The Arslanbob forest is one of the world’s biggest walnut forests. It is located along the rocky cliffs of the Babash-Alta Mountain. This impressive forest borders the picturesque village of the same name. It is an important attraction in the country for its soothing and relaxing environment, and its two waterfalls. Arslanbob is also a place of pilgrimage due to the many sacred spots it holds.
According to some scientists, the Arslanbob forest is over 50 million years old, and it probably dates back to the Paleolithic era. The legend has it that Alexander the Great came to this forest with his troops to hide during one of his conquests. That is when he discovered the walnut, and brought it back to Greece and Macedonia.
From Arslanbob, head off for a day hike in the forest. You will walk by Kyrgyzstan’s tallest waterfall before reaching the forest located at 1,600 m (5,249 ft) altitude. The Arslanbob forest extends over 10 km (6.2 miles). Caves in the mountains hold century old mysteries and secrets. Pilgrims also often trek to a crystal blue lake that is thought sacred.
You will cross herds of horses and cows freely breeding, butterflies and grasshoppers, raccoons or deer.
The hike offers great spots for a relaxing picnic as well. For centuries, the inhabitants found it ideal to chat at the edge of streams, protected from the heat by the hundred-year-old trees. Blue waters that flow through whitish stones, with forest and mountains in the background, offer a particularly pleasant picture for a lunch break. Towering at the heart of the region, the Peak Babash-Ata (4,490 m or 14,731 ft) and its eternal snow will accompany you throughout your hike in the forest.
Along the way, you will be able to discover a great diversity of trees and shrubs. Some walnut trees are very old and reach 30 m (98 ft) high. They are strong with their trunk of 2 m (6.6 ft) in diameter and can offer between 200 kg (441 pounds) and 400 kg (882 pounds) of fruit per year. The dense forest has several paths that will allow you to stroll freely while enjoying the smell of fresh wood and natural vegetation. You may see some locals at work in the forest too. During the Soviet Union, the forest was equally distributed among the families of Arslanbob, who still take care of the walnut trees today.
October is a great period to go to Arslanbob and to taste fresh walnuts. The landscape is then adorned with magnificent warm autumn colors and the forest reveals all its wealth. People of this region will be happy to make you taste their walnuts after the harvest.
On the way back from the forest, make sure to stop at the smaller waterfall in the center of the village.
You can reach the Arslabob forest by foot from the village of Arslanbob. It’s better to take a guide to show you around the many parcels and the labyrinth of old walnut trees.
There are public buses and taxis that go from Bishkek to Arslanbob. They leave the station as soon as they are full, and the journey takes about 8 to 9 hours.