Iskanderkul

Halfway from Dushanbe to Samarkand, between the rocky chains of Hissar and Zeravshan ranges, located the most picturesque part of the Tien Shan - Fan Mountains. There is hardly found in a huge area of the CIS another such area where a small space, among the rare beauty of the landscape, at the foot of snow-capped mountains scattered just three dozen large and small lakes surrounded by green forests and white foam torrents flowing streams and silver threads waterfalls.

The color of water in any of the lakes is not repeated, changing from soft green to turquoise and blue to dark purple. And the jewel of the Fan Mountains in Tien Shan is Lake Iskanderkul.

Iskandarkul is the largest in the Fan Mountains, situated at an altitude of more than 2000 m above the sea level. In form it resembles a triangle area of 3,5 square kilometers and reaches a depth of 70 meters. On all sides it is surrounded by masses of mountains, forming in some places inaccessible cliffs. 

The highest of the surrounding peaks - Mount Kirk-Shaitan lifted its grey head of snow almost 4000 meters above sea level, and only the remaining 500 to 700 meters below, above the smooth surface of water Iskandarkul they rise a kilometer or more. Turquoise color of the lake water effectively contrasts with the reddish rocks on the slopes. The River Saritag, Hozormech and Serima flowing into wooded gorges and cave bear creek voluble in his cold lake water. The bluish-green water of the lake is quite cold, but you can swim in the coast and in the closed bays in the summer.

Iskander Darya River, which rises from the lake, a mile below the source is cut off into a narrow gorge powerful waterfall. Get close to the waterfall close to see it in its entire splendor, it is almost impossible: a sloping edge of the gorge covered with fine gravel, treacherously crawling under your feet.

This mighty leap of Iskander Darya often called "Fan Niagara", although it would be more accurate to compare it with the African Victoria Falls, which also falls into the close gap, making it impossible to see it in all its glory.

Near Iskanderkul in Serima river gorge, there is a small lake Serpent, named by travellers because of the abundance of snakes in its waters. The vicinity of the lake inhabited by bears, snow leopards, mountain grouse, partridges, crested hoopoe and turkey. However, the lake cannot boast an abundance of life, only small fish - trout is found there.

Many legends are connected with this lake. According to one of them, Alexander the Great passes through the Fann Mountains once with his army and while standing on the shores his favourite horse which was called Bucephalus of drowned. Thus the lake was named after him, as Alexander pronounced in Central Asia as Iskander. Actually Lake Iskanderkul formed in ancient glacial valley, the covered glacier moraine deposits and rock falls. 

The crystal-clear waters, almost always clear blue sky, mountain giants, leaving peaks beyond the clouds and green trees in the background of red and pink cliffs give a fairy-tale beauty of the lake. Quite different view of the mountain valleys and passes of the mountains surrounding the lake, although there are many amazingly beautiful places. Stormy and rapid Iskander Darya, foaming on the rocks, runs east, merged with Yagnob and forms the main water artery of these mountains – River Fandarya. And long pale-green clear waters, Iskander Darya flow on the left bank, not mixed with muddy water of Yagnob. In Yagnob valley the travellers will experience all the adventure and hardship of mountain travel. In the upper reaches it is an open treeless valley with a slight slope. Only in two places constrain river rocks, and it forms a short canyons. But near the village Hrishtob, Yagnob River dives into the deepest longest gorge. Here, travelers have to wade over the river on a mountain trail, laid on a narrow ledge high above the river. Only the village Anzob gorge widens and the trail goes on the highway leading through Anzob pass to the capital of Tajikistan - Dushanbe. And just before the merger with Yagnob River Iskander Darya red rocks come very close to the road. 

They are clearly visible black coal seams. It is the largest in Central Asia Fan Yagnob coal deposit, which is not yet developed due to the inaccessibility of the area. But here you can watch a rare natural phenomenon –underground charcoal fire. Many centuries underground fuel burning stone, formed by gases, hot to 300 degrees, pulled out the noise, but without the smoke and flames through rock cracks and black mouths of caves. The walls are covered with crystals of sulfur and ammonia, and the soil near the cracks so red-hot that rocks lying there can fry the meat, bake cakes or boil tea. And to the west of Iskandarkul in the upper reaches of the Shingu, stretches along the mountain valley of sparkling water staircase of seven Marguzor lakes. The path to it leads through passes from Iskandarkul Dukdon and Tavasang. A little further past the second largest after Iskandarkul Kulikalon lake, you can go to the most beautiful mountains in the local Alaudin lakes. They are located at the foot of beautiful peaks of Fan mountains - Chapdara. The caravan trail leads past the lake to the pass Pushnovat where lies the way to Samarkand. And if you follow the road down the Fandarya, cut through a narrow gorge Zeravshan ridge that is easy to fall into the valley of Zarafshan, the largest river in these parts. The upper reaches of the valley takes its Zeravshan Glacier, one of the largest in the Tien Shan. Its length-almost twenty-five kilometers away, and the thickness of the ice flow reaches two hundred meters! On both sides of it fall fourteen tributaries. Starting at an altitude of more than four kilometers down the valley glacier and a half thousand meters.

And near the mouth of the river Pasrud on a rock towered ruins of the ancient fortress Sarvadar, guarding once the way out of the valley of Zarafshan to Yagnob. Now automobile route avoids the difficult climb to the rocky passes, and for travelers who prefer modern methods of transportation, it became the main road to the Fann Mountains. However, many travelers are choosing all the same old tried and tested method - "walking with a bag". Lovers of mountain adventures walk through the trail of the Fan Mountains passing along the gloomy canyons and noisy waterfalls, red rocks and green groves  leading to the magical lake of marvelous beauty, named after the great conqueror of antiquity - Iskander.