just explore more around Alauddin.

If you don’t want to camp you could head back down to Vertical the same day where limited accommodation and basic toilet facilities are available, plus a cafe.

1N/2D
(OR MORE)

KULIKALON LAKES

ARTUCH/ALPLAGER ⇨ KULIKALON LAKES ⇨ ARTUCH/ALPLAGER

16 km (to/from Alplager)

Download GPX | Download KML


Starting at Artuch (which is easily accessible by public transport), trek southeast to Kulikalon. Numerous lakes dot the Kulikalon bowl, each offering something special. Kulikalon itself is the largest and has multiple camping spots. A few herder families live nearby so don’t be surprised if you’re invited for chai and yoghurt. 

Taking in the view on the shore of Kulikalon while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Taking in the view on the shore of Kulikalon



Taking in the view on the shore of Kulikalon while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Taking in the view on the shore of Kulikalon



Bibidzhonat, a little further up the trail, has great views of Mt. Mirali. Dushakha, the highest of the three main lakes at around 3000m, sits at the very foot of icy Mt. Mirali. It was one of our favourite camp spots while trekking the Fann Mountains.

Camping at Lake Dushakha beneath the towering Mt. Mirali

Camping at Lake Dushakha beneath the towering Mt. Mirali



Camping at Lake Dushakha beneath the towering Mt. Mirali

Camping at Lake Dushakha beneath
the towering north face of Mt. Mirali



If you’re only camping one night you’ll need to choose between them, but if you’ve got time to spare then relax and spend a night at each! Retrace your steps to Artuch on the return journey.

Read our account of this section of the trail here.

Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch (also called Artuch Base Camp), but you’ll need your own tent and supplies for camping at the lakes.

2N/3D

THE LAKES ONE WAY

ARTUCH/ALPLAGER ⇨ KULIKALON LAKES ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS) ⇨ VERTICAL ALAUDDIN

(ALTERNATIVE ROUTE VIA LAUDAN PASS)

18-21 km

Download GPX | Download KML

This is a great option if you want to see both Kulikalon and Alauddin Lakes, but have limited time. Opt for the Alauddin Pass for the best views and shortest trekking route. You could do the trek in either direction.

Looking down to Alauddin Lakes from the pass, a highlight of Fann Mountains trekking

Looking down to Alauddin Lakes from the pass



Looking down to Alauddin Lakes from the pass, a highlight of Fann Mountains trekking

Looking down to Alauddin Lakes from the pass



Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch and Vertical Alauddin, but you’ll need your own tent and supplies for camping at the lakes.

TRAVELLING THE PAMIR HIGHWAY TOO?

3N/4D

THE LAKES LOOP

ARTUCH/ALPLAGER ⇨ KULIKALON LAKE ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA LAUDAN PASS) ⇨ BIBIDZHONAT LAKE OR DUSHAKHA LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS)  ⇨ ARTUCH/ALPLAGER

(OR VICE VERSA)

29 km

Download GPX | Download KML

The lakes loop is a classic Fann Mountains trekking route taking in the best of the lakes region, without having to retrace your steps too much. It also has the benefit of starting and ending at Artuch which is relatively easy to get to via shared or private transport. You can opt to hike clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Young boys play in a long and narrow stone pool in the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan, with mountains and juniper trees all around.

Local boys having fun at ‘Barachor’, the best swimming pool in Tajikistan



Walking the trail up to Kulikalon while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Walking the trail up to Kulikalon



Young boys play in a long and narrow stone pool in the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan, with mountains and juniper trees all around.

Local boys having fun at ‘Barachor’,
the best swimming pool in Tajikistan


Walking the trail up to Kulikalon while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Walking the trail up to Kulikalon



Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch, but you’ll need your own tent and supplies for camping at the lakes.

3N/4D

EXTENDED LAKES LOOP VIA CHUKURAK

ARTUCH/ALPLAGER ⇨ KULIKALON LAKE ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA LAUDAN PASS) ⇨ BIBIDZHONAT LAKE OR DUSHAKHA LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS)  ⇨ ARTUCH/ALPLAGER VIA CHUKURAK PASS

(OR VICE VERSA)

35 km

Download GPX | Download KML

Fancy squeezing one more lake into your Lakes Loop trek? From Kulikalon return to Artuch/Alplager via the Chukurak Pass (3180 m) and Chukurak Lake. Chukurak Lake makes for a perfect camp spot if you want to add an extra night into your trekking itinerary, otherwise it’s possible to complete this section in one day. 

Note that Chukurak Pass is also known as Govkhona Pass. Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch, but you’ll need your own tent and supplies for camping at the lakes.

CHIMTARGA PASS

Chimtarga peak is the highest in the Fann Mountains and a crossing of the Chimtarga Pass offers spectacular views and an added challenge to your trek. It’s advisable to cross from the Mutnyi Lake side as loose scree on the Bolshoi Allo side of the pass makes for an easier descent than ascent.

At 4740 m, this is the highest pass in the Fanns and shouldn’t be attempted unless you’re fully acclimatised and relatively experienced. Pay close attention to the weather also and only cross if you have a clear weather window. It’s considered a challenging pass, but doesn’t generally require technical skills. It can be covered in snow at any time of year, however crossing in July – August is likely to be snow-free.

For acclimatisation purposes most people camp at Mutnyi Lake (3400 m), then at a flat spot under Chimtarga Pass at 4500 m (or lower at a 4100 m camp). Then it’s over the pass and down to Bolshoi Allo Lake (3360 m) the following day. Bolshoi Allo is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the Fanns and worth spending a bit of time relaxing at, especially after the strenuous crossing. Therefore, in our suggested trek itineraries the next camp spot is at a small lake called Maloye Allo, around 6 km west of Bolshoi Allo, down the Zindon river valley. This allows you to spend a relaxed morning at Bolshoi Allo, without too long a walk ahead of you.

Continuing down the Zindon river you’ll meet the Amshut river and eventually the Archamaidan. Here you’ll find a road to continue the trek north towards the villages of Gazza, Zimtut, Guitan and beyond, or south towards the confluence of the Sarymat and Archamaidan rivers. From the confluence you can trek south-west to the Haft Kul via Tavasang Pass or south-east to Iskanderkul via Dukdon Pass.

For an interesting account of crossing Chimtarga Pass, check out this post, accompanied by stunning photos.

Note that pack donkeys cannot cross the Chimtarga Pass, so you’ll need to carry your own gear.


THE LAKES + CHIMTARGA PASS

It’s straightforward enough to combine the lakes of Kulikalon and Alauddin with a trek over the Chimtarga Pass, provided you have enough time. You can make a circuit from Artuch, or shave off a couple of nights by finishing up in Zimtut and taking transport out from there.

