Yashikul and Bulunkul lakes

Yashikul and Bulunkul lakes

Lakes Bulunkul and Yashilkul are fascinating sights that offer a variety of “moon landscapes” with striking views and breathtaking sunsets in the Tajik Pamir. You can get there for walks and treks as well as for bird and yak watching. Visitors can even stay for the night at a guesthouse in the small village of Bulunkul, which is situated next to the shore of the namesake lake.

Yashikul lake

Lake Yashikul translates as “green lake” from Turkic languages which is very appropriate according to the color of the water in the lake. Yashikul lake ranks well as one of the most beautiful lakes of whole Pamir. The lake was formed many hundreds of years ago when a strong earthquake created a landslide that blocked the Alichur River (Gunt). The dam is over 4 km long and 100-110 m thick. The water from the lake flows over a Soviet built dam  to make the Gunt River, which after about 200 km confluences with the Panj near the city of Khorog

Yashilkul lake is located at an elevation of 3734 m above sea level, its surface area is about 36 km2, length about 22 km, maximal width 4,5 km and maximum depth 52 m and the water temperature never rises above +14°C during the cool summer of Pamir. The water in Yashikul is clean and transparent and the sparse fish are mainly represented by osman which you can often see swimming there. During the Soviet period residents attempts to breed mirror carp and peled here, but failed. Yashilkul is fed largely by the Alichur River and few other streams running from the mountains to the north, the largest of which are the Big and Little Marjanay.

The area near the Alichur’s mouth is wet and fully covered with sedge and grass, which make up excellent pastures that the powerful Pamir yaks graze and grow upon. There is a hot hydrosulphuric spring called Issyk-Bulak (hot spring) near the place where the Alichur River flows into Yashilkul that the locals consider sacred. The water in it may reach a temperature of 60°C. 

From the north, rocks surround the lake very close to the waterline but there is a narrow drivable strip of flat land running along the lake. The car friendly road though goes only as far as the mouth of the Big Marjanay River, from which a footpath leads right to the dam. To get to the northern side of Yashilkul you have to cross the Alichur near the place it flows into the lake. On the same northern shore, one kilometer after the Alichur River’s mouth, there are the ruins of a solitary mausoleum with remains of a local feudal lord (bek). There are also several myths and legends associated with the lake. The oldest of them is the one about a giant animal that the local Kyrgyz call tuya su (‘aquatic camel’) living in the lake.

tajikistan, bulunkul, lake
tajikistan, yashikul, lake

Bulunkul lake

Bulunkul lake is much smaller and shallower when comapared to Yashilkul lake. This lake overflows in aquatic plants and has several bird species, like ducks and geese that can often be seen gliding along the water surface and gulls bustling above the lake. During the late summer period, the area receives thousands of other birds stopping here on their migration towards south. Bulunkul lake was the first lake in the Pamirs where fishing was organized on an industrial scale during the Soviet time but today only osman and marinka are caught by the local residents and amount of fish has generally plummeted. Bulunkul lake flows slowly towards the Yashikul lake through the river in its northeastern part.

Bulunkul Town

Bulunkul village lies just right next to Bulunkul lake, deep in the high Pamirs, about 16 km from the M41 Pamir Highway. This tiny village lies at the altitude of 3700 m above sea level on the small plateau with several houses lining a road  that are a home to 306 people. Bulunkul village is also well-known as Central Asia’s coldest town, a place where temperatures as low as -63°C have been recorded during the winter. The village services consist of one school, one shop and one medical station for emergencies as well as several homestays for guests. 

Except for some well-aged car batteries, Bulunkul has practically no electricity and no running water. It is interesting to follow how the whole village lives like a one big family, depending on each other in the harsh conditions. The people of Bulunkul have have mastered the many uses of the yak as they drink its milk, eat the yak milk butter and their houses are warmed by its frozen dung, which is the only fuel available. They eventually eat the yak’s meat and keep themselves warm by the incredible warming properties of its wool. To Buklunkul people, yak is the way of life and the only way of life possible.

Other Sights & Destination near Bulunkul and Yashikul lakes

Page updated 11.01.2021

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