I decided a few weeks back to head to the city of Naryn, Kyrgyzstan. Unlike the other Silk Road countries, Kyrgyzstan is famous for nomads and nature, meaning it does not share the beautiful Silk Road cities with its neighbour Uzbekistan. With this said, I could not turn down the only Silk Road building in the whole country! It is the biggest historical restoration project that the Russians undertook. The site is called Tashlibate, and is quite hard to get to...it can only be reached by private taxi. The sites’ biggest reward is seeing the little bits of original tile inside the structure. In addition it feels like a dungeon or ancient torture chamber, no one really knows its purpose but it was nice to visit this once important site!
Thanks to CBT Kyrgyzstan for setting up the trip: http://cbtkyrgyzstan.kg/
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Shaar Waterfall (near At-Bashy)
The Shaar Waterfall is the highest in Central Asia. It's a three to four hour trek, each way, by horse or on foot. The trek is a pleasant one, but it includes quite a bit of climbing, some of it steep, and several shallow river crossings. There are some camping spots at the falls and more along the way, so it would be easy to do as a two-day trek if you have camping equipment.
The trek starts at the southerly edge of the village of Bash-Kaindy, about a fifteen minute drive from the City of At-Bashy. You can arrange transportation with Kubat Tour or Visit At-Bashy or just hire a taxi in At-Bashy. To begin, just follow the clear stream up into the mountains. The trail climbs into the hills above the river after about 7 km. and doesn't drop down again until a few kilometers before the falls. At about kilometer 25, a large branch joins the stream from the west—do NOT follow it or you'll miss the falls.
Distance: 29.5 kilometers (round trip) Start: 41º09'40”N, 75º55'3.7”E; elevation: 2,207 meters End: 41º03'51.9”N, 76º00'17.9”E; elevation 3,238 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 1,345 meters Total elevation loss (one way): 359 meters Difficulty: 4 (long hike with some steep climbs)
Kol Suu is a spectacular glacial lake set in a rocky canyon whose shear sides drop almost straight down into the lake. It's difficult to get to, but is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Kyrgyzstan. It is located in the southeast of Naryn Oblast, near the Chinese border.
The lake lies behind a natural dam and is about 17 km. long. There are several springs at the base of the dam that are the source of the river that runs through the valley leading up to the lake. Because the walls of the canyon that holds the lake are so shear--at least at the northern end--it's not possible to explore very much of the lake on foot. And because there is a narrow bend in the lake at the north end, visitors see only about 20% of the lake from that end.
There are two roads to Kol Suu: one running east and south from At Bashy, which takes about five hours, and the other running past Tash Rabat and around the south side of Chatyr Kul before turning east toward Kol Suu, which takes about nine. The road is very rough and there are several river crossings, where there is no bridge and where the water level is above the floorboards on even a four-wheel drive vehicle. I can't imagine anyone getting there without a driver who knows the route and knows where and how to cross the rivers.
Because the lake is near the Chinese border, anyone going there needs a special permit. There are manned military checkpoints with gates on the two roads into Kol Suu, so you can't go without a permit. The officials at the checkpoints also check for passports, so if you go, take your passport with the permit.
This is a great hike from Tash Rabat to Chatyr Kol. It's long, so if you are taking camping equipment, you would probably want to do this in two days. There is a yurt camp at the end of the hike, so you can do this with a day pack. There are yak herds along the trek, so you are likely to encounter them. They tend to be afraid of humans.
Note: On the way down to Chatyr Kul, you will encounter a drop off, where there is a waterfall. The climb from there should not be attempted except by experienced climbers with climbing equipment. When you come to the drop off, if you look to your left, you will see a narrow slot: follow it up, then down, to bypass the waterfall. It may look like it drops off at the end, but it opens up to a walk off.
From Tash Rabat, follow the river up the valley. About half-way up the valley (at about 40º46'37.9”N, 75º18'20.7” E), the river splits—follow the right (westerly) fork. When you come to the end of the valley, you can continue straight up, which is a tough climb; left (where the path is); or right (westerly). Any of these ways will take you to the lake, but you may have a hike to get to a yurt camp. The right (westerly) pass leads straight to a yurt camp. See note above about the waterfall on the way down. If you're camping, the left path is slightly easier. Note that if you take the right path, you won't be able to see the lake from the pass: the climb down bends to the left, at which point the lake will be visible (if there are no clouds).
