Location – Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Murghob district. Alichur River valley, between Bazardara and South Alichur ranges.
If you drive along the Pamir highway, somewhere between the Koytezek pass (4,271m) and Alichur, there is a signposted turn-off from the main road which leads to the Bulunkul and Yashilkul freshwater lakes. The turn to Yashilkul is located at the 145th kilometer marker from Murghob. From the main road, the turnoff to Bulunkul is about 18km, and from Bulunkul to Yashilkul Lake is another 15km path. Yashilkul means “green lake”. It is situated 3,700m above sea level and is 19km long and 1-4km wide, with a maximum depth of 50m.
The water temperature is never above 14ºC. The water is fresh and pure; schools of fish swim in the shallow water, and sprouts of seaweed can be seen between stones through the clear deep water. In the wilderness of the Pamir mountains, such places as Yashilkul Lake are very rare. The lake was formed as the result of a dam that blocked the Alichur River.
The length of the dam is more than 4km, width is 100–110m. The water flows over the southern edge of the dam. The Ghunt River starts here and 200km later arrives at the Panj River. There is an old path on the dam near which geologists found a granite block with inscriptions in Arabic, which indicated who had laid the path many centuries ago. The Alichur estuary area is swampy, with a lot of sedge.
The shallowest eastern part of Yashilkul is located here. A green spot marks the place where the river feeds into the lake. Near the Alichur estuary there is a hot hydrogen sulphide spring named Issyk-bulak. The water wells up from four geysers located along the foot of the granite mountain, with temperatures reaching 71ºC. The spring is surrounded by ruins of clay buildings (probably tombs), and local residents consider it to be holy. One small clay construction has a pool for collecting hot spring water. On the northern side of the lake, steep granite rocks come close to the water, leaving only a narrow strip of the bank several meters wide for passing.
If you travel along the northern bank you will arrive at the obstruction which formed the lake. An automobile track from the northern side runs as far as the point where the Big Marjanay River joins the lake, and then there is only a footpath up to the dam. To reach the northern bank of the Yashilkul, it is necessary to cross the shallow water of the Alichur River where it joins the lake. There are many legends and myths relating to the lake.
The most ancient one is about a huge animal named Tyuya-su (water camel) by the local Kyrgyz, which lives in the lake. A hydro system is being constructed at Yashilkul, which will help to regulate the flow of water for agricultural and electricity-production needs. Bulunkul Lake is much smaller than Yashilkul and is connected to it by a narrow channel. The water in Bulunkul is fresh. Water plants grow here, and one can see ducks and geese swimming on the smooth surface of the water, and gulls gliding overhead. It is interesting that the first fishing in the Pamirs was organized on this lake. From September to October, fishermen place their nets in the mouths of the rivers where they join the lake, to catch osmans and seascapes. Bulunkul Lake region is also known as having Central Asia’s lowest recorded temperature of -63ºC. The best period for visiting the lakes is July – September. One can stay overnight in the guest-house in Bulunkul village, which is located near the lake.