Most Popular Destinations
Dushanbe (which means Monday in Persian) is the capital city of Tajikistan and is located among the lowlands in the west of the country. Once Dushanbe was an important trading post, holding a bazaar three times a week, and as such was the cross-roads for Central Asian caravan routes. In addition to being by far the largest city, it is the economic, legal and transportation centre of the country and was reconstructed by the Russians on top of previous settlements. It is a pleasant, slow-paced “garden” city, its streets are lined with towering leafy trees and large parks. New upmarket hotels and shops have recently sprung up and there are now even internet cafes with wi-fi as well as a large variety of restaurants offering international and local cuisine.
Things to see and do in Dushanbe: include visiting Central Asia’s largest buddha at the Museum of Antiquities; walking along Rudaki Street to see the President’s Palace, Central Park and Rudaki’s statue, as well as the Somoni statue and map of his empire behind him; the Botanical Gardens where you can enjoy some peace and quiet amongst many different kinds of trees or observe all the newly-weds and their entourages posing for photographs on a Sunday. For good views of the mountains around the city (haze permitting!) go to the Komsomol Lake and walk round to the side opposite the fairground rides. For good views over Dushanbe walk up the hills to the east of the city e.g. Victory Park; or alternatively try the artist’s graveyard on the western edge of the city, next door to the sports university. Get lost in Korvon bazaar, the biggest in the country, on the southern edge of the city. Or for a smaller bazaar experience try Zelyoni bazaar near the centre. The art gallery opposite the president’s palace is the best place to see the range of Tajik art.
Things to see and do around Dushanbe: Do you like the locals and take a day out up the Varzob valley where you can eat shashlik and swim and lie about on a ‘cat’. Visit the Hissor Fort, an outpost of the Bukharan Emirate and the place the last Emir escaped to as the Russians took Bukhara. The walls used to be wide enough to drive a chariot along the top of, but as they were built from mud bricks you have to use your imagination to see how it used to be. The museum across the road fills in some of the history and gives you the chance to see inside a madrassa as well.
Bordered by two east-west mountain chains (Zarafshan Range to the north, Hissor Range to the south) the Fan Mountains are one of Central Asia’s premier trekking and climbing locations with seven peaks over 5000m. Accessed easily from Samarqand (Uzbekistan), Khujand (full access May to October only) and Dushanbe (full access May to October only) the rugged, glaciated mountains are interspersed with many alpine turquoise lakes surrounded by either green pastures in summer or snowfields in the winter. In all seasons, this is a beautiful destination and there are many day trips or extended routes for the traveller to select from.
The main town in the region is Penjikent that lies only 60km east of Samarqand although crossing the border between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan can be a painfully long experience if you choose to make this journey. Indeed, Penjikent makes a go
od overnight location if travelling east into Tajikistan. The town has an extended history, being a Sogdian settlement from the 5th Century. It was an important staging post on the Silk Road and significant remains still exist of its former pre-eminence.
Travelling south from Penjikent, the Marguzor lakes are a 20km chain of seven deep blue lakes surrounded by peaks and via 3000m+ passes the trekker can access other valleys to the east, reaching Iskander Kul in five days. Iskander Kul can be reached by road, 24Km off the north-south Dushanbe to Khujand main route. The lake is named after Alexander the Great and there are many legends about the Macedonian that emanate from the region.
The poet and scholar Abu Abdullah Rudaki was born in the 9th Century in the region and several monuments reflect this. Rudaki was a Samanid court poet and is considered to be the father of Persian literature, composing in the Perso-Arabic alphabet or “New Persian” script. Over one million verses are attributed to him, however, only 52 qasidas, ghazals and rubais have survived. Of his epic masterpieces we have nothing beyond a few stray lines innative dictionaries.
“Rudaki was probably the first poet who made the most lucid expression about the tragic and critical condition that we as human beings all have in everyday life, the fact the our life is ephemeral and death is waiting for us any minute.”
The chiefs, the presidents, the kings of this world all, all have passed away; all have surrendered to death.
All those who built lofty palaces are now buried deep within the earth.
Ah, what is their share, their final portion, of all the goods and bounties of this world?
Is it any thing but a shroud to cover their bodies in the grave?
Source: “Rudaki and the Survival of Persian Language” by Nasrollah Pourjavady. A Lecture Delivered at the United Nations in New York on the Occasion of Celebration of the 1150th Anniversary of the Persian Poet Rudaki, 18 July 2008.
