Altyn Arashan, which means "The Golden Sources", is a splendid valley located around ten kilometers (6.2 miles) away from the city of Karakol, in eastern Kyrgyzstan. Famous for its splendid landscapes and hot springs, the Arashan Valley is the ideal place for short and long hikes.
Back in history
During the Soviet period, 25 snow leopards were trapped by hunters in the Altyn Arashan Valley. They were then shipped to zoos around the world. In 1975, hunting was finally prohibited in the area, which became a national wildlife reserve. Nowadays, specialists have counted around 20 snow leopards living in the valley.
Although it is difficult to access, the Altyn Arashan valley that towers at an altitude of 3,000 m (9,842 ft) is really worth seeing. This majestic green valley, inhabited only by nomads and wild animals, is the perfect postcard scenery from Kyrgyzstan, with its beautiful peaks in the background such as the Palatka (“Tent”) Summit at 4,260m (13,976 ft) and its eternal snow. The valley is even more attractive with its natural hot springs that have great curative properties.
Hiking in the Altyn Arashan Valley
The Altyn Arashan valley is very famous for the hiking opportunities it offers close to Karakol. Some of the routes are difficult, but the breathtaking landscape always comes as a great reward for your efforts.
You can hike up to the hot springs in a total of 5 or 6 hours. The starting point of the hike is located at the southern end of the town of Teploklyuchenka, which is more commonly called Ak-Suu, about 12 km (7.5 miles) east of Karakol.
The first part of the hike will make you walk along the Arashan River. Surrounded by pine trees and large flowery pastures, the trail begins gently. It is only a few kilometers later that the snowy peaks appear. The journey will become difficult in some places, with a rocky road that gradually climbs upwards. But when you arrive at the top of the trail, you will have a magnificent view of the snowy peaks and the entire valley. You may also encounter mountain goats, deer, and groundhogs and see footprints of bears or snow leopards if you are lucky.
The best, though, comes at the end: after this tiring hike, you’ll get to swim in the hot springs!
From Altyn Arashan, you may continue into a multiday trek to the Ala Kol Lake or to the Jety Oguz Valley.
The Altyn Arashan Hot Springs
The resort has several natural hot springs. Some are free and open air, located near the river. Others are in private small pools in the guest houses. You’ll be able to swim in privacy for a fee of around 200 soms.
The swimming pools contain natural and very warm sulphuric water that has great healing properties. A certificate is pinned on the door of each cabin boasting the curative properties of these waters and detailing all the diseases which they can treat. The water reaches temperatures close to 50°C.
You can spend the night in the guest houses in the valley, in the yurts or in your tent.
How to get there?
The starting point for the hike is at the southern end of the Ak-Suu's town (Teploklyuchenka), approximately 12 km east of Karakol.
To go there, take the bus (marshrutka) number 350 in Karakol. Then, you just need to tell the driver where your destination is and he will tell you when to get off. When returning, take the same marshrutka.
Instead of hiking up to the springs, you can also try the dirt road with a soviet jeep and an experienced driver, or rent quads for part of the way.