8N/9D

CHIMTARGA LOOP

ARTUCH/ALPLAGER ⇨ KULIKALON LAKES ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS) ⇨ MUTNYI LAKE ⇨ CAMP 4500M UNDER CHIMTARGA PASS ⇨ BOLSHOI ALLO LAKE (VIA CHIMTARGA PASS) ⇨ MALOYE ALLO LAKE ⇨ GUITAN VILLAGE ⇨ CHUKURAK LAKE (VIA GUITAN/IGROK PASS) ⇨ ARTUCH/ALPLAGER

(ALTERNATIVE ROUTE VIA ZURMECH PASS)

66-70 km

Download GPX | Download KML

This circular trek takes in the highlights of the lakes region, plus the Chimtarga Pass and the chance to experience village life in the Archamaidan Valley. You’ll camp by the shores of multiple high altitude lakes, cross three high passes and trek through a variety of landscapes. This trek is best suited to those with experience (especially if planning to trek independently) due to the length and altitude gained.

Starting in Artuch, head southeast to Kulikalon and over the Alauddin Pass to Alauddin Lake. Turn south and trek to Mutnyi Lake, then west over the Chimtarga Pass and on to Bolshoi Allo Lake. Continue westwards to the Archamaidan Valley.

Once you reach the road section in the Archamaidan valley you have a couple of options for getting to Chukurak Lake. You can continue north all the way to Zimtut village and climb the switchback road to Guitan. Here you can sleep in a homestay before crossing the Igrok/Guitan Pass (2600 m) to Chukurak Lake. Or, head east a few kilometres after Gazza towards the Zurmech Pass (3260 m). Camp by the river before crossing the pass and descending to Chukurak Lake the following day.

  • A hiker stands and admires the aquamarine Chukurak Lake in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

Morning at Chukurak Lake



When we passed the turn off for the Zurmech Pass in August 2018 the bridge across the Archamaidan had collapsed, making the Guitan/Igrok Pass the easier choice all round. If anyone has an update on the status of this bridge, leave a comment below so we can amend this info!

Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch and homestays are possible at Gazza, Zimtut and Guitan villages. For the rest of the trek you’ll need your own camping equipment and supplies.

6N/7D

SHORTENED CHIMTARGA LOOP

ARTUCH/ALPLAGER ⇨ KULIKALON LAKES (VIA CHUKURAK PASS) ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS) ⇨ MUTNYI LAKE ⇨ CAMP 4500M UNDER CHIMTARGA PASS ⇨ BOLSHOI ALLO LAKE  (VIA CHIMTARGA PASS) ⇨ MALOYE ALLO LAKE ⇨ ZIMTUT VILLAGE

55 km

Download GPX | Download KML

This is a shortened version of the Chimtarga Loop, finishing at Zimtut instead of looping all the way back to Artuch. It includes trekking to Kulikalon Lakes on day 1 via Chukurak Lake and Chukurak Pass, instead of the more direct route. This way, you won’t miss out on Chukurak Lake, despite the shorter itinerary. There are homestays available in Zimtut and you can arrange transport out to Panjakent or elsewhere.

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HAFT KUL

The Haft Kul, or Seven Lakes to give it its English translation, is a string of lakes in the western region of the Fann Mountains. With each lake the scenery becomes ever more spectacular, dramatic mountains rising either side and picturesque villages dotting the valley. There is a motorable road all the way to the end of the 6th lake, with the 7th lake accessible on foot.

1N/2D
(OR MORE)


For those short on time or less keen to actually hike in the Fanns, this area is perfect as you can drive all the way to the end of the 6th lake, with the 7th lake just a short hike uphill beyond.

A car driving along the dirt road at the start of the 5th lake of the Haft Kul in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

The road winding along near the 5th lake



A car driving along the dirt road at the start of the 5th lake of the Haft Kul in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

The road winding along near the 5th lake



If you’d rather explore on two feet then arrange private transport or take a shared taxi as far as Rasima Village, the last village before the 1st lake (or any other village along the way!) and hike the rest of the way up the road.

Looking back down on the 5th lake of the Haft Kul while trekking in the Fann Mountains

Looking back down on the 5th lake of the Haft Kul



Hiking along the trail next to the 7th lake of the Haft Kul while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Hiking along the trail next to the 7th lake



Looking back down on the 5th lake of the Haft Kul while trekking in the Fann Mountains

Looking back down on the 5th lake of the Haft Kul


Hiking along the trail next to the 7th lake of the Haft Kul while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Hiking along the trail next to the 7th lake



Homestays are available at Nofin village, by the 4th lake, and Padrud village between the 4th and 5th lakes. The best spot for camping is by the northern shore of the 7th lake.

A hiker sitting on a mat next to her orange tent in a meadow near the 7th lake of the Haft Kul in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

Camping near the northern shore of the 7th lake



A hiker sitting on a mat next to her orange tent in a meadow near the 7th lake of the Haft Kul in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

Camping near the northern shore of the 7th lake



HAFT KUL + THE LAKES

It’s possible to combine both the Haft Kul and The Lakes into one trek, crossing the Fanns from the west to the north or vice versa. This was the option we settled on for our first Fann Mountains trek, described in this post.

6N/7D

HAFT KUL TO VERTICAL ALAUDDIN

6TH LAKE ⇨ TAVASANG MEADOW (VIA TAVASANG PASS) ⇨ CONFLUENCE SARYMAT/ARCHAMAIDAN RIVERS ⇨ ZIMTUT VILLAGE ⇨ CHUKURAK LAKE (VIA IGROK/GUITAN PASS) ⇨ KULIKALON LAKE ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS) ⇨ VERTICAL ALAUDDIN

(ALTERNATIVE ROUTES VIA ZURMECH PASS AND/OR CHUKURAK PASS)

71 km

Download GPX | Download KML

This is a good option for those wanting to explore more of the Fanns, taking in highlights like the Seven Lakes, Kulikalon and Alauddin, as well as local villages and river valleys. This route requires a good level of fitness and some trekking experience, but avoids the most challenging passes.

After making your way to the Haft Kul (and possibly camping at the 7th lake the night before) start your trek from the 6th lake, heading east towards the Tavasang Pass (3300 m). After crossing the pass, camp at the meadow below before continuing your descent to the Sarymat river the following day. You’ll pass local herders and seasonal homes on the way, the friendly locals no doubt inviting you to sit for chai and yoghurt.

A tent set up next o two hikers in Tavasang Meadow in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

Camping in the high meadow below Tavasang Pass



Friendly kids from local nomad families in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

Friendly kids from local nomad families



A tent set up next o two hikers in Tavasang Meadow in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

Camping in the meadow below Tavasang Pass


Friendly kids from local nomad families in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

Friendly kids from local nomad families



Continue down the Sarymat river until reaching its confluence with the Archamaidan river, a stunning spot where you can set up camp for the night. From here the trek continues on a motorable road north towards the villages of Gazza and Zimtut. Walk all the way to Zimtut, where you can stay at a homestay, or take the alternative route towards Zurmech Pass (as described above in the Chimtarga Loop trek outline).

