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Zaamin National Park in Uzbekistan – Tips for Your First Visit

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Why should you visit Zaamin National Park?

Zaamin National Park is usually not on the radar of tourists who visit Uzbekistan.

Let’s face it: Uzbekistan is most widely known for its ancient history which is concentrated in cities like Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara. Many tourists also spend a few days in the capital, Tashkent. It offers a tremendous opportunity to experience the vibrant Uzbek culture. Tashkent boasts numerous monuments, museums, art galleries, malls, theaters, and parks which will appeal to the taste of even the most demanding travelers.

However, there is more to Uzbekistan than these tourist hot spots. Uzbekistan also offers great opportunities for hiking and simply enjoying nature, away from the noisy cities and crowds of tourists.

If this is what you’re interested in, consider adding a few days to your itinerary and visiting the Zaamin National Park.

View of Zaamin National Park

About Zaamin National Park

Zaamin National Park is known as “Switzerland of Uzbekistan”, and this is not by accident. Its incredible beauty will definitely remind you of the beauty of Switzerland. The size of the Zaamin National Park is over 25,000 ha, so it’s very large and offers a lot of opportunities for hiking.

The region of Zaamin (which means “agricultural land” in Persian) is an ancient place. Archeologists found a settlement in its territory which is 2,500 years old.

Once you get there, prepare to marvel at the breathtaking views of the Turkestan mountain range (altitude 1,760 to 3,500 m above sea level), explore the rich flora and fauna, and breathe in the fresh and crisp air.

Some of the animals you might be able to spot here include the Turkestan lynx, the white clawed bear, the Turkestan owl, the black stork and others.

The flora is also very rich- the Zaamin reserve has over 800 species of plants. Get ready to enjoy the fragrance of abundant local flowers and herbs. You will be able to see a giant walnut tree which is 700 years old, 20 meters tall and 3 meters in diameter.

How to Get There

Tashkent train station

Zaamin is located in the Jizzakh region along the Tashkent – Samarkand route which is well known to many visitors. You can take a train to Jizzakh (2.5 hours) and a taxi from the train station (1.5 hours). Alternatively, you can take a taxi all the way from Tashkent (this trip will take about 4-5 hours).

My suggestion is to do the train and taxi combo, as this is a much more enjoyable trip. Going 4-5 hours by road is a little exhausting, from my experience.

The train trip

Trains in Uzbekistan are rather comfortable and there are a lot of different destinations. Most of the trains depart from the Northern train station which is located centrally and even accessible by metro.

My recommendation is to get to the train station about 30 minutes before departure as you need to go through security. Tickets can be purchased online or at the train station. You need to book several weeks in advance as the most popular destinations quickly sell out, especially during the high season (spring and fall).

Inside the train car

The train ride to Jizzakh offers a good opportunity to explore the rural Uzbekistan. As the train monotonously moves along the tracks, you will see the countryside with its myriad of small huts, gardens and greenhouses.

The landscapes of Uzbekistan

Wide fields with gorgeous red and yellow flowers… People working on their gardens… Cows, sheep, and horses wondering around, minding their business…

Before you know, you will be already in Jizzakh, getting off the train. The train station is quite large and there are plenty of taxis available to take you wherever you need to go. Here you have two options: go to your hotel in Zaamin right away, or you can explore a few things in the city (see some ideas below).

The drive to Zaamin from Jizzakh is quite memorable. As you leave the town and get closer to Zaamin, the landscape starts changing. It’s impossible not to notice. From the perfectly flat terrain, it suddenly gets mountainous. Your car will be riding on a road surrounded by mountains on both sides. The weather will likely be changing as well. From the warm and sunny one it can instantly turn rainy and cold. Ascent takes about 40 minutes.

Places to Stay in Zaamin National Park

Zaamin region has been there for many years, but only recently did it become a tourist destination. Many foreigners do not know about it yet. As such, you won’t find crowds of visitors like in Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara. In fact, you’ll see many locals walking there and only some tourists here and there.

This region is currently being developed extensively by the local authorities to build an international resort. Ski slopes and various hotels and other infrastructure will be established here in the next 10 years. In the past, people who came to Zaamin mostly stayed at a Soviet-era sanatorium, but today, there are other options and their number will only increase as time goes by.

Several international hotels are already open in the Zaamin National Park. More will be built during the next decade.

A good option is Ramada by Wyndham. It’s a lovely hotel with the view of the mountains. There are other hotels as well. We stayed a bit further away, at a smaller hotel called Everest Plaza Hotel. It’s relatively simple, but rooms were nice and food also tasted good. Overall, I suggest checking the availability at various hotels in the area on Booking.com or some other major site and see which one best suits your needs.

Top Activities to Do in Zaamin

Other than just walking around, relaxing and enjoying the gorgeous views, there are plenty of activities to do. Some of the best ones include visiting the Zaamin reservoir, the suspension bridge and riding in a cable car.

Also, don’t miss the chance to enjoy the local cuisine. There are many national dishes for you to taste. Make sure you try the Jizzakh samsa, which is a famous local variety.

