Although we had an early start in Tashkent, it is already noon by the time we arrive at the Bolshoi Kanatka (the Big Chairlift) in the Chimgan mountain range. The Chimgan Mountains are a spur of the Western Tian Shan. The highest mountain here, the Greater Chimgan, is reaching 3309 m. The area offers hiking possibilities in summer and skiing in winter, and with a distance of only 85 km to the capital Tashkent it seems perfect for a weekend day trip.
Public transport takes time
But not by public transport, as we had to realize… We took the Metro as far as the eastern end of the city, then changed into a minibus to Gazalkent, from where we had to go by taxi. Usually, that means a shared taxi in Uzbekistan: You just book a seat and wait for other passengers to fill the car. Although it was a Saturday, however, nobody seemed to have the same idea of a weekend trip. After 45 minutes of waiting we decided to pay for all the seats in the shared taxi.
The Big Chairlift in the Chimgan Mountains
We had recommendations for a nice hike starting from the Big Chairlift. „You just go to the waterfall! The path is easy to follow,“ our friend had said. When we arrive at the Big Chairlift, though, we see several paths, but no recognizable waterfall. „To the waterfall? It’s best to take the chairlift up to the mountain and walk from there!,“ one of the vendors selling Coca Cola and Kurut, the salty dried cheese balls, advises us. How convenient for us, as this means less time spent walking and the opportunity to research another potential tourist attraction on the way, namely the Big Chairlift. After all, we want to get as many sights, tourist attractions, activities, and restaurant and accommodation tips as possible out of this day trip.
Soon we glide over alpine meadows and rocks at a height of about 40 meters. Better not think about the maintenance of this 1970s (or so) Russian chairlift. On top there is another kiosk with Coca Cola and Kurut and a small walkway leads to a lookout point. On one side of the path, tourists have knotted pieces of cloth to a fence, which now appears like a shamanistic sanctuary.
“To the waterfall?” The warden points down a steep slope, but what looks like a path at first soon peters out. We end up scrambling down back to the bottom of the mountain to a larger trail, which we would have reached much faster from the road without the chairlift detour. And then we walk up again towards the canyon with the waterfall.
Soon the large trail disappears, and a vague path climbs up along a little stream and past some small cascades. In the canyon, the scrambling becomes more and more hazardous. “The waterfall?!” The elderly Russian couple (a stocky guy with hat and walking stick, his wife all in pink) – which may or may not have reached it – shrugs exhaustedly; it seems to be quite far and over difficult terrain. We scramble a bit more uphill and eventually give up and take another shared taxi to the shore of the Chorvoq Reservoir with its hotels and beaches.
The Chimgan reservoir
Today at least the lake seems a far more popular option than the mountains, with people bathing, surfing and paragliding. We have a look at the hotel rooms (not well maintained and too expensive) and watch some Spanish bus tourists busily walking around. Then we have a Coke in a classical heavy glass contour bottle on the terrace. There’s a holiday feeling in the air, not least because of the contour bottle, we guess. And after a brief rest at the lakeside, we head back to Tashkent where dozens of people shove into the minibus before we can even get out. That’s it: On a Saturday, people move into the city, not out of it.
Nearby you can go on a wonderful hike to explore the Chimgan petroglyphs . On the way to Chimgan between Tashkent and the mountains the unique solar furnace in Parkent is also worth a visit. Read here how to organize a visit. If you want to read more about the work of guidebook authors have a look at this post about a very wet cycling day in Tyrol.
How to get to the Chimgan Mountains from Tashkent
Share taxis leave from Tashkent’s Metro station Buyuk Ipak Yoli. They go to the Chorvok Reservoir or into the Chimgan mountains, but often take quite a while to fill. More regular marshrutkas go to Gazalkent from the Tashkent Traktor Zawot Bus Station. You need a city bus to get to the bus station, however, and then a share taxi from Gazalkent to the mountains.
NB: Our day trip to the Chimgan Mountains was part of our research for the new edition of our Uzbekistan guidebook published by the German publisher MairDumont. However we paid all expenses by ourselves.
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