Lake Iskanderkul is one of the must-sees if you have decided to travel to Tajikistan. The beauty of its turquoise waters and its natural environment classify it as one of the landscape wonders of Central Asia.
Next, we propose you to know everything you need to know about its origin and the legends surrounding the reason for its name. In addition, we add some useful tips to fully enjoy your future visit. And is that contemplating Lake Iskanderkul is a unique opportunity to lose yourself in one of the most characteristic environments of the former Soviet Union.
The origin of Lake Iskanderkul
Lake Iskanderkul is located in the Gissar Range, in Sughd province, Tajikistan. It has a maximum depth of more than 70 meters and is located at 2,195 meters above sea level.
Its origin comes from the melting of an ancient glacier, whose deposits caused by numerous avalanches and landslides shaped one of the highest alpine lakes in Central Asia.
For this reason, the landscape that surrounds the lake seems taken out of a painting. We speak of high mountains and rugged rock ridges almost 2,000 meters above the surface of the lake.
The highest of these is Mount Kyrk-Shaitan, at 3950 meters high. This entire mountainous area is covered with snow during winter and its waters freeze, which creates a unique and unforgettable picture.
Nor should we overlook the strong contrast of its turquoise waters with the reddish rock of the mountains. The lake’s water comes from several major rivers in the area, such as the Sarytag River and the Serima River. It will be near its shore where we will find a large number of riverside plants such as willows, birches and junipers.
In addition, although the lake does not have a great biodiversity, fishing can be practiced. In its surroundings, with luck you can see some wild turkeys and even bears or the majestic snow leopard. This lake has a protected ecosystem thanks to the natural barrier and the attention received by the government of the country, for being one of the major tourist attractions.
The legends of Iskanderkul
The name of Lake Iskanderkul comes from the name given in the East to the conqueror Alexander the Great: Iskander. The ending kul means ‘lake’ in Turkish, so we can translate Iskanderkul as the ‘Lake of Alexander the Great’.
The relationship of the name of the lake with this historical figure is not historically proven, but there are several legends about it. The best known tells that Alexander fought on the shores of the lake against Sogdiana and Bactria. During the battle, due to the resistance of the towns that resided next to the lake, the conqueror ordered to change the flow of the river to deprive the rebels of water. Due to this fact, the lake that we know today was created.
Other legends – a little more realistic – speak that Alexander the Great’s favorite horse, Bucephalus, died in this lake after drinking the icy water there. Legend has it that the horse was frozen for several days and that, finally, after getting rid of the ice layer that covered it, it galloped until it jumped off a cliff. Many locals say they have seen the figure of a white horse emerging from the water of the lake.
Tips for planning and enjoying the trip
The first thing we recommend is to get accommodation in the city of Dushanbe, just 130 kilometers from the lake. The trip from here offers a unique route to fully enjoy this area of Tajikistan. The ideal is to be at least a full day.
Most prefer to make the trip during the months of April and September, to see the lake after the thaw. Also, if you go far from the shore, you can take a bath in its waters. But beware, already more than 10 meters from the shore, the water temperature drops below 10 ° C.
Finally, just over a kilometer from the lake you will find a narrow waterfall 38 meters high; accessing it is not recommended unless you have the proper equipment. Its rise is considered dangerous.
With this, you will have made a complete visit to one of the most charming areas of the country, both for photography lovers and for those who enjoy the wonders of nature.