The confluence of the Archamaidan and Sarymat Rivers in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan

The confluence of the Archamaidan and Sarymat Rivers



The confluence of the Archamaidan and Sarymat Rivers in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan

Confluence of the Archamaidan and Sarymat Rivers



The following morning zig-zag your way up the road to Guitan, then continue up and over the Igrok/Guitan Pass (2600 m). Descend through the juniper forest to Chukurak Lake, setting up camp by the shore. From Chukurak Lake you can trek to Kulikalon via Alplager Artuch Camp (where there’s a small store and restaurant), or over the Chukurak Pass (3180 m). Pick a camp spot by the stunning Kulikalon Lake, or alternatively, continue on a little further up the trail to Bibidzhonat or Dushakha and camp there. The following day climb the Alauddin Pass (3860 m) and admire the incredible view over Alauddin Lake below, before descending and camping by its shore.

  • Sunrise over Alauddin Lake in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains

Spectacular sunrise views at Alauddin Lake



Don’t miss the sunrise reflections in the lake the next morning. Once you’re packed up it’s just a short walk down to Vertical Alauddin where you can arrange transport to Sarvoda or beyond. Alternatively, hike over the Laudan Pass back to Kulikalon and down to Artuch (17.1 km Alauddin Lake to Alplager). There are more transport options from Artuch than Vertical Alauddin.

Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch and Vertical Alauddin. Homestays are available at Nofin and Padrud villages in the Haft Kul and Gazza, Zimtut and Guitan villages in the Archamaidan valley. For everywhere else you’ll need a tent and supplies.

FANN MOUNTAINS TREK ITINERARY: HAFT KUL TO ALAUDDIN LAKE

HAFT KUL + THE LAKES + CHIMTARGA PASS

For a more challenging trek, combine the Chimtarga Pass into your route along with the Haft Kul and Lakes regions. You’ll explore the best the Fanns have to offer, camp next to magnificent lakes, and pass through many villages and seasonal settlements. These treks cover a fair distance and reach up to 4740 m in altitude, so be sure you’re well acclimatised, in good shape and have reasonable trekking experience before embarking on one of these routes.

A seasonal nomad camp in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan

Seasonal settlements near the Guitan/Igrok Pass



A seasonal nomad camp in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan

Seasonal settlements near the Guitan/Igrok Pass



9N/10D

FANN MOUNTAINS EXPLORER

ZIMTUT VILLAGE ⇨ CHUKURAK LAKE (VIA IGROK/GUITAN PASS) ⇨ KULIKALON LAKE ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS) ⇨ MUTNYI LAKE ⇨ CAMP 4500M UNDER CHIMTARGA PASS ⇨  BOLSHOI ALLO LAKE ⇨  MALOYE ALLO LAKE ⇨  CONFLUENCE SARYMAT/ARCHAMAIDAN RIVERS ⇨ TAVASANG MEADOW (VIA TAVASANG PASS) ⇨ 6TH LAKE

(ALTERNATIVE ROUTE VIA CHUKURAK PASS)

82 km

Download GPX | Download KML

This is an extensive trek, covering all the highlights of the region. Starting in the village of Zimtut, you’ll head east to Chukurak Lake, Kulikalon Lakes, and Alauddin. From here, trek south to Mutnyi Lake, then west over Chimtarga Pass to Bolshoi Allo and on to the Archamaidan Valley. From here, turn southwest and continue to the 6th Lake in the Haft Kul via Tavasang Pass.

Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch and Vertical Alauddin. Homestays are available at Nofin and Padrud villages in the Haft Kul and Zimtut and Guitan villages in the Archamaidan valley. For everywhere else you’ll need a tent and supplies.

8N/9D

ARTUCH TO HAFT KUL VIA CHIMTARGA

ARTUCH/ALPLAGER ⇨ KULIKALON LAKES ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS) ⇨ MUTNYI LAKE ⇨ CAMP 4500M UNDER CHIMTARGA PASS ⇨ BOLSHOI ALLO LAKE  (VIA CHIMTARGA PASS) ⇨ MALOYE ALLO LAKE ⇨ CONFLUENCE SARYMAT/ARCHAMAIDAN RIVERS ⇨ TAVASANG MEADOW ⇨ 6TH LAKE (VIA TAVASANG PASS)

67 km

Download GPX | Download KML

A shortened version of the above ‘Fann Mountains Explorer’ trek, skipping the villages of the Archamaidan Valley and Chukurak Lake. This trek could be shortened by 1 day further by starting at Vertical Alauddin. However, this wouldn’t allow for a great deal of time to acclimatise before crossing Chimtarga Pass.

As above, it’s best to start at Artuch/Alplager and end at Haft Kul in order to approach the Chimtarga Pass from the Mutnyi Lake side. 

A top down view of the south shore of Alauddin Lake in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains, the water appearing a strange green colour from above..

Looking down on Alauddin Lake’s south shore



A top down view of the south shore of Alauddin Lake in Tajikistan's Fann Mountains, the water appearing a strange green colour from above..

Looking down on Alauddin Lake’s south shore



Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch and Vertical Alauddin. Homestays are available at Nofin and Padrud villages in the Haft Kul. For everywhere else you’ll need a tent and supplies.

HAFT KUL + ISKANDERKUL

Iskanderkul is perhaps the most famous lake in the Fann Mountains, dominating the south-east of the region. While there are a number of day hikes around the lake, it’s also possible to trek between Iskanderkul and the Haft Kul. This is commonly referred to as the West-East Traverse, via the Dukdon Pass (3810 m).

Like many trekking routes in the Fanns, the trails follow traditional herder routes and you’ll encounter plenty of locals, villages and summer settlements along the way. There are a number of streams to ford on the western approach to the Dukdon Pass, so you’ll need to be comfortable with this. Although we’ve outlined the below treks from west to east, you could trek in either direction. You could also add in a side trip to Pshtikul Lake on the way up the Archamaidan valley.  

A goatherder leads his gang of goats along the stoney path next to the icy blue Sarymat River in the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan

A goat herder follows the trail along the Sarymat River



A goatherder leads his gang of goats along the stoney path next to the icy blue Sarymat River in the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan

A goat herder follows the rocky
trail along the Sarymat River



3N/4D

WEST - EAST TRAVERSE VIA DUKDON PASS

6TH LAKE ⇨ TAVASANG MEADOW (VIA TAVASANG PASS) ⇨ CONFLUENCE SARYMAT/ARCHAMAIDAN RIVERS ⇨ FOOT OF DUKDON PASS ⇨ SARYTAG (VIA DUKDON PASS)

57 km

Download GPX | Download KML

Drive or hike up the Haft Kul and head east from the 6th lake all the way to the confluence of the Sarymat and Archamaidan rivers, following the route outlined in the Haft Kul to Alauddin trek above.

From here you’ll head south-east following the Archamaidan river up towards the Dukdon Pass. This section has a few streams you’ll need to ford as there aren’t bridges. There’s a camp spot at the foot of the pass at 3010 m. The following day head over the pass and down the steep scree slopes towards the confluence of the Dukdon and Karakul rivers. Follow the Karakul river east to Sarytag Village and Iskanderkul.

