More easily accessible than the Pamirs, the Fann Mountains (Fansky Gory) offer trekkers, climbers, mountaineers and even the occasional day tripper a bewildering array of routes and the opportunity to quickly escape all signs of habitation, getting in the midst of some awe-inspiring scenery. They can be accessed either via Iskanderkul, or travelling south from the valley road between Panjakent and Ayni, and the best time to visit is between June and September.
It is possible to trek the valley independently if you have the necessary equipment and have experience in navigating in sometimes difficult terrain and conditions, but using a local guide is recommended to get the most from your experience, as they are often able to spot plants and wildlife that can be invisible to the untrained eye. It can also be difficult to follow the correct path at times due to erosion, landslides or shepherds creating additional paths, and so a local guide is recommended.
Trekking routes in the Fann Mountains
Seven Lakes Trek
Trekking from the Seven Lakes to Iskandarkul takes five days. Starting at Marguzor you cross the Tavasang Pass (3,300m) into the Archamaidon Valley, from where the trail splits to either the northern Zurmech Pass (3,250m) and Artuch (page 126), or to the Sarimal Valley and the Pshtikul Pass (3,820m) into the Archamaidon Valley. The best camping spot in the valley is at Duobai Sarimat, the confluence of the Archamaidon and Duoba rivers, where you are likely to meet local shepherds.
Keeping to the left side of the Archamaidon River, cross the bridge and climb the Dukdon Pass (3,810m), which has impressive views to the northwest and east. You descend to the junction with the Karakul River, and follow the north bank along to Sarytag, from where it is just 5km to the western end of Iskandarkul.
For a more demanding six-day route, try the Chimtarga Loop starting from Artuch, where there is both a campsite and a camping hut with bunks. Trek southeast to Kul-i Kalon Lake, then climb either the Laudan Pass (3,628m) or the steeper Alaudin Pass (4,104m) to the Alaudin Lakes and thence south to Mutnoe Lake. There are homestays and places to camp at both lakes.
Climb the icy moraine of the Chimtarga Pass (4,740m) between Mount Chimtarga and Mount Energiya, both of which are considerably over 5,000m. The path descends to Great Allo Lake. Continue northwest into the Archamaidon Valley, following the river as far as Gaza before taking on the Zurmech Pass (3,250m), which neatly leads you back to Artuch.
This turquoise-blue lake surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Fann Mountains is an understandable favourite with Tajik day trippers and foreign trekkers alike. Easily accessible from Dushanbe it can be combined with the Seven Lakes for a five-day trek or, for those seeking something a little less strenuous, it’s an idyllic spot to have a barbecue and rent a boat on the lake.
There are areas where you can camp and watch spectacular sunrises over the mountains, or you can drive past the presidential summer residence and stay in peaceful villages with breathtaking views through the valleys. If you are camping here during a full moon, do keep your eyes fixed on the surface of the water: it is said that the ghost of Alexander the Great’s favourite horse, Bucephalus, rises from the lake and comes ashore to graze!
Where to stay
There are a number of well-run homestays in villages in this part of the Fann. There are formal homestays at Shing, Nofin and Padrud, and informal ones in the villages along the shore of Marguzor and also in Guytan. Trekking guides know which families are happy to host trekkers in their homes, and you can also stop in any of the villages and ask for a recommendation.