Ala Archa valley
Ala Archa National Park is located about 40 kilometers south from Bishkek. In Kyrgyz language the archa is a juniper related tree which gives the park its name, The Kyrgyz people have traditionally held this tree in a special esteem, using smoke from its burning wood to chase away evil spirits. These trees can be found in many locations in the valley.
Inside the park you can find a big river that runs all the way along to road to Bishkek through the Osh bazar and until the Ala Archa reservoir which is located on the North side of Bishkek. Ala-Archa is an easy way to get to know with Kyrgyz mountains, flora and fauna and you can also do different length hiking trips within the Valley. Ala-Archa is also one of the closest places to breathe the fresh air after Bishkek air quality. The park is also a suitable place to visit with kids and there are tables along the walking way where you can have a picnic and walk safely in the shade given by the trees in the picnic area.
How to get to Ala Archa valley
You can reach the park by hiring a taxi almost anywhere from Bishkek or to try hitch hiking along the road going south to Ala-Archa. You should be able to find a ride with few hundred som. Some tourists also rent a bike to reach the park but bear in mind that the elevation difference from Bishkek to Ala Archa is significant. There is also a possibility to public transportation with marshrutka 265 but it will not cover the whole way but drops you off in Kashka-Suu, the closest village near Ala Archa from where you still have about 16 kilometers to the National park. You can try to ask the marshrutka driver to drop you off at the park entrance gate for an additional sum but better not count on it. If you decide to take the marshrutka then we would advise to try to hitch hike the rest of the way.
There is a 450 som fee to enter the park with car, 600 som with minivan and if you arrive without a car the fee will be 80som /person. For more adventurous ones there is a lot more of the valley to explore all the way up to Ak-Sai glacier if you feel like it. But be prepared to bring snacks, water and good hiking equipment to try the Eastern path that takes you to the Ak-Sai Waterfall and finally up to the glacier’s lowest part which is 3,3 km above the sea level where there is also a small stone made hut (Ratsek hut) just next to the glacier. We only suggest this one to the strong footed and considerably fit ones, especially the path to the glaciers need preparation and skill.
The Ak-Sai waterfall with a height of about 40 m is located at an altitude 2860 m above sea level at a distance of 4,7 km from the Ala-Archa camp site. To get there, you need to take the Eastern path starting from the accommodation camp and continue to the left fork of the path up the hill. After 1.5 km you reach two huge rocks lying on the steep slope of the gorge Ak-Sai and have a marvelous view of the Ala-Archa Valley behind you. The trail continues East, firstly with a small uniform elevation, and then with a slight descent reaching the river Sharkaratma coming from Northwest and joining the Ak-Say river. The waterfall might not have that much water or even no water at all during the dry summer months so it is best to visit during spring time or in the autumn. After crossing the Sharkaratma river the trail continues towards the waterfall towards South-East and is about 1 km away from this point.