Located in the South-West of Kyrgyzstan, Jalal-Abad is the capital of the region with the same name. Very close to the Uzbek border, it’s the third biggest city in the country. Jalal-Abad is nestled in the Babash-Ata mountain range, North of the Fergana valley and along the Kugart river.
Surrounded by mountains and pastures, Jalal-Abad is mostly known for its mineral sources and its thermal centers. The atmosphere in the city is very relaxing thanks to the many students who attend its universities. Stop by Jalal-Abad to discover its charming large and green avenues and its very attractive region.
Back in history
You will find the Persian suffix « Abad » in many Asian cities. It is usually attached to the name of the founder of the city. Jalal-Abad, also spelled Jalalabad, Dzhalal-Abad or Jalalabat, was founded by Jalal ad Din, who was famous in the region for having opened many chaikhanas, tea houses, and caravanserai to welcome travelers.
Located on one of the main axes of the Silk Road, Jalal-Abad has a long tradition of hospitality. It has always been visited by merchants, pilgrims, who come for the many sacred sites in the region, and sick people hoping to get healed thanks to the city’s curative water. The main thermal station of Jalal-Abad, Hozret-Ayub-Paighambar, was believed for many years to cure leprosy.
Still today, several thermal stations built during the Soviet era offer programs to treat chronic diseases. Jalal-Abad’s mineral bottled water is exported throughout the country and even aboard.
Like in many ex-soviet cities, the main avenue of Jalal-Abad is called the Lenin Street. Jalal-Abad has many other testimonies of this past, including several fountains and, on the central square, a surprising golden statue of Lenin who, for once, is sitting.
Cafes in the center are always busy with students. Have a break to try traditional Kyrgyz and Uzbek cuisine. You can also continue your stroll to the bazaar, where you’ll be able to try delicious little breads with sesame grains or samsy, meat-stuffed bread. Next to the bazaar, stop by a shop specialized in local nut products. You can try the exquisite nut jam with honey and fruits. There are a few museums in the city center as well, where you can learn about the culture and history of this peculiar region.
Jalal-Abad’s famous thermal station lies at 975 m (3,199 ft) altitude on the Ayub-Tau Mountain, about 3 km (1.8 miles) from the city. You’ll get a panoramic view on the city and the valley, and you’ll be able to try a mud bath or drink a couple of glasses of the curing water.
The region of Jalal-Abad is very attractive. In Arslanbob, you’ll be able to go for a hike in one of the world’s oldest and largest walnut forests. The legend says that Alexander the Great brought back to Macedonia nuts from Kyrgyzstan.
The Sary Chelek natural reserve and its superb alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains and fruit trees is a great sport for trekking. You can also just relax by the water to enjoy the landscape.
If you’re a fan of history, make sure to stop by the 10,000 petroglyphs of the Saimaluu-Tash Mountain.
How to get there ?
From Bishkek, buses and collective taxis go to Jalal-Abad on a regular basis.
Trains in Kyrgyzstan are often cheaper and safer, since they will not be perturbed by climate changes. But the network is not very developed. In the North, you can take a train from Bishkek to Balykchy to the Issyk Kul Lake. In the South, the train connects Andijon in Uzbekistan to Osh and Jalal-Abad.