Top destinations

Tash-Rabat

Tash-Rabat was constructed in the 15th century, on the ancient trade route from Central Asia to China, and was a resting place for merchants, ambassadors, travelers and other wanderers. It is the largest structure built of stone from Central Asian architecture of that epoch. It is notable not only for it’s size and building materials, but also for its special layout, based on perfect symmetry. Lost among the primeval wilderness, far from inhabited locations, the caravanserai looks unbleached, monumental and unassailable.

This is a carefully restored stone building that once housed an inn on the Great Silk Road. Its date of origin is a complete mystery; however, there is archaeological evidence to suggest that the site was occupied in the 10th century. Set some 15km up a small, beautiful valley in the foothills of the Tian Shan, the whole structure is embedded in a hillside. There is evidence that it was a place of both rest and worship and would have served to protect caravans traveling to and from China from both the ravages of the weather and of bandits; even before the time of both Tamerlane or Genghis Khan.

 

It is possible to camp in the valley and there are yurts set up in the immediate neighborhood. The main road to Torugart trails around the end of the At-Bashi Mountain range via the Ak-Beyit pass, but there is a track over the hills via Tash-Rabat pass (3,968m) to Lake Chartyr Kul (just 8km away) and views of the Chinese border. The trek takes about 4 hours (one way). Horse riding can also be arranged.

Lenin Peak

Lenin Peak (7134m) is considered to be one of the most popular, easily of accessed and hence most frequented summits among 7,000m peaks of the Pamir. It’s a common belief that the Lenin Peak (Pik Lenin) is one of the easiest of the CIS’s four 7,000m-odd peaks to climb, a statement which is true to a certain extent but is far from representing the whole story. It must be remembered that an altitude over 7,000m places the peak clearly in the category of high-altitude climbing. The ascent route in itself is not a technically difficult one and is normally carried out by mountaineers climbing in a roped-up-pair manner. However, the success or failure of your Lenin Peak expedition is often dependant on such treacherous factors as weather and the ever pressing altitude. In order to succeed a climber has to be of good physical condition, have appropriate climbing gear and be fully prepared in terms of good, safe acclimatization.

The Burana Tower

The Burana Tower is a large minaret situated in the small town of Tokmok in northern Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. The site represents the last remaining part of the ancient 9th century city of Balasagun.

The entire museum complex today covers some 36 hectares. It includes the tower itself, reconstructions of mausoleums found on the site, a mound that is all that remains of the palace/citadel, a collection of balbals (grave markers used by nomadic Turkic peoples who used to roam Central Asia) and petroglyphs (paintings on stones) and a small Museum.

It is possible to climb to the top of the tower via a very steep, dark and windy staircase, but the views from the top are quite spectacular. What makes the place even more special is the sight of the huge Tian Shan mountains rising up from the plains in the background. These 7,000m peaks are covered in snow year round and make a fine backdrop to the already impressive site.

Sary-Chelek

Though the full Unesco Biosphere Reserve includes seven mountain lakes and numerous rare flora and fauna, the star attraction for most visitors is the massive Sary-Chelek lake itself. Over 2km at its widest and over 7.5km long, the lush shoreline vegetation and dramatic crags facing the lake’s accessible south shore make it a favourite local travel destination and it isn’t hard to understand why.

From the car park, follow a path uphill beyond the few small buildings to loop around several of the small lakes and several breathtaking high-perspective views of Sary-Chelek lake itself.

Kel-Suu Lake

The Kel-Suu lake is located in an Ak-Sai Valley, on the border with China in the Naryn province, in the Kokshaal-Too range of Inner Tien Shan mountains, situated at an altitude of 3514 meters above sea level.

Kel-Suu was formed from a strong earthquake in a large crevice between the rocks. The water in the lake is fresh and has a shade of greenish colour. Kel-Suu stretches for more than 12 km, and the width varies from 500 meters to 2 kilometres. You need a motorboat if you want to see the whole lake. The lake is fed and drained by the Kurumduk River.

