Varzob River and Varzob Valley

I would like to drink a sip of turquoise water

From glacial moisture of this river.

The flow of my blood started to play

And my heart started to beat tremulous.

Alexander Merkulov

In the end of the southern Ziddi basin and Gissar mountain ranges where the Ziddi and Maikhura rivers join, the first inflow of the turbulent Kofarnigan – Varzob River is born. This typically mountainous and rapids river strictly flows with meridian direction with an average water supply of 44 meters per kilometer from the north to the south in the narrow Varzob gorge. It calms down on approaching the Gissar valley turning into a foothill river where at its both sides the capital city of Tajikistan is situated. Varzob is named Dushanbinka within the city of Dushanbe which shows the  an integral part of the metropolis and its waterway.

  The length of the Varzob River is 71 km. However, on this relatively short route it manages to crosses several natural zones with characteristic landscapes and absolute elevation marks. These are lowlands (1300-1800 m) with mountain steppe and semi-savanna belt, mid mountains (1800-2800 m) with forest steppe and meadows of the sub-alpine zones (higher than 2800 m)

The landscape of Varzob gorge is typical among the majority gorges of the southern spurs of the Gissar ridges. For instance, the western inflows of rivers consist of multiple streams (Dorialakchin, Gusgarf, Khoja Obigarm, Gurke, Unou and others.) which flow from the big and small ravines, the average length of it is about 10 km, with the exception of Maikhura, Siyama and Luchob ravines which they spread about 25 km. And the gorge of the eastern inflows are narrow, long (20 km) and deep with variety of  trees and shrubby vegetation. Varzob gorge is fed by snow and glacier.

The highest peak of Varzob gorge is in the upper lands of the Maikhura river – it is Kaznok peak (4890 m). Numerous resorts are located in this gorge along the river of Varzob, including the presidential residence Pugus on 40 km of Varzob highway and 12 km from Dushanbe there is  Varzob lake – an artificial water reservoir which was made particularly for the rest of the civilians. After the reconstruction in 2019 it was opened with a new infrastructure and with a new name “Kuli Dushanbe” (Dushanbe lake). Now there is a seasonal aqua park and it is one of the biggest aqua park in Tajikiasan. It has a beautiful shore, food zones, VIP-gazebo and for the entertainment it has a wakeboarding, fly boarding, catamarans, food court, sports and entertainment grounds and so on. 

Rich deposits of precious minerals in the Varzob gorge are lead and zinc deposits (Takob, Safedara, Diamalik), tungsten deposits ( Maikhura and Kabuti) and also aluminum in the composition of rocks. From the non-metallic minerals are fluorite, magnesite, coal (Ziddi), graphite. Among the graphite also found the veins of rhinestones in the river gorges of Takob and Taikutal and so on.

 One of the main values of Varzob is its location close to Dushanbe which gives the opportunity to go to the mountains for a few hours   any time during the weekends and to sit at the water source or during the hot days to plunge into the cold water or to take a shower under one of the waterfalls. And also improve your health in one of the resorts of Varzob (links for resorts), drink the healing water from the thermal spring of Khoja Obigarm or narzan sources of  Khoja Sangkhok and Anzob, catch some fish – trout, marinka and Turkish catfish promise in the waters.

Besides that the gorge of Varzob river is one of the main transportation highway, which connects the north of Tajikistan with the south, Gissar valley with Zerafshan and Fergana. There are also many interesting touristic routs both difficult and easy.

Varzob settlement

The administrative center of Varzob region Varzob settlement is situated 25 km north of Dushanbe in the Gissar valley. The settlement was founded in 1930s XX century and became famous thanks to the eponymous resort with dachas and pensions along the Varzob River and the surroundings of which covered by plane trees, apple trees, cherry plums, rose hips and shrubs, waterfalls, fascinating rocks and mountain streams.

 The resort zone itself spread a few kilometers on both sides of waterways, surrounding it with the southern cyclones of Gissar ridges. It is possible to reach the picturesque gorge of Odjuk and Kondara, where the Botanical garden of Academy of Science of Tajikistan is located.

There are variety of rest zones, restaurants with traditional Tajik cuisine and sanitary centers. The Varzob resort is open all year round and offers variety of services: horse riding, swimming in waterfalls and ponds of mountain streams, excursions in the neighboring villages and settlements.

The alpinism and mountaineering is developed in winters and the Safed-Dara plateau which is located not far from the Takob gorge is one of the main skiing centers of Tajikistan where there is a mountain sport school of the Olympic reserve.

Guzgarf waterfall, Ekho gorge and the Eagle nest

30 meter Guzgarf waterfall takes its source from the eponymous river Varzob at the eastern slopes of Chilikak ridge and the peak of Guzgarf, Chilikak and the mountain pass of Pervomaiski. The inflows fed by springs lying down on the eastern slopes of the Chilikak ridges.          

