Exploring Kyrgyzstan: Arslanbob

A handful of volunteers who work all over Kyrgyzstan made the long journey to Jalal-Abad last weekend. In addition to observing classes and catching up after a month at site, we visited the nearby village of Arslanbob – famous for being the world’s largest natural walnut forest – for a weekend of hiking. (Hiking might be a strong word for how we actually spent the weekend – drinking tea on a tapchan, goofing around with our host’s 5-year old son Mahammadi, eating plov in the forest, and playing card games late into the night.)

This wasn’t my first trip to Arslanbob, which translates to “Lion’s Gate” in some mix of Turkic languages (the village is 95% Uzbek, but its official name is the Kyrgyz Arstanbap). The seven volunteers living in southern Jalal-Abad oblast gathered there for a 4th of July celebration this summer. It was much hotter and we had less of a grasp on getting around, but we still managed to survive the 11-mile loop (and 1,500 foot change in elevation) to Kyrgyzstan’s tallest waterfall. I won’t lie and say I smiled the whole way up; it was pretty miserable, but the climb offered some pretty incredible views and would have scared my mom to death.

It’s neat to now be able to compare and contrast Arslanbob’s landscape across seasons — its hard to say which jaunt to the village I liked better, but for now my current infatuation with fall in Kyrgyzstan (and my distaste for hiking at a 90 degree angle for 2 hours) have me leaning toward this past weekend. I hear Arslanbob is one of the best places for skiing in Kyrgyzstan, so be ready for some more pics of this place come winter…

chong waterfall
at the top
fall arslanbob
fall trees arslanbob
fall river


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