Barskoon Valley

Baarskoon valley & waterfalls

Barskoon Valley, also known as Barskaun is one of the most magnificent valleys in Kyrgyzstan with high mountains, waterfalls and thick spruce forests nearby the southern shore of Issyk-Kul. There is also a village named Barskoon north from the valley, at the mouth of the Barskoon valley, not far from the shore of Issyk-Kul. Barskoon is a medium sized Kyrgyz agriculture village that has very limited services for tourists except for some coffee shops and tour guides that can help you to explore the Barskoon Valley and other surrounding sights. The yurt making is still a big thing in the south side of Issyk-Kul and there is at least one “yurt factory” in the Barskoon village where one can see different phases of the yurt making process.

Inside the valley there is an impressive chain of Barskoon waterfalls, 20 km south from the crossing of roads 364 and 363 which is the main road on the south side of Issyk-Kul. The point where the path leads up to the waterfall can be easily spotted by a big concrete statue of Yuri Gagarin on the other side of the road. It is also not far of the remains of a silk road era fortress than can barely be seen from the road if you look carefully but from the drone or satellite is very apparent. 

The path up to waterfalls starts from a small yurt village (only in summer time) with toilets and inexpensive local food, fermented milk drinks and horseback riding services available. In the end of August or beginning of September the autumn colors in the valley are spectacular. At the foot of the route, the river from the waterfalls joins the Barskoon river bringing there very clear water from the high mountain areas. 

The Barskoon waterfalls

The waterfall chain, which name translated into English means the tears of the snow leopard, actually consists of 3 separate large waterfalls and several smaller ones. The first small waterfall can be reached easily as the path there is not yet steep. After the first waterfall the path becomes more steep towards the actual Tears of the snow leopard fall, which is the most beautiful of the three. The path takes you up the mountainside in between Tien Shan furs (spruce-like trees) and small meadows with Edelweiss and Barberry bushes. Follow the edge of the gorge and stay left not to stray too far from the waterfall and after about about 30 – 45 minutes  (depending on your fitness) you will reach the destination. 

The second waterfall has a lot of water pouring down for about 24 meters in an arc, making the nearby area full of fog or small water drops that will cool you off after the hike upwards. If the flow is not too high under the waterfall you can also cross the river to reach the bottom of the waterfall. From the “right” side where the path came from, the waterfall bottom is not really reachable due to big slippery rocks. 

Highest waterfall of Barskoon
Third waterfalls in Barskoon
Snow or glacier in the Barskoon valley mountains
First waterfall in Barskoon

The third waterfall and further higher is only recommended to fit and steady footed as the main path that goes up to the third waterfall is considerably steep and has some loose sand and gravel which will makes especially going downwards hard and somewhat scary. If you decide to go, after 45 to 60 minutes of climbing you will reach the third waterfall which is not as high as the second one but it is more wild and rough. If you want to go even further you can follow the path to reach the high planes to see the emptiness of the mountains where you might see some ice and snow even in August. If you feel uncertain about the route or hiking by yourself, it is a good idea to hire a guide or go with a group not to hurt yourself.

If you decide to go for the highest waterfall you will not only reach a nice waterfall but get a magnificent view of the Barskoon valley and Issyk Kul with the Tien Shan Kungoy Ala Too mountain range behind it, that separates Kyrgyzstan from Kazakhstan on the other side of Issyk Kul, assuming the weather is clear enough. Up there you can also enjoy the very cool mountain breeze and solitude as people rarely come here. You might also have a glimpse of the large mountain marmots and the toes of glaciers.

Yuri Gagarin statues in Barskoon Valley

Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space spent some time in this valley to recover from his mission to space. There are 2 different statues built in Barskoon to honor him. One of them is a large red colored monument by the Barskoon river and the second one is a statue of Gagarin, raised on top of a concrete pole with amazing background towards the waterfalls and mountains of Barskoon.

Yuri Gagarin monument in Barskoon valley
Statue of Yuri Gagarin in Barskoon

Barskoon Valley tours

Barskoon Valley is one of the highlights of Issyk Kul area and it is therefore included in many of our Kyrgyzstan Tours and also in the multi country Central Asia Tours.

Travel to Barskoon Valley

The road that goes through the Barskoon valley along the Barskoon river and used to be one of the routes of the Silk Road, passing over the Bedel Pass (4,284 m) into China. If you are in Karakol, you can reach the  Barskoon village by marshrutka and it should cost you about 300 som per way. You can also take a shared taxi with other travelers and split the bill or take the whole taxi for yourself when the cost is around 1300 som. 

If you are in Bishkek you can go to Bishkek western bus station and talk to the drivers to drop you to Barskoon on the way to Karakol or any village in the south part of Issyk-Kul and negotiate about the price that requires some Russian skills and even better if you have some locals with you to handle the speaking to avoid too high prices. 

Sights & Destinations near Basrskoon Valley

Page updated 14.7.2022

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