Altyn Arashan, located in the Ak Suu Valley, is known for both hot and cold springs situated in the area. Add to this attraction the natural beauty of alpine forestry that surrounds the place and you get a tourist hotspot that’s as calm and refreshing as one can be.
Because of the area’s reclusive nature, tourists are recommended to go to Altyn Arashan on 4WD vehicles – an experience that is memorable by itself. Once there, visitors can go straight to the hot or cold springs, or go hiking through the trails. Trekkers can take the trails through Ala Kul Lake or the Djety Orguz valley. Trekking permits are required but are not difficult to obtain.
Other attractions in the area include a museum of stuffed animals that are found in the region, and the Arashan State Nature Reserve, which is famous for its extensive work on botanical research.
Karakol is a small, peaceful town that derived its name from a term meaning black hand or wrist, possibly referring to the hands of the early Russian peasants who migrated to the town that had been blackened due to the rich soil of the valley.
Karakol is a low-rise town that is characterized by Russian gingerbread cottages and towering white poplars shading the streets. The town is known for its bountiful apple harvest, grown in orchards surrounding Karakol.
Karakol is the best starting point for exploring both the Issyk Kul Lake and the Central Tian Shan, with hotels and inns that are very hospitable and accommodating to tourists. If possible, time your visit to Karakol on a Sunday, when most of the activities in the area happen, If you visit on a Sunday, you’ll catch the Sunday market, animal bazaar, and the Russian cathedral services.
Karakol might be small, but there’s nothing diminutive about the joy in the hearts of the people who live here.
Jeti-Öghüz is a village just 25 kilometers west of Karakol. It is one of the towns that are situated around Issyk Kul Lake. In fact, the village is just a short distance from the main road encircling Issyk Kul Lake.
If you go south from the village, you will see the earth rising out of the ground in red patches – red sandstone cliffs that have become a trademark of the town. In this area is the Razbitoye Serdtse hill, which means “Broken Heart.” The legend states that there were two suitors who killed each other here in a fight for the love of one woman, and this splintered hill is the broken heart of the woman.
On the other side of this hill is the massive Jeti-Öghüz wall. Jeti-Öghüz means “Seven Bulls,” and the valley is named so because of the seven main bluffs or hills. The story behind this name tells of seven calves who grew big and strong in this rich and wonderful valley, However, due to the erosion in the area that has taken a beating on these hills, it looks like the bulls have multiplied
Ala-Too Square is the main square of Bishkek – the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The beautiful façade of Ala-Too makes it a prime picture opportunity for tourists, as Bishkek is usually the first stop for people traveling to Kyrgyzstan. Right in the middle of the square is a statue of Vladimir Lenin, an important historical figure.
If you are lucky to be in Bishkek when there is a grand ceremony or event, the activities will most likely be held here in Ala-Too Square. The wide and open area of the square makes it conducive to big gatherings.
Just beside the square is the State’s Historical Museum, which features a collection of the most valuable and most meaningful treasures that Kyrgyzstan has to show. A trip to this museum will show you a snapshot of the country’s history and culture.
Burana Tower is the only remnant of the ancient city of Balasugin – a symbol of the fleeting nature of civilization.
The Burana Tower is 10 kilometers south of Tokmok, at the foot of Shamsy Valley. Balasugin was established in the 10th century and was renamed as Gobalik (“good city”) by Genghis Khan when he spared it from destruction. Balasugin disappeared by the 15th century. Archaeological digs in the area revealed former sites of a fortress, shops, bazaars, religious buildings, and homes, among others. They are all gone, leaving only the Burana Tower standing today.
It is believed that the Burana Tower is a minaret – an Islamic structure where the call to prayer is made five times a day. It was originally roughly 45 meters tall but is now only 25 meters, as an earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the tower’s top half.
Visiting the BuranaTower will give you a sense of the rich history of Kyrgyzstan, as well as an appreciation of our current civilization that is still standing.