  • Looking out on Iskanderkul - the start or end point for many Fann Mountains Trekking options

A peaceful morning at Iskanderkul



There are homestays available in Nofin and Padrud villages in the Haft Kul, and Sarytag Village south-west of Iskanderkul. There is a paid campground and old Soviet Turbaza (holiday camp), plus more homestays, on the northern shore of Iskanderkul. Elsewhere, you’ll need your tent and supplies.

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4N/5D

WEST - EAST TRAVERSE VIA MUNORA & DUKDON PASS

6TH LAKE ⇨ TAVASANG MEADOW (VIA TAVASANG PASS) ⇨ ABUSAFEDSOI RIVER CAMP ⇨ ARCHAMAIDAN VALLEY (VIA MUNORA PASS) ⇨ DUKDON/KARAKUL RIVER (VIA DUKDON PASS) ⇨ SARYTAG

58 km

Download GPX | Download KML

This three pass variation on the West-East Traverse crosses the Munora Pass before descending to the Archamaidan Valley and heading south-east over the Dukdon Pass to Sarytag.

Follow the outline of the trek from the 6th lake over the Tavasang Pass and down to the Sarymat River. When you reach the Sarymat, double back and head south for a couple of kilometres before crossing the river and heading east along the Abusafedsoi River. There’s a camp spot a little further up the river. The following morning head over the Munora Pass (3520 m) and descend to the Archamaidan River. Follow the river west until you come to a bridge and cross to the north side, then head east again. There are a few possible camp spots along the river, or carry on all the way to the foot of Dukdon Pass camp marked on the map. The following day cross the Dukdon Pass and head south-east towards Sarytag. Depending on where you camped the previous night you may walk all the way to Sarytag today (18 km from the foot of Dukdon Pass camp, meaning you complete the trek in 3N/4D). Otherwise, stop to camp after crossing the pass at 3400m, or continue to a camp spot at the junction with the Karakul River. On day 5 continue east to Sarytag Village, or all the way to Iskanderkul itself.

Descending towards the Sarymat River while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Descending towards the Sarymat River



Descending towards the Sarymat River while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Descending towards the Sarymat River



There are homestays available in Nofin and Padrud villages in the Haft Kul, and Sarytag Village south-west of Iskanderkul. There is a paid campground and old Soviet Turbaza (holiday camp), plus more homestays, on the northern shore of Iskanderkul. Elsewhere, you’ll need your tent and supplies.

THE LAKES + ISKANDERKUL

Our final Fann Mountains trekking route suggestions combine the spectacular lakes of the northern region with Iskanderkul in the south. We outline three North-South Traverse trekking routes, of varying degrees of difficulty.

6N/7D

NORTH-SOUTH TRAVERSE: ALAUDDIN LAKE TO ISKANDERKUL

VERTICAL ALAUDDIN ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE ⇨ KULIKALON (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS) ⇨ CHUKURAK ⇨ ZIMTUT (VIA IGROK/GUITAN PASS) ⇨ CONFLUENCE SARYMAT/ARCHAMAIDAN RIVERS ⇨ FOOT OF DUKDON PASS ⇨ SARYTAG (VIA DUKDON PASS)

(ALTERNATIVE ROUTES VIA CHUKURAK PASS AND/OR ZURMECH PASS)

78 km

Download GPX | Download KML

The least challenging of the three routes linking The Lakes with Iskanderkul, this trail could be tackled in either direction. Starting at Vertical Alauddin, follow the outline (previously given in reverse) of the trek between Vertical and the confluence of the Sarymat and Archamaidan Rivers in the Haft Kul to Vertical Alauddin trek. From the confluence, head south-east following the route outlined in theWest-East Traverse via Dukdon Pass trek, all the way to Sarytag Village.

Accommodation and food is available at Vertical Alauddin and Alplager Artuch. Homestays are available at Guitan, Zimtut and Gazza villages in the Archamaidan valley and Sarytag Village south-west of Iskanderkul. There is a paid campground and old Soviet Turbaza (holiday camp), plus more homestays, on the northern shore of Iskanderkul. For everywhere else you’ll need camping gear and supplies.

Walking the shoreline of Alauddin Lake while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Walking the shoreline of Alauddin Lake



Walking the shoreline of Alauddin Lake while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Walking the shoreline of Alauddin Lake



8N/9D

NORTH-SOUTH TRAVERSE: ARTUCH TO ISKANDERKUL VIA CHIMTARGA PASS

ARTUCH/ALPLAGER ⇨ KULIKALON LAKES ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS) ⇨ MUTNYI LAKE ⇨ CAMP 4500M UNDER CHIMTARGA PASS ⇨ BOLSHOI ALLO LAKE (VIA CHIMTARGA PASS) ⇨ MALOYE ALLO LAKE ⇨ CONFLUENCE SARYMAT/ARCHAMAIDAN RIVERS ⇨ FOOT OF DUKDON PASS ⇨ SARYTAG (VIA DUKDON PASS)

79 km

Download GPX | Download KML

This lengthy trek takes on the highest pass in the Fanns, Chimtarga Pass, as well as many of the most beautiful lakes in the region. As previously mentioned, it’s best to tackle this route from north to south in order to approach the Chimtarga Pass from the least difficult side. 

Starting at Artuch, trek south-east to Kulikalon Lakes, then over the Alauddin Pass to Alauddin Lake. From here, head south to Mutnyi Lake, then west over the Chimtarga Pass to Bolshoi Allo Lake and on to the Archamaidan Valley. Turn south and continue down the Archamaidan beyond the confluence with the Sarymat River all the way to the Dukdon Pass. From here, descend to the Karakul River and head east to Sarytag village and Iskanderkul.  

Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch. Homestays are available at Sarytag Village south-west of Iskanderkul. There is a paid campground and old Soviet Turbaza (holiday camp), plus more homestays, on the northern shore of Iskanderkul. For everywhere else you’ll need camping equipment and supplies.

Mountains are reflected in the surface of Iskanderkul, the biggest lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan

The view over Iskanderkul from the old Soviet Turbaza



Mountains are reflected in the surface of Iskanderkul, the biggest lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan

The view across Iskanderkul
from the old Soviet Turbaza



4N/5D

NORTH-SOUTH TRAVERSE: ARTUCH TO ISKANDERKUL VIA KAZNOK PASS

ARTUCH/ALPLAGER ⇨ KULIKALON LAKES ⇨ ALAUDDIN LAKE (VIA ALAUDDIN PASS) ⇨ MUTNYI LAKE ⇨ UPPER KAZNOK RIVER (VIA KAZNOK PASS) ⇨ SARYTAG

44 km

Download GPX | Download KML

This is the shortest route between The Lakes and Iskanderkul, however it is also the most challenging and technical. The Kaznok Pass is covered in ice on its northern slope, meaning crampons (or at least micro-spikes) and an ice axe are recommended year round. It’s advisable to trek from north to south.

Starting at Artuch or Alplager trek up to Kulikalon, over the Alauddin Pass to Alauddin Lake and south to Mutnyi Lake (you could also start at Vertical Alauddin if you wanted to shave off a day, but this doesn’t allow much acclimatisation time).  From Mutnyi Lake head south, up and over the Kaznok Pass (4040 m) and descend to a camp spot by the Upper Kaznok River. We’ve marked two camping possibilities on the map. The following day continue following the Kaznok River all the way south to the Sarytag river, heading east for the final stretch to Sarytag village and Iskanderkul.

