With 90% of the country land above 1500m in elevation, Kyrgyzstan has some amazing valleys. Altyn Arashan is one of the most famous ones for its dreamy landscape and hot springs. It is even more enjoyable that it is not so easy to reach it!
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INFO & PLANNING TIPS - Altyn Arashan Valley
The Altyn Arashan runs parrallel to Karakol valley. At its south end you can see almost the whole time (if the weather is clear), the snow capped mountain Palatka which reaches 4,260m in elevation.
Although difficult to access, it is one of the most popular destinations around Karakol with the Arashan river, colorful flowers, green slopes, hot springs and trees.
TIPS FOR TRAVEL PLANNING ADDICTS - Altyn Arashan
Getting to Altyn Arashan hot springs
- The valley begins at Teploklyuchenka village east of Karakol town. As you will see below the road is very bumpy and you need a tough 4WD vehicle. The road has some steep sections. It took us more than 2 hours to drive the 12km.
- Companies run day tours via big russian 4WD trucks. We used Tien Shan Travel. Or if you are courageous you can hike up there or go horse back riding.
- You can also enjoy a trek from Ala Kul (taxi from Karakol) to Altyn Arashan - you can learn more on Jills' guide here
Visiting Altyn Arashan valley and hot springs
- Camping is possible everywhere. There is a small guesthouse and a small rudimentary complex with a dormitory, outside toilets, hots springs and a restaurant: the Kolkhoz hotel.
- The 'hotel' serves lunch. It was very tasty.
- Access to the concrete hot springs is 50 to 100 SOM depending on the period
- There are also some free natural ones but you would have to hike around to find them.
I must admit the drive was very difficult for me. I suffer from motion sickness and vertigo. Between the very bumpy road and the big drop sometimes, I was really sick but glad when we reached the hot springs. Gennadi was our driver and as you can see we had a strong russian vehicle 🙂 . I was sitting at the front and it was interesting to see him drive. The position to change gear (almost at his back) really did not make sense to me.
The beginning of the road looked smooth but as you can see (although pictures cannot really show it), it quickly became rocky and bumpy. My back and my head still remember it.
It was good that the scenery was beautiful. It helped me go through it. At the beginning is was narrow and we were following the river. Many times we crossed animal groups that were being moved to higher grass fields for the summer.
The main section of the valley and terminus of our drive is where they set up some hot spring concrete baths next to the river. The Valley there widens with a nice mix of colors and good perspective all the way to mount Palatka.
Here are the outside toilets. Not bad for such an isolated place.
I decided to walk back on the road and hiked a little to get to what I think is the best view of the Altyn Arshan valley. Plus I found a nice picnic table to settle and write my thoughts. I really enjoyed feeling alone with nature, listening to the river flowing. The bird sounds were particularly interesting. I have no knowledge about it so I cannot tell you what type of birds I heard. Just that I enjoyed it.
As you can see the clouds were coming and going. The weather can change quickly (especially in June) so bring layers with you. I was happy to have my warm wool hat from Iceland with me.
The hot baths
I you like bathing in hot water, they have set up some small cabins with concrete pools to enjoy the water from the hot spring. I prefer cold water so I did not experience it myself but the people in my group really enjoyed it.
And some nomadic Kyrgyz
As I walked around away from anyone else, I met some Kyrgyz nomads leading their animals to higher grounds for the summer. Once again the animals were beautiful and healthy. Seeing all the horses run in the same direction was impressive. I come from France. I think the most horses I have seen at the same time was 15 and they did not look free like those animals 🙂
So if you can stomach the 2 hours each way of crazy bumpy and scary driving, this valley is a little bit of Earth paradise.
Want to see more of Kyrgyzstan's beauty?
Discover more planning information, things to do and places to see in my online Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide.
Do you like bathing in hot springs?
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