8 km trails lead to the waterfall starting from the highway at its 21 kilometer. It takes about 2,5 hours to go there by walk and one hour vehicle from the bottom of the gorge to the Guzgarf village.

However it is not so easy to reach the waterfall. First you need to walk along a winding path, climb a low rocky point, walk on a 150-meter talus, cross the Pionersky pass from the top of which the a view of the Varzob, Chorbed, Guzgarf and Chilikak peaks will open and descending from the mountain pass, about 70 meters through the shallow debris, the waterfall itself appears in the lining of black rocks and with spots of green moss and water dust, soaring in the air in the rays of the bright sun.

Not far from the waterfall, along the river there are also two paths – one goes to the right another goes to the left. With them starts ascending to the Ekho gorge and the Eagle nest waterfall where there are lots of huge and wild birds fly over.   

 The Ekho gorge itself is short enough but too loud – the sounds here comes from the reflection of the rocks, sometimes loud or low.

Zimchurud gorge

To reach this gorge is possible via the Varzob highway turning to the village of Varzobkala, behind which there is the Zimchurud village is situated and that’s why it gives the name of the gorge like that. Here stream the sonorous Angoris river - the right inflows of Varzob.

Zimchurud is often called mystical and powerful place: unique ancient plane trees grow here. There are twelve of them. According to legends, when there were no any religions people lived with the demons on Earth close to each other (supernatural humanoid beings) and in one of the families there were twelve brothers and one sister. Brothers went to the battle with demons and didn’t come back. Their sister went to look for them and found them near the stream of Zimchurud. The girl cried for a long time and prayed to the spirits so that her brother would not die, so that they would come to life. Having listened to her words and the spirits turned all her brothers into plane trees. So that she never parted with her brothers, she was turned into a wonderful spring that always beats at the foot of the plane trees.

Also Zimchurud has its own ghosts. They can be found suddenly. They are similar to human beings covered by hazy smoke. And who knows possibly the legend about demons is not a legend at all, may be it is taken from the reality.

And also the gorge is famous with its walnut groves and extraordinary beautiful landscapes.

    Odjuk gorge

The Odjuk gorge is located 20 km to the north of Dushanbe in the central of the southern slope of the Gissar ridges, spreading zigzag from west to east for 12 km. The valley itself is not so wide, approximately 150-200 m, because of the adjoining to the district center of Varzob it is densely populated.

Odjuk gorge is quite branched. Depending on the chosen route it is possible to walk along the  Odjuk ring (it consist of all gorges of Odjuk to the mountain pass of Kichkine, than across the patoue to the mountain pass of Childukhtaron and after descending you will reach Odjuk), crossing the bridge over a small river you will reach the Kaban gorge, here you will find the abandoned fluorite gallery and enjoy the incomparable beauty of the sights and numerous waterfalls on the way.

About 45 species of plants are counted in the territory of the Odjuk gorge, among them are medicinal althea, pontic and Turkestan hawthorn, carnation, Charles geranium, elecampane, baldjuan oregano, blackberry, St. John`s wort, mountainous ferule, clary and others.

Kondara gorge

31-32 km to the north of Dushanbe and in the central part of the southern slope of the Gissar ridge there is a reserve of Kondara gorge. The initial elevation of it its entrance is 1200 meter above sea level. The climate of the district is hot and dry.

Since 1932s, an experimental botanical station existed in the gorge, which in 2012 the Academy of Science of Tajikistan decided to restore by organizing a biosphere reserve in Kondara. The territory of the station itself is not so huge but it has almost a tenth of the CIS floral flora is concentrated on it. The botanical garden is spread in the gate of the gorge, admirable with its beauty and its unusual location.

This place gains fame with its variety of medicinal herbs – there are 60 species of them here. Some of them  (oregano colorless, long St. John`s wort and milfoil meadowsweet.) even create commercial thickets.

There is a thrush with deep blue feathers which lives at the rivers of the gorge and an eagle owl builds nests in the rushes and also it is possible to find a grey owl and others there.

Nowadays Kondara is not only the touristic route but it is also a scientific polygon for botanists, ecologists, physiologists, zoologists and soil scientists.

The skiing complex of “Safed dara”

55 km from Dushanbe, on the altitude of 2200 meters above sea level, in the Takob of Varzob district, there is the only skiing base Safed Dara is located.

The complex is restored and reconstructed in 2016 in the place of the skiing and touristic zone of Safedorak which was given to exploitation in 1976. Here was founded the school of children`s skiing of Olympic reserve.

Nowadays Safed Dara has a 17 km reconstructed and expanded motor way, a two storied children`s school for winter sports, three stars hotel with single, double and triple rooms with all modern appliances like wardrobes, hot water, internet, heating system functioning with coal. There are 54 rooms for 240 people.

        Besides that there is a restaurant within the territory of the complex with open terrace for barbecue, grocery, a shop with skiing equipment, small ground for children, two cable car coads with a length of 2000 meters and 140 lifts.

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