Accommodation and food is available at Alplager Artuch. Homestays are available at Sarytag Village south-west of Iskanderkul. There is a paid campground and old Soviet Turbaza (holiday camp), plus more homestays, on the northern shore of Iskanderkul. For everywhere else you’ll need camping equipment and supplies.

WHEN TO GO

The best time to trek is during the Tajik summer in July and August, although the season is generally considered to be mid-June to mid-September. Outside of this period there is likely to be snow on the high passes, making them difficult to cross or impassable entirely. In springtime and early summer river levels are high, making stream and river crossings more dangerous, or impossible.

WHAT TO PACK

The amount of food, camping equipment and trekking gear you pack will very much depend on your Fann Mountains trekking itinerary, and whether you trek independently or as part of an organised tour.

If you plan to trek independently you’ll need to be completely self sufficient, carrying camping gear and food supplies for the duration of your trek. If you trek as part of an organised tour then your camping equipment and food will most likely be taken care of. You’ll trek with a day pack, the rest of your luggage being carried by pack donkeys.

Below, we’ve compiled general packing lists for any kind of Fann Mountains trek, plus extra advice on what to take for independent treks.

CLOTHING

You need to be prepared for all weather conditions and eventualities. Quality gear and the right materials will make a big difference to your enjoyment and how much/little you need to pack.

Layers are important – you need a baselayer (like this), a mid-layer (like this), an insulating layer (like this), plus a top shell (like this).





Avoid cotton – opt for merino wool instead. It keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool, and amazingly won’t stink even after days of wearing it. It will dry relatively fast too.

Make sure you have a separate change of clothes for the evening/sleeping in and get out of those sweaty clothes as soon as you arrive at camp. Changing your clothes, including your socks, will keep you much warmer.

Break in your hiking boots before your trek! Blisters and hot spots can really ruin your hike. Pack Compeed or similar just in case.

Merino T-Shirts x 2
His/Hers

Merino Thermal Baselayer
His/Hers

Merino Thermal Leggings
His/Hers

Merino Underwear
His/Hers

Sports Bra x 2

Fleece
His/Hers

Down Jacket
His/Hers

Rain Jacket/Shell
His/Hers

Waterproof Trousers
His/Hers

Quick Drying Hiking Trousers (preferably with zip-off shorts)
His/Hers

Trousers to wear around camp
(Lightweight, similar to above)

Trekking Socks x 2
His/Hers

Warm Socks to wear at night x 1

Buff

Gloves
Liner & Waterproof Outer

Sun Hat

Warm Hat

Sunglasses

Hiking Boots
His/Hers

Waterproof sandals for evening/river crossings

Bandana
Soak it in the river and tie it round your neck or wrists to keep you cool

Belt
You might lose weight on the trek!


EQUIPMENT

Backpack

Osprey backpacks with their Anti-Gravity (AG) back system are the most comfortable and easy to carry we’ve ever used. We highly recommend them! If you’re trekking independently you’ll need a backpack of at least 60L for shorter treks, and up to 80L for longer treks. If you’re joining a supported trek a day pack will suffice. Check with your trekking company in advance to find out the best kind of bag to bring for the rest of your luggage. A duffel bag may be easier to pack onto your donkeys than a traditional backpack.

His/Hers

Our Osprey backpacks never let us down while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Our Osprey backpacks never let us down



Our Osprey backpacks never let us down while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Our Osprey backpacks never let us down



Hiking Poles

We couldn’t have managed our Fann Mountains trek without them and met plenty others of the same opinion. Cork handles are by far the best when it comes to hot sweaty palms and carbon fibre will help you keep the weight down. After much deliberation we chose these poles and they’ve done us proud on countless trails now.

Map

Order the EWP Fann Mountains map before you leave home. You’re highly unlikely to find it in Tajikistan. It’s the most detailed and useful paper map out there, plus it has a wealth of information about the area, local customs and more. We used this to plan our route in advance, and in conjunction with Maps.Me while we were actually trekking. While this isn’t an essential to have if you’re trekking with group tour, you may still want to have it with you for reference.

Solar Panel

There’s nowhere to charge your devices other than homestays, so you’ll need this to keep everything working! It folds up small and light and can attach to your bag if you want to use it on the go. It works perfectly for us, charging everything apart from our laptop and drone batteries.

Water Treatment System

There’s no shortage of water on the trek, but you’ll need to treat it before drinking. There are numerous ways of doing this, like purification tablets, pumps, squeeze filters or a LifeStraw. Our personal favourite is the Steripen. Used in conjunction with their filter this gives us pure water that is sterilised by UV light, killing any harmful bacteria. It’s really quick and easy to use, requiring minimal effort. We can recharge the battery via USB using our solar panel every few days. (We use this day in day out everywhere we go on our travels, not just when trekking. It’s been a huge backpacking game changer for us and we’ve more than made back our money on it!).

Using a Steripen is the best way to get safe drinking water when Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Using a Steripen is the best way to get safe drinking water



Using a Steripen is the best way to get safe drinking water when Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Using a Steripen is the most effective
way to get safe drinking water



Water Bottle

It’s useful to have a water bottle for around camp and filling up at streams. We love our Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth bottles. They’re see-through and have markings down the side, making it easy to judge how much water you’re drinking (and staying hydrated is extra important at altitude). Easy to carry and use, they go everywhere with us these days.

Water Bladder

For easy drinking on the go. Fill up your bladder with treated water and stick it in your daypack, the hose threading through a dedicated hole in your pack so you can drink without having to stop and take out your water bottle. We’ve tried a few, our latest Hydrapak winning hands down for ease of use and cleaning. You can use it as a water reserve around camp too.

Scrubba & Suds

Even with the best no-stink merino wool T-shirts, you’re still gonna need to do washing at some point. The Scrubba is a genius solution to doing laundry on the go and ideal for any longer Fann Mountains trek. Collect water from a river or lake, add biodegradable suds and rub away. Empty out the soapy water away from your water source and rinse with fresh water. Drape your clothes over a nice rock, or string them up to dry. 

Do not pollute the local water supplies with soap! Be sure to empty out your soapy water away from lakes and rivers, even if it’s biodegradable.



Catching up on washing with our Scrubba by the Sarymat River

Headtorch

A must! We’ve had plenty, but finally invested in better quality ones and the difference is blinding. Literally. They’re so powerful. Our Black Diamond rechargeable models are perfect.

Power Bank(s)

For cloudy days or charging easily on the go. Anker are our preferred.

Suncream

Everyone has their favourite. Our go to thesedays is Ultrasun. A stick for your lips is important too.

Bug Spray

Some camp spots have annoying horse flies or other bugs.