Zaamin Reservoir

As you will be driving up to Zaamin, you will definitely stop at the observation deck to look at the Zaamin Reservoir. This is a man-made reservoir. It’s a great place to take pictures and take a short break from your trip. There will likely be a lot of other travelers admiring the view with you. Depending how much time you are spending in Zaamin, you could later take a ride all the way down to the reservoir and walk around.

View of Zaamin Reservoir

There is a small market at the top where you can buy local food and drinks. It’s always a good idea to get a couple of water bottles and grab a few snacks.

Small local market at the observation deck

The Cable Car in Zaamin

View from the cable car

The cable car offers a great opportunity to explore Zaamin. Once you get on it, you can see the breathtaking views of the mountain range and the bright green pine forests and fly as high as the clouds. As you climb higher and higher, in front of your eyes open the views of green and gray mountains and snow covered peaks. The ride lasts 10-15 minutes and you have an opportunity to effortlessly take plenty of beautiful pictures and videos.

The cable car sits about 7-8 passengers and it’s very comfortable inside. You can sit in your seat and watch the incredible views.

Modern cable car at Zaamin

A word for caution for people who are afraid of heights. This is not an advisable ride as the car goes very high and for a long period of time. It’s better to get to the top by car or bus, which are also available.

Price of the cable car: UZS 60,000 ($5) for adults, UZS 30,000 ($2.5) for kid

Suspension Bridge

Zaamin suspension bridge

Visiting the suspension bridge is definitely a memorable part of the trip to Zaamin. If you are an adventure seeker, you would not want to miss it. The price of this attraction is only UZS 50,000 ($4).

Imagine yourself walking high above the canyon and looking at the incredible views of the mountains. Pretty cool, hah?

This bridge was only opened in 2023, so this is a relatively new attraction. It’s 305 m long and rather high above the canyon (150 m), built using Swiss equipment. There are some solid railings. The bridge is wide enough for people to walk in both directions. My personal experience is that the bridge is quite shaky, so not everyone will feel comfortable on it.

I made it all the way to the other side and back without any particular issues. There isn’t much to do on the other side, but you can walk around and look at some more beautiful mountains. And catch your breath, of course (if you got a bit frightened). I must say, some people found it a bit scary and turned back after walking for 50 m or so.

In case if you want to get your adrenaline flowing even more, you have an opportunity to do some bungee jumping (for extra pay). There are plenty of people interested in bungee jumping, so you might need to wait a bit for your turn. A lot of people stand on the bridge and watch their friends/relatives jumping and take pictures.

Bungee jumping

The maximum number of visitors which the bridge is able to withstand is supposedly 600 people. I recommend coming before noon as there are fewer people. In the afternoon the bridge gets a bit crowded, so you’ll have to fight through the crowd.

How to Prepare for Your Trip to Zaamin National Park

No matter when you are going to Zaamin, you will need to bring warm clothes. Even in summer. Make sure to pack your fall/spring jacket, some pants and an umbrella/raincoat. Windbreakers will be very useful as winds can be brutal.

Weather changes very frequently in Zaamin. It might be warm and sunny one minute and then gets cold, windy and rainy another one. During our trip in mid-April, the temperature in Tashkent was +28C and in the mountains it was +6C. The forecast was showing -3C the following week, with some snow. This gives you an idea. In summer, you will likely have warmer temperatures, but still, it’s going to be cold at night and in the morning.

Bad weather can affect the trip: when rain and strong wind starts, they close the cable car and also the suspension bridge. You’ll need to keep that in mind, so don’t just go for 1 day.

My recommendation is to stay for 2-3 days to make sure you have time to relax and visit all of the attractions.

A Few Additional Ideas

Locals enjoying lunch at Farhod restaurant in Jizzakh

Of course, Zaamin National Park is your main destination on this trip. So all the focus is on it. But since you will be going through Jizzakh one way or the other, it might be a good idea to explore this town as well. It’s not a large town, so you can get around it quite quickly, but there are a couple of interesting places to see. You can do it either on your back to Zaamin, or on the way back.

First, keep in mind, that Jizzakh region is the region where the current President of Uzbekistan came from. In Uzbekistan, this is a big deal. The President goes back to his hometown every now and then and tries to make sure his native region develops well. There is even a special economic zone in this region which offers a lot of benefits for the businesses which want to move there (exemption of land tax and property tax and some other incentives for a certain number of years). There are some large plants in the city, like the Kia car factory.

If you are interested, you can eat at the restaurant where the President always stops for a kebab while he is in Jizzakh. It’s a very casual place which is frequented by locals, not expensive, and you’ll be able to say you’ve had lunch at the same restaurant the Uzbek President always eats at.

Façade of the Farhod restaurant in Jizzakh

Keep in mind that the menu of the restaurant is not very large and mostly they serve kebabs and salads.

As you will be driving around the Jizzakh region, you will be able to spot some farm animals. My daughter was fascinated by this horse standing on the side of the road, so we made a stop and took a picture. Gorgeous horse, I think!

