Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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Mineral water

Mineral waterAlthough 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 drink.

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.


Mineral waterAbout 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 and paintings.

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 Moscow.

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 accommodation.

The valley also contains the Djety Orguz State Zoological reserve.

Nearby is the village of Jele Debe where eagle hunting demonstrations can be organized.

Trekking permits are necessary for the valley.


Mineral waterThis 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.

By Ian Claytor

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #4

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