Uzbekistan: Hiking to Urungach Lake in Tashkent Region
August 1, 2019
by Rano Nurmanova
Uzbekistan is one of the countries in Central Asia that attracts a lot of tourists with its historical cities Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva. However, this country has a lot more to offer besides these crowded cities. It has many interesting places to offer to lovers of wild nature. The mountains of Uzbekistan are vast, wild, and stunning. One of the regions in Uzbekistan that has a wide range of mountains is the Tashkent Region. There are famous Chimgan Mountains, Charvak Water Reservoir with surrounding mountains, as well as Ugam-Chatkal National Park.
Among the top places among hikers, eco-tourists, and the general public is Urungach Lake, which is in the territory of Ugam-Chatkal National Park, 150 kilometers away from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.
How to Get There
Due to its proximity to the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakstan, visitors should get special permission and have their passport with them. To get to this site, the majority leave Tashkent at 5 a.m. because the journey takes about 4-5 hours from Tashkent, the last hour of which goes along a very rough road. The views along the whole route are breathtaking: Cahrvak Water Reservoir at dawn, Plato Giza, as well as the Chatkal River.
Hiking to Urungach Lake
Once the travelers reach Pskem Village, they start the hiking part of the trip up the hill, along the path that goes through some walnut trees and bushes. However, for those who do not want, or cannot walk long distances, some local people can offer a ride up to the first lake for additional payment.
Those who decide to walk can enjoy the splendid scenery along the path: in early spring you can see February fair-maids, in May desert-candles, tulips and wild-roses blossoming. In addition, you can see and hear the river flowing in the distance and enjoy the serenity and peace that are disturbed only by birds singing. The path is quite easy, and it takes about 30-35 minutes to get to the first lake on foot. There is a concrete stream that goes along the way with pure and tasty water.
The Bottom Lake
Another name of Lake Urungach is Jade Lake due to its color, and most people know this place by this name. They say that a long time ago the rocks collapsed and created a natural dam, which formed the lake. The bottom lake is so magnificent, that it takes your breath away. The transparent turquoise water illuminates every single stone on the surface, as well as the surrounding mountains. Melting ice water fills the lake in early spring, which almost fully disappears by autumn. That’s why the best time to visit this lake is between May to July when the lake is full.
Some local people come to the lake to have a picnic and shoot some photos. Not everybody is brave enough to swim in this lake due to its icy water, which is 2-8 degrees above zero. I visited this lake twice and both times I took an opportunity to swim in the pure water of the lake. I still remember how the icy water stung my limbs the first time I got into the water. I had to take several attempts to get used to the coldness of it. Once I got used to it, I swam about 2-3 meters to the nearest large rock that was on the surface of the water. It was very pleasant to feel the hot sun on my skin after spending a short time in such icy water. I am sure that those who like cold showers will love the blissful water of this lake.
The Top Lake
The second lake is 1227 meters above sea level about 4 kilometers away from the bottom one. The hike to it takes about an hour and going up the steep hill you can see the bottom lake disappear behind the rocks. You can feel rocks and pebbles under your feet and in spring you can also see a lot of snails on the way. There are only a few places where you can find some trees and bushes and have a rest in their shade.
The top lake is surrounded by mountains. Most people who get up to this point stop there and can swim in the lake. The water in this lake is much warmer compared to the water in the bottom one; however, it is not as pure and transparent. When I was here the first time three years ago, we stopped at the starting point and spent about half an hour taking photos and swimming. That time it was my first hiking experience, so I even did not dream of going any further.
The second time I visited Urungach the guide led us along the narrow path to the other end of the lake. The path is quite dangerous, so you should walk very carefully, paying full attention and keeping pace with the person walking in front of you.
The Wolves’ Cave
There is a large cave on the way, where up to 10-15 people can find shelter if it starts raining. This was the case when I was there last time. We went past the cave and down the hill to find a suitable place for lunch. When we reached the bottom of the mountain, it started to rain heavily. Without losing much time, we went back to the cave. It was dry inside the cave, so we decided to have lunch there. While sitting in the cave, we watched the raindrops falling heavily on the lake, and we also detected some ducks swimming in the lake. We spent about half an hour in the cave, listening to the interesting stories of our guide.
After the rain stopped, we started our hike back to the safe shore of the lake. The path was very slippery after the rain, and the way back took us twice longer – we had to walk very slowly and carefully, supporting each other and taking our time.
Planning Your Trip
If you are someone who wants to explore the wild nature and the mountains of Uzbekistan, Urungach Lake should be on the top of your list. It is worth the time spent on the road. Find a reliable guide who will take care of all the details of the trip, including transportation and special permission. Many tour operators organize day trips to the Lake, and it is possible to find them using Google search. If you want to spend more time here, some eco-tour operators even organize a two-day trip with a stay in a guest house and the hike to the other mountains near Urungach Lake. Once everything is ready, pick up your backpack, enough food, and enjoy your hike. You can be sure to get unforgettable memories that will last for a very long time.