The Fergana valley is the oasis of Central Asia with fine soils and a climate suiting abundant arable farming. However, just a the Wakhan exhibits a political border solution without current rationale, so the Fergana valley international borders weave across the flat valley floor, making a patchwork quilt of enclaves composed of ‘Tajik’, ‘Kyrgyz’ and ‘Uzbek’ villages.
The Fergana valley of northern Tajikistan lies to the north of the Zarafshan Range and the district is relatively cut-off from the south by high mountain passes that close in winter months. Access by air, however, is relatively straight forwards from Dushanbe with a regular service flying into Khujand. Access from Khujand into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is theoretically easy overland. However, crossing the political borders can be very time consuming and visas are essential. Pamir Highway Adventure will facilitate this transfer and the sourcing of appropriate visas for your journeys.
Khujand is an ancient Scythian city that was captured by Alexander the Great (329BC) and renamed Alexandria Eschate (Alexandria the Furthest) – the point where he stopped his northern campaign in Central Asia. The Scythians had previously occupied the region as far back as 8th Century BC. Khujand became an important city of the northern Silk Road and was important enough to be razed by Genghis Khan. Today, it is Tajikistan’s second largest city and has a more cosmopolitan atmosphere, compared to Dushanbe. Khujand is an administrative, commercial and industrial centre but also has what is currently the largest statue of Lenin in the world at over 22m. However, there is doubt over its continued presence, and, like most of the previous holders of this title, it may be removed for a more acceptable figure.
To the east of Khujand lies a former collective farm worthy of attention for tourists. Rather than being the more traditional square of huts, this farm has been modelled as a recreation of the Winter Palace of St Petersburg. Indeed, there are several remnant vestiges of soviet culture in this region which was so important to the union for over 70 years.
Ancient Istaravshan was once was a major trade centre on the crossroads of historical Silk Road caravan routes and is one of the best preserved old towns in Tajikistan. This city was founded in the 6th century B.C. by Cyrus, the Achaemenid king, and was originally named Cyropolis or Kurushkada. When Alexander the Great invaded Central Asia (the 4th century BC), Kurushkada was already a big, well-fortified city. Only by cunning did Alexander’s soldiers manage to walk along a dried-out channel of the river to open the gates and the city was then destroyed by the order of Alexander.
In the days of Arabian sovereignty, Istaravshan became a province of the Arabian caliphate. At that time, Islamic architectural structures such as mosques, madrassas, mausoleums and minarets started to appear. The city’s most rapid development took place under the rule of the first Tajik Samanid dynasty (9th – 10th centuries) but in the 13th century the city was destroyed again by the armies of Genghis-Khan.
The city rose from the ashes in the 14th – 15th centuries with the coming of powerful Timurid Empire. In the 18th century Istaravshan developed again as the centre of an independent feudal state. At that time, the citadel and fortifications were reinforced, old and the new structures restored, and new fortifications capable of stopping the attacks of numerous nomad tribes erected.
Legends of the Fergana Valley:
The international borders of the Fergana valley may not seem very logical to Western tourists wishing to travel this region.
However, legend suggests that Stalin took these boundary decisions for divisive political reasons. Stalin supposedly saw a need to add the Khujand and Istaravshan region, which was predominantly influenced by Uzbek culture, to Tajikistan’s territory to ‘top up’ the newly formed republic’s population, having already decided that the predominantly cultural Tajik cities of Samarqand and Bukhara must become part of the Uzbekistan republic. As a result, families were split by political divides and cultural tensions were exposed in both newly formed republics – perhaps exactly what Stalin sought in the first place…!
For the adventure tourist, the spectacular geography, the rural cultural experience and the historic legacies of the Wakhan provide an ideal blend for a ‘gold star’ destination. The Wakhan is an essential component for every visitor to the Pamirs and should not be missed!
Over 200km long and between 15km and 60km wide, the Wakhan is an east-west running. Sheer valley sides, including permanently snow-capped soaring peaks of +6500m (Karl Marx, Engels, Akher Tsagh, Lunkho E Dosare, Kohe Hevad), bound the
Panj river which, in the western parts, meanders across a broad and flat valley floor. In the upper reaches of the Wakhan the geography and environment changes dramatically. The valley sides close in on both sides of the river and, as a consequence, the track hugs the cliffs and precipaces. The flora changes from alpine valley to high desert plateau as the Eastern Pamirs approaches.
