Jyrgalan valley, also written as Zhargalan, is an amazing mountain valley located in the eastern part of the Issyk-Kul region, next to the border with Kazakhstan to the East and beyond that, China. The valley is 60 kilometers East – Northeast from the city of Karakol. There is a village named Jyrgalan as well situated at 2500 meters above sea level and being one of the most remote towns in the Northeast part of Kyrgyzstan. The village is circled by high mountains from all directions but Northwest. Perhaps due to the isolated location, it has recently started to attract many tourists.
The coal mine operations in the area began in 1932 and stimulated a new economic force in the region that was before totally nomadic. The families started to settle in Jyrgalan in the hopes of jobs and better quality of life provided by the new Soviet way of life which mostly overcame the old nomadic lifestyle. Jyrgalan developed during the Soviet times a lot due to the successful mining in the area but with the fall of the Soviet Union the prosperity also collapsed fast as after Kyrgyzstan’s independence the local industry could not replace the need for coal that was steadily provided by the open borders of the union. Following independence, residents began to leave Jyrgalan for better opportunities. The younger generations mostly left in search of a better life to Karakol or Bishkek. Today the coal mine is still in operation just on a much smaller scale and most of the old mining equipment is lying down in the nature slowly decaying next to the old mine shafts. Gradually, Jyrgalan almost got emptied, and today there are just a small number of families left. Rather than mining coal again, they chose to exploit their valley’s other great natural resources. They desired to attract tourists here to enjoy the magnificent landscapes and the beautiful scenery and to create new economic opportunities for themselves and for the future generations of Jyrgalan.
Jyrgal translated from Kyrgyz “Pleasure” the name is truly reflected in the unique valley of the central Tien Shan. In summer, visitors come for kymyz treatment centers and for outdoor recreation. In winter, off-piste skiing and snowboarding lovers gather here. Although there is no ski resort in the valley, it is covered with snow from November to March, due to the relative proximity of Lake Issyk-Kul and the lack of wind blowing through the valley. As there is no cable car available many use the all-terrain vehicles which can deliver mountain extreme enthusiasts to the slopes. In summer the valley is covered with a carpet of flowers, and at the beginning of the autumn season you can pick up mushrooms, which grow under huge fir trees. USAID has supported the destination management organization that aims to develop economic opportunities. Additionally, infrastructure in Jyrgalan is gradually improving in the hopes of boosting tourism in the area. Nowadays a lot of tourists come to enjoy the calm atmosphere of the area and to walk around in the paths or to trek further and using the Jyrgalan as a base. Several horse treks are available to most of the trekking destinations from Jyrgalan as well.
Tulpak Tash translates as horse rock and the iconic stone was mentioned in the ancient epic of Manas. It is a massive rock with a deep cultural and historical significance for the Kyrgyz people. In the story, the horse of Manas jumps from this 5 meter rock to disseminate his enemies. The Tulpak Tash rock has several ancient drawings on it and some even see the horse’s footprint in it. The rock is an easy walk to Southwest from Jyrgralan on a slope of mountain.
Between the valley Zhyrgalan and Terim Tor, there is a gorge called Eki-Chat. The place is used by locals as jailoo during the summer months from June to September. Beautiful fields of flowers, juniper and Edelweiss blankets cover the green slopes and a fresh breeze cools the ravine even in the hottest days. The gorge is rich with diverse plants and animals.
Kok-Bel waterfall is one of the popular places of locals that often lead their herds to drink clean water from it. It is about 12 kilometers Southeast from the Jyrgalan village meaning that it’s about 4-5 hour hike away. Along the way to the waterfall there are spectacular views of the valley Jyrgalan and the village as a whole. During the Soviet time, geological sections were drilled and used by geological exploration parties nearby and the tracks to the waterfall are from these times. The waterfall is at the height of 2375 m and falls into the river Kok-Bel. Kok-Bel is vitally important source of water for the various herds in the Jyrgalan valley. On the way you can see old mining equipment.
Robber’s canyon or the Uuru Tor is an impressive valley amongst high towering peaks ovelooking the Jyrgalan mountain range that you can reach by trekking. The first part of the trek is an easy trail alongside the river that leads to the scenic jailoo pastures of gorge Eki Chat and is about 8 kilometers where you can also overnight in a yurt if you wish to.
The top of this climb takes you out to grassy fields with spectacular landscapes and serpentine trails to the top of the pass. The top of the pass is easily visible so can just take whichever route gets you to the top fastest and easiest. On the way you will pass the Emil’s Peak salt springs.
Lake Tarnaluu Kol
This small isolate little swampish lake is located at an altitude of 2700 meters above sea level. It is located about 4 km North from the Jyrgalan village. Turnaluu Kel means Crane lake and you can see these beautiful birds from spring to autumn when they come here for the summer or use the lake as a resting and feeding area during the migration periods.
This alpine lake is located South at a long trekking distance South from the Jyrgalan village. The stunningly beautiful small lake Aylampa is located at an altitude of 3550 meters above sea level. After reaching the lake the glacier Aylampy opens up and the glowing blue water of the lake perfectly reflects the beauty of the surrounding mountains. A steadily good speed hiker can reach the lake in about 8 hours.
How to get to Jyrgalan village
You can get to Jyrgalan from Karakol by marshrutka 331 that runs three times a day at 8:30, 13:30 and 17:30. Marshrutka leaves from the Ak-Tilek Bazar at the Aldeshev/Derbishev intersection in Karakol. Sometimes the Jyrgalan destination sign is marked as “Shahta” the alternative name of the village. Try to arrive at the bus station early, at least about half an hour before to ensure you get a seat as it can fill up easily. The journey to Jyrgalan takes close to 2 hours and costs 100 som. To return, marshrutkas leave from Jyrgalan at 7:30 am 11:30 and 16:30. A taxi will cost about 1,500 som per one way ride.
Page update 12.11.2020