Distance (one way): 21.6 kilometers Start: 40º51'47.3”N, 75º16'37.5”E; elevation: 2,978 meters End: 40º43'10.5”N,75º17'9.44” E; elevation 3,616 meters Pass: 40º44'23.6”N, 75º17'26.9” E; elevation 3,996 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 1,338 meters Total elevation loss (one way): 703 meters Difficulty: 4 (long, but not too steep, except at the pass. See note about bypassing the waterfall).
Bag a peak, right in Naryn! This hike takes you to the top of the highest of the triple peaks that loom over Naryn. It will take you 8-12 hours, but the views are spectacular.
This hike starts just behind the large park across from the westerly automobile bridge that crosses the Naryn River. Go through the park to the canal behind the park, then look for the small, concrete bridge that crosses the canal. Across that bridge, you'll see some houses up on a ledge. Climb up to the houses and along the street in front of them, which leads to a large valley. Follow the valley past the first green valley opening on the right as you climb. When you come to the second green valley (at 41º26'04”N, 76º06'17”E), follow it up through the trees. It's a long, steep climb. When you get up out of that valley, you'll see the peak above you up a long, steep, grassy slope. Climb up an enjoy the views!
Distance (one way): 7.31 kilometers Start: 41º25'33.3”N, 75º57'2.3”E; elevation: 2,030 meters End: 41º23'45.4”N, 75º56'7.7”E; elevation: 3,323 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 1,596 meters Total elevation loss (one way): 308.5 meters Difficulty: 4.5 (long and steep for most of the hike)
This is an easy day hike not far from Naryn. It's only about 4 km. round trip if you get a ride to the foot path. A taxi or hitchhiking are both possible alternatives to get to the foot path. The footpath is about 4.55 km. from the bus station in Naryn, so it's possible to walk from there or bike, but, of course, that adds nearly 10 km. to the roundtrip distance. The footpath starts from the main road between Naryn and At Bashy at the first switchback to the At Bashy Pass. You can see the lush, green valley from the switchback.
Follow the stream up the valley and enjoy the views of several small waterfalls on the way up. After about 1.7 km., you will come to a slot where the walls are shear and it's impossible to continue on without climbing equipment. Just past the slot, you can see what looks like the opening of a very large cave—maybe 40 m. tall. It's actually a huge rock tube, with several openings to the sky. The route described includes a very steep climb up the adjacent slope that gives a view of the top of the rock tube and the shear valley with the river running through it. While the views from the top are spectacular, it's a tough climb up, so you can relax by the river if you'd rather skip the climb.
Distance (one way): 2.04 kilometers (hiking from the bus station adds 4.56 km. (one way)) Start: 41º23'16”N, 76º00'36.5”E; elevation: 2,226 meters End: 41º22'52”N, 76º0'21”E; elevation 2,421 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 411.5 meters Total elevation loss (one way): 21 meters Difficulty: 2 (easy hike, some modest climbing) if you skip the hike up the slope. Adding the slope makes this a 3 (very steep slope, but not too long and nothing technical).
This easy day hike goes directly into the mountains from the village of Birinchi Mai (May Day). It's a beautiful hike that passes many yurt camps, where local families stay for the summer while their animals are in the high pastures. If you're lucky, you may be invited into one of their yurts for a cup of tea or a glass of kumiss. The route starts a few kilometers outside of Birinchi Mai, but its certainly possible to hike directly from the village. The path continues much farther into the mountains too, so this could be made into a multi-day trek.
The trail follows the beautiful river that flows through Birinchi Mai. You can either hike directly from the village, or take a taxi to the described starting point, and skip some less-interesting scenery. The trail climbs steadily, but is not too steep. There are many beautiful picnic spots along the trail, and you're never far from the river.
Distance (one way): 2.46 kilometers Start: 41º8'22.1”N, 76º2'47.6”E; elevation: 2,499 meters End: 41º7'8.8”N, 76º2'42.7”E; elevation 2,707.5 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 208.5 meters Total elevation loss (one way): .27 meters Difficulty: 2 (easy hike, some modest climbing)
This pilgrimage trek is very close to At Bashy and leads to a good panorama of then entire At Bashy valley. Chetch Dubo is sacred to the Kyrgyz people, and many Kyrgyz people come to the sacred spring with petitions for healing or other gifts. Almambet, the best friend of Manas, the hero of the Kyrgyz national epic, is buried at Chetch Dubo. According to the legend, when Manas and Almambet went to war in China together, Almambet asked Manas to bring his body back to Kyrgyzstan if he should die in battle. Almambet did die, and Manas fulfilled his promise by bringing Almambet's body back to Chetch Dubo, where he was buried.
