Hiking to Magnificent Urungach Lake

Dreams come true

Being born and having lived a quarter of a century in Nukus, the city surrounded by desert, I had always dreamed of mountains. Opportunity to climb mountains was one of the things that I was looking for when I moved to Tashkent; however, I only few times did it during the first ten years that I spent here. This was partly because of my financial situation and partly because I was not brave enough to go and explore the unknown places on my own.

Three years ago Saida, one of my close friends from work, shared one announcement of a day trip to Urungach Lake and suggested going there. I loved the photos and without any hesitation decided to go. We got in touch with the guide, paid the money, packed our backpacks and at 5 a.m. on Sunday we left Tashkent for the long drive towards our destination. On the way to Urungach, we stopped near Charvak Reservoir which is situated in Bostanliq District of Tashkent region and took some photos of the sunrise and the morning Charvak.

Sunrise above Charvak
Me and Saida, with Charvak behind us

Long Drive to Paradise

After 2 hours’ drive to the checkpoint, 30 minutes registration at the checkpoint (as it is situated near the border, everybody who goes there should have their passport with them and get permission) and another 2 hours in the minibus we finally arrived to the place – Pskem Village. We picked up our backpacks and followed the guide.

There are two lakes there – it is quite easy to get to the first one in 30-35 minutes, and on the way there some trees. So, after about 35 minutes of walking, I found myself looking at one of the most stunning views I had seen in my life: the water in the lake was so pure that you could see every single stone underneath. The guide told us that we would stop there for a break and if anyone wishes they could dive into the lake, although the water is cold. I was already used to cold water so it didn’t discourage me; however, when I went into the water I understood that it was not just cold – it was freezing, so I just quickly soaked myself in the water and went out of it.

Urungach, the bottom lake

The Upper Lake

We stayed there for about half an hour, and moved towards the upper lake. The path was more demanding than the one we took before, and there were some places where it was quite steep to climb, therefore it took us another 45-50 minutes to get there. The upper lake was also beautiful, although water there was a bit muddy and also much warmer compared to the first lake. Although tired, we still were excited that we did it up there.

“We Did It”

We spent another half an hour there swimming, taking photos and just enjoying the views. Then we returned back to the bottom lake and this time I decided to swim to the rock that was in a short distance from the shore. As it was July the weather was quite hot, and it was very pleasing to feel the hot sun after getting out of freezing water.

Eco-friendly Tourists?

One of the things to note is that there were too many people at the bottom lake due to the easy access and stunning beauty of the place, even though the trip as a whole takes a long time. This unfortunately creates an unpleasant situation because majority do not clean up after themselves and leave so much rubbish, especially plastic, behind themselves, ignoring all the signs that call for leaving the place clean. Normally starting from late April it gets very warm in Uzbekistan, so the season of active visits to this lake starts in late April – early May. There were dustbins there but they were overloaded, and the place was full of plastic bottles, food leftovers and wet wipes. This all created an unpleasant and disappointing view.

Return Visit

Nevertheless, the trip made such a great impression on me that I returned to the Urungach Lake again this year in May. This year summer in Uzbekistan started later and in May it was still a bit chilly, and on the day we went there it was cloudy and windy, but still I had a quick swim in the bottom lake. This time there weren’t’ so many people and the lakeside was also much cleaner compared to three year before. This was probably because of the weather people haven’t started actively visiting the place. I wanted to hope that people had become more eco-conscious, although reading comments on social sites it is difficult to believe so.

This time we witnessed a lot of plant blossoming on the way to the first lake, including briars, desert-candles (Eremurus) and others. In addition to the splendid views, we could hear birds singing and the water flowing in the ditance.

Caught in the Rain

When we reached the top lake, the guide led us along the narrow path on the top of the lake towards the other end and said we will have lunch there. However, when we descended to the other side, there was a small bit of land and between this bit and the place where the guide wanted us to stop for a lunch was water up to the waist. While we were deciding what to do, it suddenly started to rain. While our companions were deciding what to do, together with my friend Gulshan and two other guys we decided to climb back to the cave that we saw on the way, which turned out to be a clever decision as it started to pour heavily even before we reached the cave. The cave was quite big and dry, so we took off our raincoats and backpacks, took out the food we brought and were already enjoying our lunch when the rest of the group joined us. The rain lasted for almost half an hour, during this period we stayed in the cave.

The view of the upper lake from the cave

Way back Home

Once the rain stopped, we left the cave and started slowly and carefully walking back along the path, which was more difficult now as the path was muddy and slippery, and we were lucky that there were several males among us to provide support along the way. Once we reached the upper lake, the descent to the bottom lake was easier, as it wasn’t as muddy as the path at the top. I was glad that I had a swim in the morning, as in the afternoon it was much cooler and I didn’t dare to swim again.

Having a short rest we went back to the minibus that was waiting for us at Pskem Village, and about four hours later we were back in Tashkent. Although quite a long time passed since my first visit and two months since my second visit to Urungach, the memories and the exciting impressions are still fresh as if it happened only yesterday.

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