The Fan Mountains
The Fann Mountains are among some of the most beautiful in Tajikistan if not central Asia.
This range consisting of hundreds of snow-capped peaks and hidden sumptuous green valleys is found between, Khujand and Dushanbe in the northwest corner of Tajikistan.
A real trekkers’ utopia the Fann mountains include parts of the Gissar and Zeravshan Ridges.
Nine of the mountains within the Fan range have peaks reaching up over 5000 meters, Chimtarga peak is the highest at 5489m. At the heart of this stunning region lies the real jewel in the crown Lake Iskanderkul.
Aside from the raw natural beauty, the area is also steeped in history as it was once part of the Sogdian dynasty and home to the provincial capital of Panjikent. Panjikent still sits at the heart of a fascinating area a staging post not only for the fan mountains but Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
As well as a somewhat ageing museum Penjikent is also home to Sarazm Tajikistan’s only UNESCO World Heritage site. Penjikent also has the regions largest and best-stocked market, mini markets and some small banks and ATMs.
As a visitor here, you will notice how varied the geology is within this region, although a majority of the low ridges are composed of metamorphosed limestone. Mountain ridges tend to be made of shale. There are areas of granite intrusions, coal seams and exposures of sand sandstone.
The Fan mountains are great to see where Glacial activity has sculpted the landscape, cutting and slicing valleys.
There are also lakes formed by these retreating frozen monsters. River valleys have also made their mark often being fed by existing glaciers and mountain snows. Alexander lake was formed when a steep-sided valley collapsed blocking the river and creating the lake.
In the lower reaches of the valley, there are villages (most notably located beyond alexander lake/ Saytag).
These are occupied year-round. These days in the summer numbers will grow as many of the homes open their doors to homestays and guesthouses.
From May to September, life will fill the upper valleys as herdsmen bring their cattle and sheep for the high alpine pastures. These people can be great to share the time with as well as food, be warned though in Tajikistan 30 mins of hospitality can quickly turn into two hours. One should also take care around villages and people as many still have with them a shepherd/ cattle dog which can be quite aggressive.
The Fann Mountains are not only famous just for their beauty, but their fantastic climate.
During the summertime, the weather here is perfect for hiking. Annual precipitation is 250mm (9.84 in), with an average summer temperature of below 25 C. The best time to visit is from June to September.
Travellers to the Mountains tend to focus on three main areas,
Several major trekking routes start from the Kulaikalon area located near to Penjikent.
More accessible hikes run from villages found around the famous Seven Lakes region. The most popular and convenient area though is that around Iskander-Kol (alexander lake).
Iskander Lake is the most accessible area to reach making for a pleasant weekend trip from Dushanbe. It also affords breathtaking return hikes from holiday chalets. For the more avid hiker trekking routes through the mountains can keep the most avid hikers occupied for weeks.
The area has a brilliant homestay program, easy to arrange for most travel companies.
There are three main approaches: from Dushanbe if flying into the country. From Khujand, if crossing the border from Kyrgyzstan/ Uzbekistan or Panjikent if coming from Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
As above, the two main areas of exploration will be from Alexander lake or Panjikent itself.
These days there are guesthouses and small local tour companies that advertise.
The best and most straightforward way to visit would be to arrange your journey through a registered travel agency to ensure the safest trip and best local knowledge.