Pocket Trowel

It’s imperative that you dispose of your human waste properly when trekking in the Fann Mountains (and anywhere else for that matter!). There are no toilet facilities outside of homestays and established camps like Vertical or Alplager Artuch. Therefore you need to dig yourself a hole around 4-6 inches deep, at least 50m away from any water source, and cover it up again when you’re done. A pocket trowel is ideal for this. Don’t put your dirty toilet paper in the hole, either burn it or carry it out with you. Urine isn’t as hazardous as faeces, but avoid peeing in or near water sources.

If you’re booking an organised trek be sure to question your trekking company on their toilet policy and find out in advance whether you need to bring your own trowel or if the company dig a latrine and designate one area as the camp toilet. If they don’t have a set policy on this and other rubbish disposal procedures, it’s a strong indication that they aren’t operating in an environmentally sustainable way. In this case you should reconsider trekking with them, as responsible tourism to the region is vital for the health of both the local communities and the landscape.   

Travel Towel

For drying off after a rare shower or washing on the go. Much like with your laundry, be sure to wash away from water sources and don’t pollute any streams or lakes with soap, shampoo, etc.

Medical Kit

An all purpose one like this is ideal. It’s a good idea to add rehydration sachets in case of diarrhoea, blister pads, and some extra ibuprofen and painkillers. You can’t pick up any medical supplies on the trek, however there are plenty of pharmacies in Dushanbe.

Pen Knife


Multi-functional and useful day-in-day-out!

Toiletries

Ditch the plastic and start using a shampoo bar & bamboo toothbrush

Toilet Paper

Not easy to come by in the mountains

Wet Wipes

Useful for freshening up on the go

Rubbish Bags

For packing & carrying out your rubbish

Hand Sanitiser

Annoyingly difficult to track down in Tajikistan – bring from home

EXTRA EQUIPMENT FOR INDEPENDENT TREKKERS

Tent

You’re going to be carrying it the whole way, and camping at relatively high altitude so weight and quality are important. We did a lot of research and in the end it came down to MSR’s Hubba Hubba or the Big Agnes Copper Spur for us. In the end, Big Aggy won on durability, plus the colour is better.

Sleeping Mat

We’ve been hugely impressed with our Thermarest NeoAir mats. They pack down way smaller than our previous Thermarest self inflating mats and are super comfortable and insulating. I was concerned about the ‘crisp packet rustling’ I’d heard about before buying it, but it’s really not that noticeable. Be sure to carry a puncture repair kit with you too.

Using a Steripen is the best way to get safe drinking water when Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Inflating our Thermarest NeoAir mats at Dushakha Lake



Using a Steripen is the best way to get safe drinking water when Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Inflating our trusty Thermarest
NeoAir mats at Dushakha Lake



Sleeping Bag

It can get pretty chilly camping at altitude, especially if you’re trekking outside of peak summer time. We had 3 season Rab down sleeping bags, comfort rated to 1.5 degrees celsius. Del wasn’t cold at any point, I was a bit cold at Dushakha Lake (and definitely cold when camping in September in Kyrgyzstan’s mountains). I’ve since upgraded to this sleeping bag and can highly recommend it. Down sleeping bags offer the best warmth to weight ratio, and can really pack down small. Using a compression sack will save even more space in your backpack.

Silk Liner

This will add extra warmth to your sleeping bag, or if it’s freakishly warm use it on its own.

Pillow

Some people roll up a fleece or such like. Personally I need a proper pillow to get a good night’s sleep. A blow up one like this saves space.

InReach Explorer or Similar

The Fann Mountains are remote, wild, and located in an area prone to earthquakes, landslides and other natural disasters. There is no established mountain rescue service. Trekking here, as is the case anywhere, comes with a degree of risk and as such an emergency satellite communication device is highly recommended.

We debated long and hard over whether to buy an InReach Explorer or not as it’s pretty expensive, but in the end our safety is more important to us than our bank balance. This SOS emergency device is capable of two-way messaging via the Iridium satellite network, providing us with a lifeline to a 24/7 emergency response team.

There’s no mobile network coverage in the Fann Mountains, outside of a few select villages or base camps, so having something like this is your only way of communicating with the outside world. The only times we had phone signal were in Zimtut and at Alplager Base Camp near Artuch (we had T-Cell SIM cards). We also used our InReach to message family to reassure them we were safe, to get accurate weather reports, and as an extra GPS tracking device. Del planned out all our routes in advance via the Earthmate app, a third map source for us. You have to have an active contract to use the InReach, with monthly and annual options available. If you travel in remote areas regularly it’s a good investment.

Stove

We use a simple screw-on burner like this, however something like the MSR Whisperlite Universal is far more versatile given the issues you’ll encounter sourcing fuel in this part of the world (see below).

Gas

You can’t fly with gas canisters so you’ll need to pick them up in Tajikistan (or elsewhere if travelling overland). In Dushanbe you can usually buy them at Green House Hostel (also our recommended place to stay), but they can and do run out of stock! They import Kovea canisters (like the one in this picture) from Korea, charging 65 somoni for small (240g) and 95 somoni for large (450g). They were out of stock the second time we tried to buy gas. Fortunately we got a half-used canister from another backpacker who was flying that day. It’s not a bad idea to email them in advance and ask them to put stock aside for you if you have an exact arrival date. You’ll have a hard time finding screw on type gas anywhere else, hence why a multifuel stove is handy.

Cooking Pot

We’re loving our collapsible Sea to Summit cook set. It’s easy to clean and pack, and as lightweight as we’re likely to get. We also use the Sea to Summit kettle to boil water and X-Brew for making drip coffee every morning.

Bowl & Cup

Ours stack into our cooking pot as part of the above set.

Cutlery

A cheap spork might be all you need. Ours have always broken though, so we’re using these instead which are more durable.

Dish Scrubber & Suds

Scrubber and biodegradable dish soap for washing your dishes. We have a Sea to Summit kitchen sink, which is good for doing dishes (and washing hair in!). You could also just fill the big pot from your cook set and use that as a basin.

Mat/Poncho

For putting all your stuff on and sitting on when it’s wet/dusty/dirty.

Doing the dishes at Bibidzhonat Lake while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Doing the dishes at Bibidzhonat Lake



Doing the dishes at Bibidzhonat Lake while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Doing the dishes at Bibidzhonat Lake



FOOD

If you’re on a supported group trek, all your food will likely be included. You may want to pack your own snacks though. If you’re trekking independently then you need to plan your food carefully in advance.

You can buy non (bread) from local homes or chaikhanas throughout the Fann Mountains. Snickers and some basic supplies are available at bigger villages like Zimtut. At Alplager Artuch and Vertical Alauddin you can also eat at the restaurant. You shouldn’t rely on these sources though, be sure to have packed everything you need in advance. Remember, you must carry all the packaging back out with you, therefore cans, glass jars, tins, etc., are not a good idea.

When shopping for food the aim of the game should be to pack as many calories for as light a weight as possible. You can stock up in Dushanbe, however we’d also highly recommend bringing dehydrated meals from home, at least enough to cover dinner every day. For everything else, the supermarket in Dushanbe Mall has the best selection. Below is some suggested food – all is available in Dushanbe unless otherwise noted.