The air temperature in the summer is 14-16 degrees Celsius in the daytime, and at night can fall below zero. Snow can fall even in the summer. The water temperature fluctuates in the summer from 6 to 8 degrees Celsius.

The name of the lake is translated as “incoming water” because the lake is submerged type. Sometimes the lake disappears, leaking into underground caves and caverns. Before going there, it is necessary to know if there is water in the lake.

Ala-Kul

Ala-Kul (also Alakul, Ala-Kel, Ala-Köl) is a large high-mountain glacial lake, located in the eastern part of the Terskey Ala-Too Range on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, near the city of Karakol. The lake is located in a vast basin between the Karakol and Altyn-Arashan Canyons and has no runoff. The name of the lake from Kyrgyz translates as “a motley lake” which fits perfectly to this place. Ala-Kul really amazes with its colors: bright turquoise water adjoins with mountains, snow, green grass and flowers.

In addition to the lake, tourists are also attracted by the trekking route that leads to the lake. There are two routes to the lake: through the picturesque Karakol Gorge or amazing Altyn-Arashan Gorge, but in this case it is necessary to overcome the Ala-Kul pass (altitude 3900 meters). Many tourists use the circular route with an entrance to one gorge and an exit from another.

Arslanbob Forest

World’s largest walnut forest – Arslanbob Forest – is located in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Each year there are collected some 1,500 tons of walnuts thus making this forest the largest single source of these nuts in the world.

Walnuts (Juglans regia) grow in the enormous area from Balkans to southwest China. Since the 17th century, it has been introduced in America as well.

Walnut is a valuable tree, well-known thanks to its beautiful wood and exquisite nuts. This large tree is light-demanding and needs full sun and rich soil.

There is not much undergrowth under the tree – its leaves contain juglone, a natural herbicide. As a result groves of walnut are similar to shaded parks.

Walnut is considered to be one of the most valuable temperate hardwoods but even more valuable are nuts. Nuts of this tree have very high quality, oil is richly flavored. Different parts of the plant are used in medicine.

According to local legends the origin of this forest is linked to Prophet Muhamed. His envoy was searching for paradise on Earth and found one at present-day Arslanbob. This was a beautiful valley with a crystal-clear stream. Only the trees were missing. Thus prophet sent to him a bag of seeds of fruit trees including walnuts. Envoy planted the seeds and tended the garden for many years.

Another story goes further into the past: according to this story the walnut forest was here already in the times of Alexander the Great (the 4th century BC) and Alexander brought a sack of walnuts back, to Greece, thus introducing this tree in Europe.

Son-Kul Lake

Son-Kul is a mountain lake in northern Naryn Province, virtually in the center of Kyrgyzstan. The name translates from Kyrgyz as “the last lake”.

It lies at an elevation of 3016m and has a zone of around 270 km2 and a volume of 2.64 km3. The lake’s most extreme length is 29 km, expansiveness around 18 km, and the deepest point is 13.2 m. It is the second biggest lake in Kyrgyzstan after Issyk Kul Lake, and the biggest freshwater lake in Kyrgyzstan.

Encompassed by high mountain level, Son-Kul has no trees. The glades are rich and in this way are utilized by shepherds from Kochkor, Naryn and At-Bashi as summer pastures for their herds. Despite the fact that there are no trees on the high fields, there are a lot of herbs, including chamomile, sagebrush, lichen, monk’s top, and brilliant root, a considerable lot of which are prized for their medicinal characteristics.

Numerous shepherds will be glad to welcome sightseers and serve a cup of kumis, and even let guests spend the night on mats on the floor, however, it is still best to make arrangements in advance. There are a few yurt camps set up in the late spring to suit sightseers, finish with kitchens, toilets and washing offices (however they positively aren’t extravagance). It is advised to sort out trekking and horse riding trips from Son-Kul, enduring from an hour to multi-day.