My latest adventure took me to the outback of this beautiful and wild natural country called Tajikistan. Loving the nature and trying to spend my free time actively – and as well trying to escape the heat of the UAE summer – I decided to explore a new place this July. As I only had a long weekend for this trip I had to look for something in the area. Tajikistan is easily accessible with direct flights from Dubai to the capital Dushanbe in just 2 ½ hours. Tourist visas can be obtained online for most nationalities and it is a very easy and quick process. Decision taken: Tajikistan it is! 

Being the smallest among other central Asian countries the Republic of Tajikistan is surrounded by Kyrgyzstan in the north, China in the east, Afghanistan to the south and Uzbekistan to the west.

The first day we drove outside the capital Dushanbe to the nature reserve Shirkent Valley where we were on the tracks of the dinosaurs. The 13km hike took us through the valley and up and down some really challenging parts of the mountains. For me, as a non-experienced hiker, it was a great challenge. Of course, I did the typical mistakes of using my newly acquired hiking boots without prior walking them in. The more I was very glad to have bought some hiking poles last minute. After the five hours track, my feet were suffering from blisters. The way was our goal. It was a beautiful hike passing and as well trying all those wonderful different kinds of berries on the way. So fresh and tasty, I almost forgot how delicious those things are when you eat them right off the bush. Finally, we reached the place where the dinosaur footprints were discovered. Even though they were not meeting our expectations it was an impressive sight. The way back was mainly downhill which I assumed to be easier. But I was proven to be absolutely wrong about that. Finally reaching the foot of the mountain again, a delicious lunch picnic was waiting for us on the river bank. A little nap was the reward for the accomplishment.

All the more I was relieved learning from our local tour guide that the next day would be less hiking as we were going to the long awaited lake Iskandarkul. It is the biggest lake of the Fann Mountains which are part of the Pamir Range in the northwestern part of Tajikistan. The lake is located at an altitude of 2’200 meters with snow covered peaks. The colour of this lake is changing with the weather conditions and the time of the day and varies from mirror clear to a beautiful turquoise shade. On the way there, we were stopping at small local villages for their delicious food. Everything required to survive and to live healthily was cultivated in people’s gardens. From carrots to potatoes to pumpkins, from apples to cherries, everything was available. It has been quite a while since I ate so fresh, untreated and healthy food! Another stop at an impressive waterfall disappearing in a hole and the drive goes on.

With this country being so unspoiled the infrastructure is as well. So the drive took us over more rough than smooth off-road streets. But after a total of approximately seven hours driving and a few stops, we finally reached the lake. It was a bit cloudy and rainy on some occasions which nevertheless were a welcomed cooling off from the heat in the UAE. Especially for the hike on the first day it was well appreciated. The stunning view of the lake with the impressive mountains in the background was well worth the uncomfortable ride in our minivan. A short boat ride around the lake was the highlight of the day. Waking up early the next morning was definitely paying off. Capturing some nice pictures was possible as we were rewarded with some beautiful sunshine. After breakfast, we took a short hike to another impressive waterfall called Niagara. Back at the lake, we could take a short dip into freezing water and some lunch before heading back to Dushanbe. Altogether I was surprised about what this country has to offer and I have to say it was a great decision to come to this place which I had never considered visiting before. ■

Words + Photos by: Denise Ostermann