Although mineral water is
often thought of as a drink, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it
more generally as 'water found in nature with dissolved salts present'.
Some salts, of course, do not make for a very pleasant or refreshing
Kyrgyzstan is rich in a variety of mineral waters.
Many of them are thought to have curative properties, and spas and
sanatoria were established around them. There are over 50 thermal
springs, including Koshkor Ata, Djety Orguz, Issyk Ata and Ak Suu.
Curative mud (derived from silt and silt-peat) is
found mainly in the Issyk Kul region and is the reason why several
sanatoria have been established on the lake shores, although other
deposits are to be found in the Chui and Osh oblasts.
About 25 km south west of
Karakol is a lush valley with some striking red sandstone rock
formations (the 'seven Bulls' from which the valley takes its name).
The legend goes that a Kyrgyz khan stole the wife of another, who
sought advice from a 'wise man' about how he could reap his revenge.
The wise man was reluctant to give advice but in the end relented
telling him that he should kill his wife and give the body to his
rival. "Let him own a dead wife, not a living one". The khan made his
plans and at a funeral feast arranged to sit next to his stolen wife
and as the last of the nine bulls were being slaughtered as part of the
ritual, he took out his knife and stabbed her. From her heart gushed
blood and other fluids which carried the bulls down the valley and
where they came to rest became these cliffs.
As you approach the valley, you pass another rock
formation which resembles a broken heart and legend says that this is
the heart of a beautiful woman who died of a broken heart after two
suitors killed each other fighting over her.
These two rock formations have almost become
symbols of the Issyk Kul region and are popular images for photographs
In the village is an ancient cemetery and some
barrows (burial mounds).
Not far up the valley is the Djety Orguz
sanatorium, built in 1932, and the site of the first meeting between
Presidents Akayev and Yeltsin in 1991 after the abortive coup in
About 5 km south of the Jety Orguz sanatorium, the
Dolina Svetov (valley of flowers) opens out, which becomes a blaze of
colour from the month of May as multitudes of poppies bloom through
till summer. There are reported to be petroglyphs here but their
whereabouts are uncertain. There are often yurts here which can offer
The valley also contains the Djety Orguz State
Nearby is the village of Jele Debe where eagle
hunting demonstrations can be organized.
Trekking permits are necessary for the valley.
This is probably the most
visited site by foreign tourists coming to Karakol and is renowned for
its beauty. The Altyn Arashan (Golden Spa) valley leads up from the Ak
Suu valley, just south of the village of Teplokluenchka, to a Spartan
'hot spring' complex. The road is not an easy one, very steep in
places, and requires special heavy duty 4WD vehicles. It passes through
pine forests which contain many hidden springs (both hot and cold).
Bears are known to frequent the area. There is a small museum with
stuffed animals, typical of the region. The area includes the Arashan
State Nature Reserve which is a special botanical research preserve.
Above the resort are the Kyzyl Tash Cave and the
peaks of the Ak Suu range which rise to 5022 m. Nearby are the Tergen
Ak Suu, Djergalan, Koi Djailoo and other ravines.
Permits are needed for hiking in the region, and
they can be valid for 3 or 10 days. They are easy to obtain. From Altyn
Arashan there are a number of trekking routes, including one across the
Karakol, (via the Ala Kul Lake) and Djety Orguz valleys but the path
can be blocked by snow until well into summer.