Just a lovely horse standing on the side of the road

The museum of Sharof Rashidov

Jizzakh has an interesting museum which I recommend visiting. It is the house of Sharof Rashidov, the former President of Uzbekistan (the First Secretary of the Communist Party in the Uzbekistan Soviet Socialist Republic when Uzbekistan was a part of the Soviet Union). Similar to the current President, Mr. Rashidov was also born in this region. He was in power during a long period of time (1959-1983).

If you visit the museum, you will be able to see the house Mr. Rashidov lived in and admire various photos. The museum was opened about 10 years ago and has a very nice exhibition.

Museum of Sharov Rashidov in Jizzakh

During his younger years, Mr. Rashidov spent a lot of time writing poems and his work was published in the local press. However, when the time came to choose the profession, he chose the work which was well regarded at that time – the profession of a teacher. He graduated from a pedagogical college and taught at a local school for several years. He also studied philology at a local university. When the WWII started, he spent some time at the battlefield but had to return due to a serious injury. At that time, he made a decision to leave aside his writing career and instead concentrate on the career in the Soviet party. Soon enough, he became the head of the Uzbek SSR.

The portrait of Mr. Rashidov

Mr. Rashidov developed friendly relations between the Uzbekistan Republic and various countries of the world. One of the landmark agreements signed during his presidency was the peace agreement between India and Pakistan to end the India-Pakistan conflict.

Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and the president of Pakistan (Mohammad Ayub Khan) were invited to Tashkent and signed the agreement there in January of 1966. There is a bit of a mystery associated with this. A few hours after the agreement was signed, the Indian Prime Minister died of a heart-attack. There were multiple conspiracy theories regarding his death, as Prime Ministers don’t usually die in foreign countries, especially after signing an important deal.

The cotton scandal and Mr. Rashidov’s death

Sharof Rashidov himself died in 1983 under some suspicious circumstances as well. His death is related to the “cotton scandal”.

This scandal occurred due to the tremendous pressure Soviet Union had put on Uzbekistan to produce more and more cotton. In the early 70’s, all the arable land in Uzbekistan was already transformed for usage in cotton farming, but even that wasn’t enough to fulfil the quotas. The Soviet leadership refused to listen and continued demanding the republic to produce more and more cotton.

Uzbekistan tried everything to meet the quotas, often at the expense of the environment. The use of harmful pesticides, lack of crop rotation and diversion of water flow to irrigate the cotton fields resulted in the devastating consequences for the environment, the most prominent of them being the Aral Sea Disaster. The Aral Sea in Uzbekistan used to be the fourth largest lake in the world. Due to changes in water flow, it largely dried up.

Aral Sea today (essentially, just a desert)

Realizing that Uzbekistan would not be able to meet cotton production quotas no matter how hard they tried, the republic’s leadership decided to artificially inflate the cotton production numbers. Since statistics in Soviet Union were unreliable, they were able to do it. The republic received a total of 4 billion rubles for the non-existent cotton production.

Mr. Rashidov was at the center of these developments. For a while, he managed to get away with the approach of inflating cotton statistics. This was because of his good relations with the General Secretary of USSR, Leónid Brezhnev. However, when Yuri Andropov came to power, things changed dramatically. Mr. Rashidov did not manage to establish a cordial relationship with the new boss. Yuri Andropov started the investigation of the cotton scandal. Mr. Rashidov was advised to resign, but he refused to do so. Eventually, Mr. Andropov made a decision to send a special commission to Tashkent to dig deep into all the cotton issues.

Shortly before the commission arrived, Mr. Rashidov died. He was on a business trip to the Karakalpak autonomous republic and fell ill in a car. The driver stopped the car, Mr. Rashidov walked outside but did not feel better. He died later in the hospital.

There are multiple theories on the cause of death. The official version is the heart attack. Considering the situation with the cotton scandal, it could very well happen, given the pressure he was under. However, there is also a view that Mr. Rashidov committed the suicide in order not the face the shame from the investigation into the cotton scandal. He was first buried in central Tashkent, but later the Soviet leadership ordered to move his remains to his hometown.

What happened in reality, we will never know. All we can do is visit Mr. Rashidov’s museum and get a small glimpse of his life and various affairs.

Mr. Rashidov’s extensive library

In Conclusion

Zaamin National Park is a wonderful place to visit in Uzbekistan, especially today. I think that in a few years, there will be many more tourists, as the place becomes better known, its infrastructure further develops and more and more hotels pop up. But today, it’s a serene place which offers an opportunity to simply connect with nature and learn about a different side of Uzbekistan.

The view of Zaamin reservoir
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4 thoughts on “Zaamin National Park in Uzbekistan – Tips for Your First Visit”

  1. Ooooh Zaamin National Park looks gorgeous! I would looove to go hiking there! Was it hard to find walking routes and trails? Seeing those mountain views would just get me excited to be out there!

  2. Uzbekistan is still on my travel bucket list! I’d love to visit Tashkent and experience the vibrant Uzbek culture. Would be great to test hiking and the Suspension Bridge at Zaamin National Park too!

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