Dehydrated Meals

A must to make your life easier. You won’t find these in Tajikistan so stock up in advance! There are plenty of companies out there – Mountain House (US), Expedition Food (GB), Good To-Go (US) and Back Country Cuisine (NZ, AU, ZA) to name a few.  Our favourite by far is Firepot (GB). They have impressively delicious meals, all homecooked using fresh ingredients then dehydrated (as opposed to throwing already dehydrated ingredients into a pouch like most others). They have a wide range of meals, including vegan and gluten free options. They also recently redesigned their packaging and now have an option that’s 100% compostable. I crave their Porcini Mushroom Risotto even when I’m not trekking…

Trail Mix

You can find a good selection of nuts, seeds, raisins, etc. in Dushanbe. Throw in some chocolate and peanut M&Ms and mix your own.

Porridge/Muesli

Good for breakfast

Powdered Milk

For making porridge/muesli

Squeezable Jam

Jam in a packet – perfect for adding to porridge in the morning or having with bread for lunch.

Independent Trekking In The Fann Mountains, Tajikistan: Haft Kul to Alauddin - squeezable jam

Look out for easy to carry, lightweight food options like this squeezy jam

Chocolate Spread

You can get a small plastic tub instead of a glass jar.

Dried Fruit

The locally grown dried apricots are especially good. Dates are another good energy booster.

Hard Cheese

A good option for having with bread for lunch. Wrap it in muslin to stay as fresh as possible.

Cured Sausage

Same as above

Chocolate

The Swiss brand (got a logo of a cow on skis) was our favourite. Others were very sweet.

Sports Drink Tabs

Bring from home. Good for adding to your water for an energy boost, especially on those long days with no shade when you’re sweating a lot.

Buckwheat

Cooks pretty quickly and is very filling. Mix in some dehydrated veggies from home and spices to jazz it up?

Packet Spices/Stock Cubes/Salt

Pick up some paprika, pepper, mixed spices, etc. to add extra flavour to buckwheat meals or such

Packet Soups

A quick and easy option for a hot meal. We found some decent chicken ones with croutons.

Olive Oil

Transfer some into a small plastic bottle to carry. Makes hard bread far more edible. Good for frying some eggs or veggies if you buy some along the way. Also good for dry skin, sunburn, dry hair, etc.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

Be sure to check the inclusions of your travel insurance – not all policies will cover trekking at altitude! Depending on your trekking itinerary you’ll likely need cover for trekking above 3000 m, and possibly above 4500 m (this would cover crossing the Chimtarga Pass, for example). It’s wise to ensure you have Search and Rescue and Medical Evacuation cover included also. Check the exclusions of your policy carefully.

For the full lowdown on choosing a policy check out this post.

Whether you’re already travelling or not, get a quote now with True Traveller (UK & EEA residents) and World Nomads (worldwide travellers).



GUIDES, PACK DONKEYS & TOURS

If you prefer not to trek independently, or want to hire a pack donkey, there are a number of options. ZTDA is the local tourism association and they can arrange an English (or German/French) speaking guide for $30-50/day. A Russian speaking guide is $30/day. A pack donkey with handler is $20/day.

Pack donkeys climbing towards Alauddin Pass in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan.

Pack donkeys walking up towards Alauddin Pass



Pack donkeys climbing towards Alauddin Pass in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan.

Pack donkeys walking up towards Alauddin Pass



You can also source guides through Indy Guide or Caravanistan (Caravanistan also have a good forum for meeting potential trekking buddies).

A number of companies run fixed dated group trekking tours in the region. Kalpak and Paramount Journey are two of the main ones. You can compare various options easily via Tour Radar. Viator is worth checking too.

ACCOMMODATION & CAMPING

Accommodation is limited to the main towns and villages of the Fann Mountains. Outside of these the only option is to wild camp.

You’ll find hotels in Panjakent, mountaineering camps at Alplager Artuch and Vertical Alauddin, and homestays sprinkled throughout villages. Some of these you can book in advance through booking.com, others it’s best to organise via the ZTDA. It’s also possible to just show up, however a bit of advance warning is appreciated and will guarantee your bed for the night.

Homestays are a basic affair and usually include dinner and breakfast. You’ll be sleeping on the floor, on a padded mat, in a private room within the family home. Toilet facilities are basic and likely separate to the main house. Staying at a homestay is a great experience and worth trying out at least once on your trek. Prices range from around $10-$20 per person, including meals.

Camping on the shore of Chukurak Lake while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Camping on the shore of Chukurak Lake



The green garden of a homestay in the Fann Mountains village of Zimtut

Relaxing in the garden of a homestay in Zimtut



Camping on the shore of Chukurak Lake while Fann Mountains trekking in Tajikistan

Camping on the shore of Chukurak Lake


The green garden of a homestay in the Fann Mountains village of Zimtut

Relaxing in the garden of a homestay in Zimtut



You can camp for a fee at Alplager Artuch, Vertical Alauddin, Iskanderkul Campsite and Iskanderkul Turbaza. Facilities are pretty basic at all of these. You may be asked for your passport for registration purposes and charged 19TJS per person per night for camping anywhere in The Lakes region (eg. Kulikalon, Alauddin). Be sure to follow the Leave No Trace principles when wild camping. Carry out all your rubbish, or burn it if safe to do so, and bury your human waste. 

SEARCH ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS HERE

Booking.com

GETTING TO/FROM THE FANN MOUNTAINS

There isn’t one jumping off point for the whole of the Fann Mountains. Your destination will depend on the trek you plan to undertake. The start and end point of each trek in this guide is clearly marked, making it easy for you to figure out where you need to get to.

There is no public transport system in Tajikistan. Public buses or trains are not an option. Instead, a network of shared taxis and minibuses (known as marshrutkas) operate throughout the country. These are relatively cheap, but you can find yourself waiting hours sometimes for the vehicle to fill up with passengers before it will depart.

Private transport is a more efficient way to travel, but is also more expensive. Ask at your accommodation for help arranging a private car or 4×4 to any of the start/end points of the treks in this guide. Prices for private transport are usually quoted for the entire vehicle, not per person, so sharing with fellow travellers is a good idea if you want to keep costs down. Ask around at your accommodation or on the Caravanistan forum to find travel buddies.

Transport To/From The Lakes

Alauddin and Kulikalon are situated in the northern region of the Fann Mountains. Alauddin is accessed from Vertical Alauddin camp via Sarvoda, and Kulikalon is accessed from Artuch.

Kulikalon Lakes

Artuch is the closest village to Kulikalon, but road access also extends to the old Russian climber’s camp commonly known as Alplager Artuch. The closest big town is Panjakent. You can get here from Dushanbe or Khujand. You can also get here from Samarkand in Uzbekistan, a little over 70 km away to the west.

