At some point you may get enough of city sightseeing, old buildings, and the dust and heat in the Uzbek cities. At least we did, and decided for a day trip to the Chimgan Mountains.
In hindsight we would probably have planned for a longer stay either in the Chimgan village to do some longer day hikes or even a camping trip. Although, for camping you need to be on top of the registration rules, not getting too close to the Kyrgyz border and much more, so plan upfront!
However, we did it as a day trip from Tashkent and would like to share how we did it 🙂
In short the route is as follows: Go to the Buyuk Ipak Yoli metro station in Tashkent, take a marsrutka to G’salkent (also written Gazalkent), and find transportation from there to Chimgan village/ski area.
From Tashkent to G’salkent
The marsrutskas gather a little after the Buyuk Ipak Yoli metro stop. You will have to walk through a bunch of taxi drivers probably trying to convince you that the only way to get to Chimgan is by taxi. Just continue another 20 meters 🙂 Counterintuitively, the marsrutskas gather on the side of the road going back into the city, so make sure you are on the right side of the road.
The marsrutskas to G’salkent were numbered 550. There may be other numbers as well. They all have a sign in the front telling the route in Russian (Газалкент – Буюк Ирак Йули). The trip is about 60 minutes and costs 4500 som.
The marsrutska leaves when full (so expect to wait anything from 5 to 30 minutes). At some point close to the destination people starts finding money and a helpful passenger collects from everybody and makes sure you get your change — and hand it all over to the driver when done.
Safety is not as you know from Europe. There are usually no seat belts in the marsrutskas. However, our experience is that the marsrutskas in general drive less crazy than taxis (and there are usually no seat belts in the taxis either). We have only experienced one-person-per-seat on longer tours.
From G’salkent to Chimgan
From G’salkent you have two options: Public bus or taxi. We chose taxi.
The bus leaves from the parking lot where the marsrutska from Tashkent drops you off. It only runs a few times a day according to Wikipedia. We are not sure about the price, but probably around 5000 som.
Regarding taxi you just have to walk out of the marsrutska and you will be “found” by eager taxi drivers. You can opt for a seat in a shared taxi (10.000 som), or you can bargain a price for the full car and leave immediately. Be very careful to agree on a specific price — Uzbek taxi drivers are impressive salespeople/scammers/negotiators 😉
We got a car (amazingly old Lada) for 30.000 som — but not until the taxi driver had tried to cheat us by just starting to drive the ‘shared taxi’ and casually informing us that as we were now driving only with the two of us we would have to pay for the full car. The drive is 30-45 minutes.
Going back to Tashkent you just do the same thing in reverse order. The taxi driver will probably drop you off at the marsrutska stop for Tashkent — or ask him to do so. Do not let him convince you that he should drive you all the way to Taskent unless you are ready to pay for it 🙂