The Chimgan Mountains near Tashkent – a guidebook research day trip

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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.

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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.

The waterfall

“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.

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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

Day trippers to the Chorvoq reservoir in the Chimgan mountains

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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15 Comments

  1. That chairlift looks like something my boyfriend would be terrified of: he’s so scared of heights! I found the coca cola and Kurut vendors to be a funny part of the story, great photos and thanks for the in depth guide.

  2. What a great outdoor adventure! I would take the chairlift up the Bolshoi Kanatka mountain and then venture to find the waterfall. The panoramic views from the red chairs are worth it alone!

    1. Dear Renee – sorry, if this was not well written. Bolshoi Kanatka means just Big Chairlift in Russian. Bolshoi – big, Kanatka – chairlift. The mountain does not really have a name.

  3. I never pictured Uzbekistan to look like this, it makes me want to go ASAP! Good you mentioned it can be tricky to get there but glad there’s the option to book all the taxi seats. How much did it cost to do that?

  4. It’s great that you introduced me to less popular destinations such as Uzbekistan. With each of your articles, I feel like taking this direction someday. It offers tons of attractions. The Chimgan Mountains near Tashkent look impressive, as I love mountains. It’s great to know that the Greater Chimgan is reaching 3309 m. Great tips to start hiking in Big Chairlift. The Chimgan reservoir seems a perfect place to chill after hiking.

    1. Dear Agnes, the mountains in Uzbekistan are nice. However, for more serious hiking I would really recommend neighboring Kyrghyztan!

      1. I can so relate to your experience. Many a times when we are trekking in Himalayan states here in India and ask for route to some local, they would say, just go straight and on the left is the lake. But when we walk we often reach a point where there are so many paths in different locations. But that’s the fun, that’s how we end up exploring an unchartered terrain.

  5. Chimgan was unknown to me until recently. The Big Chairlift was something I really wanted to attempt! Apart from its convenience, it sure is a lot of adventure, as it allows you to take in the stunning views of the Chimgan Mountains. The location appears to be good. People would probably come back here because of the landscape of mountain peaks, valleys, waterfalls, and lakes – it’s just breathtaking!

    1. Dear Maria, actually it depends on the season. Later in summer the mountains are brownish and burnt. But in spring and early summer you will see a lot of wild tulips in the area.

  6. Those Big Chairlifts look so scary haha. I remember riding them though when I was a child, back in my home country. There was no safety, just a bar preventing you from falling down. More recently, I went up a mountain in Argentina in one of those, which didn’t even have that protection bar in front. Shame you didn’t find the waterfall and that the path wasn’t well marked. At least the lake was pretty and the weather was really good too.

  7. The place looks so serene and calm and loved the chairlifts and waterfalls too. You have well-curated the article with some amazing pictures. Really would love to visit one day.

  8. Thank you for a great guide on Chimgan Mountains. And the photographs give a feel of what to expect. Chairlifts are fun but this one looks a bit scary not for me but my wife who would think twice before getting on. But I guess it’s worth taking despite her fear to enjoy the mountain and the waterfall. Uzbekistan has never been in our plans but it certainly looks a country which has quite a lot different to offer.

    1. Dear Subashish, Uzbekistan has a lot of superb sightseeing to offer. There are the old silk road town like Samarkand and Buchara. If you have a bit more time to spend a trip to the Chimgan mountains is very worthwhile.

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