A political creation of the ‘Great Game’, the Wakhan was devised to geographically separate the British and Russian empires in the 19th Century and it now stands out as one of the more obscure international boundaries. The political unconformity, the mix of travellers that have passed through and the physical harshness of the environment – winters usually see thick snows and temperatures of minus 15C and below – have meant that a distinct culture and language of the peoples of the Wakhan has developed. In the lower altitudes are the Wakhis, a community that relies on subsistence agriculture, growing mainly potatoes and wheat. They speak varieties of the Wakhi language (where village dialects are often indecipherable from each other), derived from several Iranian languages, and are Ismaili Shia, followers of the Aga Khan. In the higher altitudes are the pastoral Kyrgyz, who are generally Sunni and who speak Kyrgyz, of Turkic origin. Not having two vegetables to fry together has done nothing to reduce the famed hospitality of these peoples!
The valley forms an obvious trading route and it is believed that both Alexander the Great and Marco Polo came this way. The Portuguese Jesuit priest Bento de Goes crossed from the Wakhan to China between 1602 and 1606 and in 1906, Sir Aurel Stein reported that over 100 pony loads of goods were travelling up the Wakhan annually into China. To this day, camel trains can still be seen traversing the route and the remains of fortifications and caravanserai appear on most promontaries. Probably the most spectacular site in the Wakhan is the fortress ‘Zamr-i atish parast’ (Fortress of the fire worshippers) which has its origins from the 6thC AD. Nearby is Bibi Fatima spring, a well developed sanitorium built around a cave where hot water gushes from some beautifully formed stalactites. This is an essential stop off to wash away the travails of the road – there aren’t many opportunities for hot showers in the Wakhan!
Legends of the Wakhan:
Nobody really knows when and by whom Yamchun Fortress was built because legends in the Wakhan Valley are closely intertwined with reality, and it is sometimes almost impossible to separate them from true life. The most popular story tells about three brothers from the clan of fire-worshippers, the Siyakhpushes (which can be translated as ‘black caps’): Kaahka, the most well-known brother after whom the fortress next to kishlak Namatguti-Poyon had been named; Zengibar, who possessed the fortress Khisor situated not far from the kishlak Zong; and, finally, Zulkhasham who was the owner of Yamchun. They say that the three legendary brothers, using the force of the garrisons of their fortresses, showed long and stubborn resistance to the Arabian invaders headed by prophet Ali himself.
The Siyakhpushes eventually succomed to the repeated attacks and, in their desire to retain their countless treasures, resorted to hiding them far north in a cliff-top cave in the area of Rangkul (see ‘legends of the far east’).
Tales about Ali prove the legendary basis of the local history, for there is no historical data saying that prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law or any one of the Shiite imams reached the Wakhan in his campaigns.However, the Wakhan was indeed conquered by the Arabs and included into Arab Caliphate in the 8-9th centuries.
Yamchun Fortress, Unassailable fortress on the height of 3000 meters. You can see amazing view of the Yamchun fortress in the middle of the Wakhan corridor after turning from the main road of the Pamir Highway and climbing along the long serpentine up to the mountains. This beautiful fort with stone walls and towers is located on the height of 3000 m above the sea level and mounts the valley of the river Panj running 400 m below.
Today only upper bastion that was well protected, has survived from the entire fortress. Ideal place was chosen for construction of the triangular-shaped Yamchun fortress: mountainside is protected from two sides with deep gorges of rivers, so it was hard to assault the fortress from this side, and the third side has a steep slope where they made a cascade of walls and towers, thus losing the lower tier, defenders could retreat upwards still keeping the strategic advantage. The preserved part of the fortress has an area of approximately 300 sq. m; and in the far past the fortress used to have a territory of 75 hectares (185 acres).
Walls of the Yamchun fortress are made of stones, of different rocks, some of which were delivered from afar. Moreover, thanks to investigation of masonry, it was discovered that thin layers of timber was added during construction that would add flexibility and strength in case of earthquakes. Outer walls are 3 m tall, and 1,5 m wide. Loopholes can be seen everywhere. However, time is slowly ruining the fortress and most of the walls and towers of Yamchun are partially collapsing.
