Karakul, the incredible salt lake on the roof of the world

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Martí Micolau

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Among the most incredible lakes in the world, the lago Karakul certainly occupies one of the top positions.

Located in Tajikistan, at 3960 meters above sea level (it is even higher than the South American Titicaca) in the mountains of Pamir, Karakul is a spectacular body of water: 230 meters deep, it extends for 52 kilometers in an area that - of square kilometers - measures 380. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains all year round, and immersed in a desert landscape and lunar, it can be reached via the Pamir Highway.

Lake Karakul was born about 25 million years ago when a meteorite fell on Earth. Initially baptized "Lake Victoria" by British cartographers, and then renamed "Kara Kul" and "Black Lake" by the Russians, today it conquers travelers with colors of its waters, which change during the day: sometimes they are turquoise, other times emerald or cobalt blue. And it is an incredible attraction for those who decide to go this far, crossing Central Asia (the closest cities are Murghab in Tajikistan, or Osh in Kyrgyzstan).

Surrounded by salt deposits, Lake Karakul has no runoff and is one of the highest salinated places in all of Asia, to the point of being inhabited only by the rooted corbite, a freshwater fish that lives on sandy bottom lakes. . However, the marshy islands that emerge from its waters attract many migratory birds, such as the Himalayan griffon vulture and the Tibetan sirratte. But the most amazing thing is that here boats cannot sail: they would overturn, as if by magic (although people keep trying).

It is a bit like the twin of the Dead Sea, Lake Karakul. Every year it hosts a unique event in the world, the Roof of the World Regatta, during which intrepid kids from all over the world compete in kitesurfing, waterboarding and rafting competitions, challenging its very salty water. And this is such a remote place that during World War II it was used as a "prison" for German prisoners. Getting here, and walking around its surroundings, is today a surreal experience. In the morning the lake is so blue that, for a moment, with those blue and white houses that surround it it looks like a Greek island. Except that, along its banks, only a handful of people live there.

A place out of this world. Or better, on top of the world. Which few reach, but which - to those few - reveals itself in all its wonder.

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