Outside the City. Winter Wonderland at your Fingertips

The western Tien Shan Mountains offer skiing, hiking, and more, and are only a short drive from Tashkent.


Are you searching for breathtaking grandeur and long-lasting memories? You need only to gather up the courage, discard the burdens of everyday life and business, and head northeast from Tashkent towards the sparkling mountains nearby. Maybe the most adventurous of you have already discovered this small corner of Uzbekistan’s natural beauty. This article is for those of you who desire to get out of the city smog, but haven’t quite made it yet. And so, get in your car and head out! Leave the city behind you on the new road past Lake Rohat. There is an excellent panorama of the Chirchik River valley. By now, you will have already forgotten all of your worries as you slowly ascend into the Tien Shan Mountains, letting nothing disturb the elegance of this landscape.

Drive about 35 km to the city of Chirchik, where the valley gradually narrows. On the left is the Korzhantau Range (2760 m), and to the right, the Ugamskiy (3623 m) and Pskemskiy Ranges. Mount Beshtor (4299 m), one of the major peaks of the western Tien Shans, is found here among a large cluster of mountain ridges. On sunny days, you can see Mount Chimgan in the Chatkaliskiy Range. The Road to the Tien Shans passes through the city of Gazalkent. In Gazalkent, you can stop and do some shopping at the local bazaar. The fruits and vegetables of the bazaar are well-known for their ecological purity, especially strawberries and cherries. After buying a few provisions, continue on. Immediately past Gazalkentom, there is an ecological checkpoint. Guards at the checkpoint will remind you that you are not a citizen of Uzbekistan, and charge you $3 per person (You’ve seen this before!). Ten kms later, you come to a fork in the road – the left road bends around the south shore of Lake Charvak and to town Charvak, a peaceful hamlet blanketed in flowering fruit trees in the spring.

We recommend a stop for lunch at this crossroad, at the chaikhana “Chinary” (named for a nearby 800-year-old tree), a popular spot among vacationers to the region. In the summer, you can stretch out on an “ayvan” (a clay bench covered with rugs), just like a dervish. The chaikhana is not only a great spot for its food, but also because primitive peoples once settled here, as far back as 100,000 years ago. After the chaikhana, the road leads sharply upward. A view of turquoise lakes, the dam and mountains will rouse your soul. Stop anywhere you like, breathe the purity, witness the grandeur. You may catch yourself thinking: “What is life? Monotonous working days or this peaceful beauty?”.

Ascending further, you can see the green roofs of the mountain pensions below, where you might stay for a day’s rest. The road goes higher still, to the village of Chimgan. The territory borders Kyrgyzstan and at one time, belonged to Kazakhstan. All three nationalities are represented here, and happily welcome city people. Along the road, villagers sell nuts, apples and almonds, their little huts snuggling into the mountainside. Just a little bit further and we arrive at the “Chimgan” Resort. We get out of the car and go get a room.

The resort is popular among local inhabitants, as they hold folk music festivals and skiing holidays here. Nine trails with varying degrees of difficulty fan out from the resort, as well as ski lifts for the adventurous. A miracle of natural beauty, Beldersay, is located just 8 kilometers from here. On Mount Kumbeli, you can ascend the peak on the longest ski lift in Central Asia, a 30-minute, 3.5 km ride. There is also a 4-star hotel located here, the aptly named “Beldersay”. Besides the hotel, there is the highest meteorological station in the world at 2307 meters above sea level. Another 800 meters up and you can enjoy a panorama of the mountains and valleys. Before undertaking such a journey to the top, however, consult a guide, Grigoriy Trebisovskiy. You can find him at the “Beldersay”. He is a well-known skier, hang-glider, mountain guide and rescue crew member, and can help you make your trip the adventure of your life.

20.10.2008
Time Out Tashkent

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