Construction of the fortress Yamchun dates back to the 3rd century B.C., and it is a bit older than another famous fortress in the Wakhan valley – fortress Kah-Kakha. It is known that fortress Yamchun earlier had names such as Zamr-i-atash-Parast and Kafir-Kala. Once this fortress had two functions: control over flow of people and goods across Wakhan valley and protracted defense in case of foreign raids. Today this is one of the brightest sights of Pamir that one should definitely visit taking a tour to Pamir Highway.
The house-museum of Muboraki Wakhani is a very interesting sight located in the middle of the Wakhan corridor, in the colorful village of Yamg. He was born and lived there all his life, from 1842 to 1902; amazingly, he became a scientist and philosopher, inventor and poet with no access to the development of the world science. He is sometimes compared to Leonardo da Vinci; like da Vinci, Muboraki Wakhani also created and worked himself.
Today works and inventions of this talented scientist from Pamir can be viewed in his house-museum where different exhibits are gathered, and the interior has been preserved, so you can see the lifestyle peculiar to villages of Pamir for centuries. There you can learn the arrangement of residential houses, various items that had some sacral meaning as well as decoration of Pamirian houses. Moreover, there are everyday life items and musical instruments among the exhibits created by Muboraki Wakhani.
It is worth paying attention to the stone astronomical calendar invented by Muboraki Wakhani scattered around the surrounding mountains. There is a stone with a hole not far from the house-museum and similar stone-windows are on the mountain slopes, so on particular days of the year, the sunlight or light of stars can be seen through these pairs of rocks. This way he defined days of vernal and autumn equinox, and made other measurements.
Any traveler taking Pamir Highway tour should definitely pay a visit to this house-museum, as you will find nothing more natural and vivid that shows lifestyle of Pamirians. It will take you to the atmosphere of village life; you will learn more about local beliefs, culture and traditions.
The Eastern Pamir is a remote high plateau all above 3000m and with Peak Lenin being the highest mountain at 7134m. The region is bordered by China to the east (via the Kulma pass – soon to open to international tourists), Kyrgyzstan to the north (via the Kizil -Art pass) and Afghanistan to the south. Murghab is the regional centre of the Eastern Pamir. Founded as a Cossack base in 1892, ‘Pamirsky Post’, it soon became a town for ethnic Kyrgyz nomadic herders and traders and was called Nurkap (Beam of sunlight). Supposedly, when Tajiks heard this they misinterpreted the name as Murghab (River of the Birds) because they’d seen a flock of ducks fly up at that moment. Murghab is a high-mountain district in the eastern part of Tajikistan located at an elevation of 3600 m above sea level. Vegetation is scarce on such elevation, and those rare trees are well taken care of. Climate there is rather severe with very dry air, strong cold winds and high UV. 40°C (degrees Celsius; 104 °F, degrees Fahrenheit) in summer and -40°C (-40 °F) in winter are typical.
No one would actually think of building a village in such rough conditions, but at the time of the Great Game, when Russian and British empires were struggling for the influence in Central Asia, Russian troops arrived there in 1892 and organized a frontier post. It was called Shadjan post. First, they built small houses to survive harsh winter, and later continued with other constructions. This is how the history of Murgab began. Few years later, Russians established a frontier post in Khorog. As a result, Shadjan post became less significant. Later, Murghab village became one of the points on Pamir Highway and served as a center of geological exploration in eastern part of Tajikistan. Today Murghab is a must-stop place for travelers, as there is no other populated settlement for hundreds of kilometers where it would be possible to stay for a night in relatively comfortable conditions.
Population of Murghab is around 6300 people represented by Pamirians and the nomadic ethnic Kyrgyz. During high season, you can always meet around 150-300 tourists from around the world traveling along the Pamir Highway.
Murghab – Background
In 1892, as a consequence of event surrounding ‘The Great Game’, a Cossack encampment was established known as ‘Pamirsky post’. The local ethnic Kyrgyz herders and traders saw this as an opportunity and soon they established a village surrounding the post. The village became known as Nurkap, meaning ‘beam of sunlight’, however, when Tajiks heard this name it is suggested that they reinterpreted it to ‘Murghab’, meaning ‘River of the birds’, having seen a flock of ducks rise from the valley. That name stuck. However, Murghab still does catch the sun far more than most of the surrounding districts due to the geography of the mountains – suggesting the correct naming in the first place.