If you’re relying on shared taxis or marshrutkas, you’ll first need to get to Panjakent, then on to Artuch/Alplager from there. Shared taxis run to Panjakent from Dushanbe daily in the morning, from a station in the north of the city (38.6480, 68.7692). The drive takes around 4-5 hours, costing approx 130-140 TJS p/p. A Marshrutka is around 70 TJS p/p. From Panjakent to Artuch a shared taxi or marshrutka is approx 50-60 TJS p/p.

Note that departure times are not set and you may need to overnight in Panjakent before you can get shared transport on to Artuch.

If you arrange private transport from Dushanbe or elsewhere, you should be able to organise a vehicle to take you all the way to Artuch, eliminating the need to overnight in Panjakent.

  • An aerial view of green coloured Kulikalon Lake and the surrounding mountains in Tajikistan
  • An aerial view of green coloured Kulikalon Lake and the surrounding mountains in Tajikistan

Kulikalon means ‘big lake’ in Tajik



Alauddin Lake

To reach Alauddin Lake you first need to get to a Russian climber’s camp known as Vertical Alauddin. It’s located 2 km or so north of Alauddin Lake and is accessible by a rough road from Sarvoda, on the main road between Dushanbe and Panjakent.

If you’re travelling by shared transport you should get out at Sarvoda and change here. Shared transport options from Sarvoda to Vertical are limited though, so you may have to pay for a private vehicle to take you this last section. It’s a journey of approx 2 hours on pretty rough roads. If you arrange a private vehicle from Dushanbe, or elsewhere, you can request to travel all the way to Vertical. Note that this may still involve changing vehicles in Sarvoda, as a 4×4 is required for the last section. A shared taxi from Dushanbe to Sarvoda is approx 120 TJS p/p. We paid 400 TJS for a private 4×4 vehicle between Sarvoda and Vertical.  

Transport To/From Zimtut

Zimtut lies in the Archamaidan Valley, a little west of Artuch. The closest big town is Panjakent. If you’re planning to finish your trek here, just ask your homestay owner to arrange transport on to Panjakent or elsewhere. From Panjakent you can take shared or private transport back to Dushanbe, etc.

Transport To/From Haft Kul

The Haft Kul, or Seven Lakes, are in the west of the Fann Mountains. To reach them by road you need to approach from the north, near Panjakent.

If you’re travelling by shared transport you’ll need to get to Panjakent first, as described in the Kulikalon Lakes section above. From here shared taxis and marshrutkas depart for villages in the Haft Kul. You may need to overnight in Panjakent before continuing to the Haft Kul depending on availability of shared transport in the afternoon. It should cost around 15 TJS p/p for the Panjakent – Haft Kul section.

If you organise private transport, it’s possible to get from Dushanbe to the 6th lake in around 6 hours. You may need to change vehicles, switching to a 4×4 for the last couple of hours from the main road up into the Haft Kul. Our hostel owner in Dushanbe arranged this for us, the total journey from Dushanbe costing 1000 TJS, shared between 4 of us (600 TJS Dushanbe to Panjakent + 400 TJS Panjakent to 6th Lake).

The river rushing down from Hazorchama, the 7th lake of the Haft Kul in the Fann Mountains, Tajikistan

The river rushing down from Hazorchashma, the 7th lake



The river rushing down from Hazorchama, the 7th lake of the Haft Kul in the Fann Mountains, Tajikistan

The river rushing down from
Hazorchashma, the 7th lake



Transport To/From Iskanderkul

Iskanderkul lies in the south-east of the Fanns. To reach it by road there is a turn-off near Sarvoda on the main road between Dushanbe and Panjakent.

While shared transport is possible as far as Sarvoda, you may need to organise private transport for the Sarvoda to Iskanderkul/Sarytag section. It takes approx 50 minutes to get from Sarvoda to the north shore of Iskanderkul, longer to reach Sarytag village in the hills south-west of Iskanderkul. Ask around at the homestays and/or campsites in the area to arrange transport, or at your accommodation in Dushanbe. We arranged a shared taxi from Iskanderkul to Dushanbe for 150 TJS p/p.

GETTING TO TAJIKISTAN

Most people enter Tajikistan either by land (crossing from Uzbekistan at the recently opened border near Samarkand/Panjakent, or via the Pamir Highway in the south-east of the country), or by flying direct to Dushanbe. Airline options are limited. Your safest bet is flying with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, Fly Dubai via Dubai, or Air Astana via Almaty.

Ensure you check your visa requirements prior to travelling to Tajikistan. Most nationalities are eligible for an e-visa – check here for more info. E-visas cost $50 and allow you 45 days in the country. If you plan on travelling the Pamir Highway also, get the GBAO Permit at the same time ($20 extra).

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FANN MOUNTAINS TREKKING RESOURCES

The best trekking map available for the Fann Mountains is the aforementioned EWP Fann Mountains Map and Guide. You’ll struggle to find it anywhere in Tajikistan, so be sure to order this from home before your trek. You can get it on Amazon, or direct from the publisher.

Another useful source is Jan Bakker and Christine Oriol’s book Trekking in Tajikistan: The Northern Ranges, Pamirs and Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. This used to be a self-published PDF book, but is now available in print form. It’s full of useful information about trekking in Tajikistan in general, and covers a few hikes in the Fann Mountains region in detail, including the Dukdon Pass, Kaznok Pass and Lakes Loop.

Useful mapping sources include Maps.Me (iOS/Android) and Gaia (iOS/Android). Download the maps for the region while connected to wifi and you’ll be able to access them offline. We find Maps.me the easiest to use when it comes to plotting out routes and checking distances in advance, as well as for real-time navigating on the trail. However, it has limited detail when it comes to contours and terrain. Gaia has much more detail, and we always have our route maps downloaded to this app as well. We find it drains our phone battery much quicker than Maps.me though (even in flight mode), so tend to use it less often and always close the app completely when we’re finished checking it.

For more general Tajikistan travel information pick up Lonely Planet’s Central Asia guide, or Bradt’s Tajikistan Travel Guide.

FANN MOUNTAINS TREKKING ROUTES AND TRAVEL GUIDE

We hope this guide has helped you move a step closer to your own Fann Mountains trekking adventure. Our first experience trekking in the region was one of the best things we’ve ever done.

It certainly won’t be our last time in these magnificent mountains.

Anything to add? We’d love to hear from you. Start a conversation in the comments below!

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links – if you purchase a product or service via these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps offset the cost of running this blog and keeps us travelling so that we can continue to produce great content for you. We greatly appreciate your support!*

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Anita
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Anita

We are considering hiking through the Fann mountains. It appears there are so many options, and we wanted to ask which of the routes you found to be the most spectacular? Whilst we are experienced hikers, we would like to mix the camping with homestays. We’d like to experience the beautiful scenery but also spend some down time with the locals.
Wondering which of the routes you would suggest? Thinking 10-12 days.
Cheers
Anita

Handsome B. Wonderful
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Handsome B. Wonderful

Spectacular work!

Shireen
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Shireen

I love the way you guys travel! What an informative, comprehensive and thoughtful guide!

The variation of names in English would be so confusing! ?

Fann Mountains Trekking Routes & Travel GuideFann Mountains Trekking Routes & Travel Guide
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