Arslanbob walnut forest
Arslanbob is located in the south part of Kyrgyzstan 70 km from the Uzbekistan border, 700 km South from Bishkek, next to the scenic Babash Ata mountain. This unique walnut forest is the oldest and the most significant forest of its kind in the World. Some of its trees are thousand years old and can reach a height of 30 meters and an unusual 2 meters in diameter. Experts say that these forests are 50-million-year old and that nowhere on Earth there are as many walnut trees growing in the natural conditions. Each year they provide 1500 tons of nuts, 5000 tons of apples, and other fruits to harvest. Walnuts in the Russian language translate as “Greek nut”. According to the legends, Alexander the Great was passing through Central Asia with his troops on his way to India. While passing through he got poisoned and had a stomach ache and the locals advised to try the Arslanbob walnuts as a cure. Surprisingly, it helped. Impressed by its healing results, Alexander decided to take some walnuts to his home, and that’s how walnuts became known to the world as the “Greek nuts”. Although tourism has grown in Arslanbob, the same named small village has still stayed mostly unspoiled. Friendly homestays provide a warm welcome and you can experience local hospitality in the small village where the Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnicities and cultures have mixed together. Arslanbob Village is home for 13 000 people where 95% of them are ethnically Uzbeks, whose livelihoods revolve around the annual harvest. The harvest of the walnut season starts in Autumn when thousands of families get involved in the gathering nuts and fruits.
Arslanbob village & surrounding area
Apart from the forest, the range around it is very impressive. The hills of the Ferghana and Chatkal Ranges in this place are formed of dolomite and hence are very different from other Tien Shan Mountain ranges with their unique appearance. Great white cliffs join the vast green expanses of the Arslanbob Forests. The region is rich in numerous streams and rivers which has certainly been one of the major contributors to the birth of the forests in the area. There are several lakes and waterfalls and the most famous ones are the very imaginatively named Large (80 m) and Small (35 m) waterfalls. There is also a cave next to the small waterfall named the cave of 40 angels as according to stories a holy woman used to live there. In addition to walnut forests, there are up to 130 different types of trees and bushes among which there are pistachios, almonds, pears, apples, cherry plums, currant and many others. The economy of the village is mainly dependent on harvesting all the different offerings of the forests.
You may explore the forest area by taxi, the local drivers offer ride service around the forest and even take you to the large waterfall. Do not expect to get a fancy car, there are mainly old UAZ-469 (off-road military light utility vehicles manufactured by UAZ, but they are very well suited for the task on the bad roads). Other cars simply cannot drive along the road to the waterfall. Moreover, drivers offer guide services as well. The cost of escorting to the small waterfall is 25 som (It is located just on the North-East side of the village) and to the large one, it is 1200 som (Significantly harder to reach outside the village). However, the locals might mainly speak Kyrgyz, Uzbek and a little bit of Russian. Local CBT (Community Based Tourism) provides tours, multilanguage guides and homestay services. There you can get engage with local people and experience the real living conditions in the area. You may also try dried apricot fruits, apples, oatmeal dishes (flour from grains), fresh walnuts, and other sweets made by locals. Check out tiny walnut oil factories and try walnut oil-made bread as well.
For the ones who wish to see still an active Soviet-era holiday camp, you should check the Turbaza built in the 1970s. It has a decrepit open-air swimming pool, a disco and wooden cabins still pretty much in the original shape. It is also conveniently on the way to the Large waterfall if you decide to walk there. The walk to the Large waterfall takes about two hours. The large waterfall is located North of the village and you can reach it by walking north via the main road on the west side of the river. It is best to ask for directions from the locals or the local CBT (community-based tourism) representatives.
At the center of the village, there is a white brick building housing an older 16th-century shrine honoring the founder of the village. You can find the shrine behind the Univermag going through a gatehouse and a garden so it is well hidden. There are pilgrims entering the shrine and to gather the blessings of the shrine. There are also other shrines in the forest but they are mostly in ruins nowadays but can be still interesting places to visit and also hard to find without a guide. The holy rock of Arslanbob is a destination that requires a lot more effort as it is situated all the way up to 2900 meters from sea level. It is a large almost cube-shaped rock where the legend tells that the founder of Arslanbob was killed and that his bloodstains and footprints can still be seen.
How to reach arslanbob
From Osh there are regular marshrutka and taxi services leaving from the new central bus station and it will cost about 200 som till Bazar-Korgon. Bazar-Korgon city is located on the main Bishkek-Osh highway and from there you can take another marshrutka to Arslanbob village for about 50 km, the fee being about 50 som. Another option is to take a directly shared taxi for 900 som/person or a private taxi for about 3000 som from Osh. From Jalal-Abad, you may take a marshrutka from the bus station straight to Arslanbob for 79 km, which will cost significantly less, only about 80 som.
The best and really special time to visit the Arslanbob is at the latter part of September when the leaves start to have their autumn colors and the walnut harvest is taking place. The whole village wakes up and has a kind of upbeat feeling to it.
Things to Do in Arslanbob:
Page last updated 24.10.2020