Murghab – Dining Scene
As you will quickly learn, Murghab is not a centre for the gastronomic arts. With a very poor standard of living the local community have little need for ‘eating out’ experiences and a visitor’s best hope for sustenance is either through their home-stay / guest house or by visiting one of the cafes down in the bazaar. Cafe Nuris is perhaps the pick of the options, with a number of discrete booths and a wider selection of menu options than might first appear. However, it’s always best to ask what they have on before you look at the menu and get disappointed! Try Beshbarmak – the Kyrgyz national dish.
Murghab – Things to Do Murghab itself is not a beautiful town. Rather it is more functional for the 12000 or so local people that inhabit the Eastern Pamir and who get supplies and meet in this hub for the region.
In terms of things to do the main local attractions are ‘Murghab House’ which is run by ACTED and is at the Osh end of town (in fact the last place in the town). Currently it isn’t fully occupied and is underutilised for tourism purposes although it does perform some local functions.
The bazaar is perhaps the most interesting place to visit although more for novelty rather than for any particularly aesthetic reason. It consists of a few rows of old containers that have been re-designed to provide shells for shops. It is worth going in a morning to catch the shoppers and see life as it is in the town from a local perspective.
Whilst Murghab might not be a good reason to spend time off the road, it really is a good place to take day trips from, out into the wilder parts of the Eastern Pamir. Places of interest include:
• Rangkul with its beautiful lake. You can also take camel excursions from Rangkul into the sand dunes. Rangkul music school is also worth a visit if you can pre-arrange a performance (they do dance, music and poetry reading)
• Karakul is further afield and if you are travelling the Pamir Highway then you might already be going there – it’s certainly worth a stopover as the views in the morning light over the lake can be stupendous.
• A long day off-road trip down to Shymak is interesting as it take you to the furthest south-eastern corner of Tajikistan and close to the Chinese:Afghan:Pakistan borders right at the eastern end of the Wakhan. You won’t feel more remote than in Shymak.
• Beyond Shymak is the Zorkul national park where you will need a permit. To get down there involves more than a day out but it is worth an excursion to see the lake and perhaps a herd of Marco Polo sheep that are much more prolific in these mountains.
There are shorter excursions and trek routes close to Murghab that are all interesting and offer opportunities to see petroglyphs, cave paintings and more remote hamlets. Check out a local tour operator or the META office for details.
Lake Sarez – Tajikistan’s biggest naturally formed, rock-dammed lake created on 6(18) February of 1911 at 23:15 as a
result of earthquake of 7.5 points according to Richter scale caused a massive land slide of 2,2 km3 which sealed off Murgab river valley and buried Usoi village with all the inhabitants. The created dam is 567 metres tall and 4 km wide and is currently the highest natural dam in the world.
A sealed off Murgab river flood the area and another village Sarez located upstream in the same year. A lake was named after Sarez village while the dam is known as Usoi dam after the village buried under the mass of the mud slide. Sarez is the youngest lake in the world. In 1913 the first research shown the lake to be 28 km long, 1,5 km across and 279 m deep. Every day the water level grew up for 36 sm and only in 1914 Sarez waters created an outflow thru the dam and gave start to Bartang River – one of the Pyanj feeders.
Since then a lake has grown to 55.8 km in length, 3,3 km across and 500 metres deep at its deepest point. The lake’s volume is curently 16, 074 km3 which is equal to Oxus annual discharge. In 1939 a hydro meteorological observatory was opened on the lake’s shore for permanent control over the lake’s waters as some sources believe the lake pose potential risks for downstream communities.
Should another strong earthquake or rock slide occur in the lake’s vicinity, the Usoi dam may give a crack or dam’s ‘right bank’- a partially collapsed body of earth and rock with a mass of roughly 3 cubic kilometres-might fall into the lake. The displacement could generate a wave large enough to wash away Usoi dam and release a wall of water that could flood some 6 million people living downstream along the Bartang, Pyanj and Amu-Darya rivers in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, as well as in Tajikistan.
While catastrophic scenarios about the future of Lake Sarez are easy to come by, measures to mitigate the threats it poses are less so. Scientists still debate on what should be undertaken – some say about pumping station which would pump the water out of the lake the others about the need of drilling into Usoi dam in order to release water in controlled circumstances and reduce the pressures on the structure.
In the face of this uncertainty, the government and international community continue to monitor water levels and pressure in Lake Sarez-which, at the moment, seem relatively stable.