While it is possible to hike from At Bashy, the trail is not very interesting and crosses a shallow stream several times. The easier route is to take a taxi toward Terek Suu and Kara Suu, then have the driver let you off at the entrance road to Chetch Dubo, and that's the starting point for this hike. From the road, you walk about 1.66 km. to a family compound. To your left as you face the hill, there is a small mosque, and the holy spring is just beyond the mosque. Continue up past the compound and stay to the right as the path climbs to the top. At the top, you may find a ring of rocks marking Almambet's grave and a flag marking the top. Enjoy the views if the day is clear!
Distance (one way): 2.6 kilometers Start: 41º7'46”N, 75º45'12”E; elevation: 2,077 meters End: 41º8'58”N, 75º45'25”E; elevation: 2,165.6 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 116.13 meters Total elevation loss (one way): 27.37 meters Difficulty: 2 (easy hike, some modest climbing)
This hike starts at Akel's Yurt Camp, just over the second automobile bridge after (north) of the village of Eki Naryn. There are many jeep and trekking paths in the area, and they all lead to beautiful pastures.
From Akel's Yurt Camp, start out on the jeep path into the mountains. You can continue to follow the jeep path, or head up one of the steeper but faster footpaths. Just above the tree line you will reach a broad plateau. From there, there are many paths into the jailoos (pastures) and surrounding mountains. Distance (one way): 3.45 kilometers
Start: 41º35'11.66”N, 76º26'37.8”E; elevation: 2,356.4 meters Top: 41º34'42.78”N, 76º25'39”E; elevation: 2,740 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 116.13 meters Total elevation loss (one way): 27.37 meters Difficulty: 2 (easy hike, some modest climbing)
Kashka Suu is a beautiful, unspoiled region of Naryn Oblast, full of clear rivers, glaciers, canyons, caves and pristine lakes. The Arpa River bisects Kashka Suu and the deep river valley is spectacular. The sandstone spires and hoodoos near the yurt camp are unlike any others in Kyrgyzstan. Ibex are plentiful and some lakes are full of trout. There are a few jeep tracks through the area, and trails tend to be well-maintained as they are used by hunters. You can arrange transportation and guides through Kubat Tour, and those organizations can also arrange a yurt stay with Baktobek Baike
You will definitely need help getting to Kashka Suu, as there are no taxis or marshrutka (or roads) past Jerge Tal. There are the ruins of a couple of ancient fortresses along the road from Baetov—Cholok Korgon, just east of the village of Konorchok, and Shyrdakbek Korgon, just north of the village of Shyrdakbek. The history museum at Baetov has more information about them. The starting point for this trek—the Arpa River valley—is spectacular and is also the site of an infamous event in Kyrgyz history: in 1916, as part of the Urkun, a revolt by the native Kyrgyz against Russian invaders, Russian forces lined up hundreds of Kyrgyz revolutionaries on the edge of the bluff, shot them, and pushed the bodies over the edge. Some historians estimate that half of the residents of northern Kyrgyzstan died in the Urkun. Between the starting point and the yurt camp, there are five or six small lakes, some of which are crystal clear and filled with trout. There is a small cave at the base of a bluff near the yurt camp, but the entrence is hidden by brush. As you hike, keep an eye out for ibex and marco polo sheep, as there are many of them in the region.
Distance (one way): 37.48 kilometers Start: 41º0'30.6”N, 74º27'56”E; elevation: 2,809 meters End: 40º51'55.24”N,74º21'50.03” E; elevation 2,927 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 2,831 meters Total elevation loss (one way): 2,478 meters Difficulty: 3 (some steep climbs, but nothing too steep—the climb into and out of the Arpa River valley is steep, but short). Cave: 40º57'7.84”N, 74º21'2.99”E Yurt Camp: 40º57'7.12”N, 74º22'27.48”E
This is a challenging hike that gets you into the high pastures above Naryn, with views over the Naryn and At-Bashy Valleys, all the way to At-Bashy and surrounding villages. Most of the climbing is in the first 5 km. at each end, although there is plenty of climbing throughout. It is a long day trip, but could be shortened by doing only one leg, or by taking the direct route from one leg to the other, rather than going higher into the mountains.