The river Amu Darya (previously known by Europeans as the Oxus) is one of the longest (2400km) in Central Asia. One source of the Amu Darya is the Pamir River, which emerges from Lake Zorkul in the Great Pamir Mountain (ancient Mount Imeon) and flowing west to Qila-e Panja, it joins the Wakhan River to form the Panj River. The river also marks the Tajik – Afghan border for nearly 1000km.
This region is bound in mythology by the fact that four great rivers (the Oxus, the Indus, the Helmend, and the Gaxartes) rise from this geographic area, thus meeting the conditions of Christian, Islamic and Hindu texts for the fabled Eden. Furthermore, six thousand years ago the whole of Central Asia was lower than it is today and at that time the indications are that ideal conditions prevailed on the Pamir Plateau – an intruiging possibility!
Lake Zorkul is in fact one of a series of freshwater lakes, rich in fish and waterfowl, that cascade down a broad valley running east to west on the southern border of the Pamirs. The valley lies above 4000m altitude and for seven months of the year the valley is inaccessible to all except the best (and most reliable) 4×4 off-road vehicles – the tracks are often wet and boggy. This is not a spot to breakdown without some good support! Even the locals tend to rely on the horse rather than the machine in these parts…
Assuming that sufficient time has been spent on acclimatization, tourists can spend many days trekking by horse or foot in this region which offers mountain vistas and snow covered peaks in every direction. Zorkul is part of a UNESCO World Heritage conservation nature reserve and its access is controlled through permits that need to be purchased locally – Pamir CENTRAL ASIA can procure these for you. Marco Polo sheep, Asiatic Ibex, wolves and snow leopards all inhabit this region. Among the smaller habitual mammals in the reserve are ermine, weasel, red fox, turkestan lynx and Tian Shan brown bear. Birds typical for the reserve are the Alpine goose, bearded eagle, golden eagle and kumai.
Karakul lake spread its waters in Markansu valley – one of the most driest place in Central Asia. Surrounded by high mountains which block humid air masses the valley has less than 30 mm of precipitation a year which is 3 times less than in Karakoram desert. Fluctuation of temperatures is a usual thing for desserts and in Karakul lake they are just incredible.
The great Russian Explorer of Pamirs N. Korjenevskiy, describing lake Karakul wrote: “In Febrary, at 9am the temperature was -35 Centigrade, while at 1 pm the temperature raised up to -6,2 Centigrade and so fluctuation of temperature for 4 hours was 28.8 Centigrade”.
The temperature measurement taken between 1933 and 1934 shows there were only 15 frost-free days a year and by latest measurements taken in our days it is known that 67 of 100 years had no frost free periods at all.
Karakul is kyrgyz for “black lake” and its indeed looks black when the sun is hidden by clouds.
Karakul has an area of 380 sq km and lies at the altitude of 3914 metres above sea level. It’s the most highest lake in the world excluding those in Tibet and even Titicaca lake – the biggest alpine lake in the world is located on lower altitudes.
The lake has 2 basins separated by a peninsula from the south and an island in the north. The island is 8 km long and 4 km wide. The strait between them is 1 km wide. East side is 22,5 metres deep, while west basin deepest point is 236 m. There are 3 rivers flow in but these days the lake has no outflow and therefore the water is very salty.
The salt mineralization is constantly increases and 1 liter of boiled out water would leave 7 grams of salt which makes the water undrinkable and useless for watering. Sulphate salt makes water taste brackish.
Karakul’s water level is now much lower than before, but this fact also applies to many other closed lakes of Inner Asia. N. Korjenevskiy noted that before Karakul lake was at least 60 metres above the present level. But even 37 metres is enough to create an outflow on the south where the valley ends up with flat pass towards Kokuibel valley. This means the lake was much bigger in the past and had an outflow that feed Pyanj and finally Amudaria River known in the west as Oxus. Its not exactly known when the lake had an outflow, should be an ice age, when glaciers were on much lower altitudes and some of them flow down the lake. Later the lake’s territory reduced, the depths diminished, the lake lost its outflow and finally became salty.
The Karakul lake impact structure remained unidentified until the recent geological research undertaken by Russian scientists along with studies of imagery taken from space which let some scholars to diagnose Karakul Lake depression as meteorite impact crater with a rim diameter of 52 kilometers and created some 230-190 mln years ago.