The start of this hike is at the east end of Naryn, accesible by taxi or by the no. 2 marshrutka. Go past the Han Tengri hotel (the ending is at the top of the hill past the Han Tengri), past the small mosque, and get off at the school, just past the mosque on the left (north). The trail follows a small stream that is just an empty streambed for most of the year. Follow the road up from the main road along the streambed. After 600 m. The road goes left over the streambed and into the hills for about 150 m. before returning to the streambed and the last house in town. The trail climbs steeply along the stream and passes through a narrow, rocky gap after about 2.2 km. Just after passing through the gap, the trail climbs into the hills to the right to a pass. At the top of the pass, you will see a small homestead down in the valley to the left. Follow the beautiful, green, fenced pastures along the stream until the fencing ends. Shortly after the fencing ends, at about 3.5 km., you will see the ruins of a mud-brick homestead to the left. Follow the branch of the trail that goes up into the hills to your right BEFORE the ruins. The trail climbs steeply with a couple of switchbacks to another homestead and fenced pasture. Continue up over the next ridge into a wide mountain valley. You will see the foundation of an old homestead just over the ridge. Climb up the valley to the top. Enjoy the views, then head back down. Once back at the foundation, stay left over the ridge and follow the jeep track and path down to another homestead. The farmer's name is Marat. If you're lucky he may offer you a cup of tea or a glass of kumiss. Continue down the valley past Marat's homestead until you reach a dirt road and houses, then out to the main road, just up the hill from the Han Tengri Hotel.
Distance (complete route): 20.6 kilometers Start: 41º25'32.6”N, 76º02'46.8”E; elevation: 2,065 meters Highest Point: 41º22'36”N, 76º04'43”E; elevation: 3,320.5 meters End: 41º25'17.65”N, 76º01'45.6”E Total elevation gain: 1,517 meters Total elevation loss: 1,502 meters Difficulty: 4 (fairly challenging, but no technical climbing)
Salkyn Tor is a national park located about 12 km. East of Naryn City. The entrance to the park is about 2 km. From the arch on the main road and there are toilets and picnic facilities near the entrance. A beautiful river runs the length of the park. The hiking trail runs along the river and runs from the entrance area. You cross three pedestrian bridges in the first couple of kilometers of the hike. Once past the third bridge, the trail continues, crossing the river at several points. At a river crossing, watch carefully for the path on the other side, as it can be difficult to spot. There are many nice camping spots along the way, and the river is never far from the path.
At about 10 km. there is a sheperds' camp in a grove of pines on the east side of the river. It's concealed in the pines, so you may miss it. Above that camp, the trail disappears, and it's a rocky scramble up to treeline. At the treeline, the river splits, but both sides go up to glacier, which is the source of the river. There is a beautiful open valley at the top. Snow bridges covered the river at several spots in late June, and there is lots of snow at the top.
Distance (one way): 13 kilometers Start: 41º26'34.5”N, 76º11'3.4”E; elevation: 2,167 meters End: 41º22'17”N, 76º13'34.6”E; elevation: 3,221 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 1,690 meters Total elevation loss (one way): 660.5 meters Difficulty: 4 (fairly challenging, but no technical climbing)
Seyil Bulak is a pretty hike along a small stream at the eastern edge of Naryn. The start is accesible by the No. 2 marshrutka or by taxi. There are several nice picnic spots along the valley.
You can reach the start of this hike—a small stream running into the Naryn River—by taking the No. 2 marshrutka nearly to its eastern end. As you leave Naryn on the marshrutka, the road drops down and makes a turn to the right. The stream is just at the turn. Hike up the path along the stream. There is a mud-brick home about 200 meters up the path. Stay on the eastern (left) side of the stream past this home. The valley then opens up, and the path runs on both sides of the stream. You will come to a narrows, where there is an abandoned irrigation system on posts. Again the valley opens up, then narrows again. Stay to the eastern (left) side of the stream at this second narrows, as the trail ends on the other side. The trail runs above the stream for a bit, then dips down again to a very pleasant meadow.
Distance (one way): 2.41 kilometers Start: 41º25'42.8”N, 76º4'5.8”E; elevation: 2,090 meters End: 41º24'42”N, 76º04'47.6”E; elevation: 2,269 meters Total elevation gain (one way): 220 meters Total elevation loss (one way): 44.81 meters Difficulty: 2 (easy hike, some modest climbing and must cross stream)