In the summer time, the Kyrgyz people migrate their animals up into the mountains for summer grazing; they call this jailoh. In preparation for the summer months in the mountains, they load a car, or truck, with their yurt, pots, pans, clothing, tushuks (padded mattresses), blankets, flashlights, toilet paper, ingredients (flour, oil, potatoes, carrots, etc.), vodka, ovens, stoves, tables, and so much more. All of these things are brought up into their chosen jailoh spot in the mountains, set up, and then inhabited for the summer.
Many visitors have heard of the jailoh at Song Kul lake in Naryn, but my favorite mountain hangout is in the Ak Syy/Karakol region at the Altyn Arashan natural hot springs. If the hot springs aren’t enough to call you up this way, there’s a yurt camp, kitchen, and guesthouse. You can also pitch your tent and trek the ~15 km intense hike up to the the 3500M glacier lake, Ala Kul.
With so much to do in and see in Kyrgyzstan, I’ve had friends that have been led astray by the 3-4 day, time and money consuming, trek to Ala Kul. I began thinking about what is the minimum amount of time required to get up to this jailoh, trek, soak in the hot springs, and spend a night in a yurt. The research and experiment began with a 28 hour trip to Altyn arashan and Ala Kul, including getting there and back in my time constraint.
Getting to Altyn Arashan:
My first 27 hour trip to Altyn Arashan began with being picked up by our driver from our guesthouse at 6:00 AM. In order to be able to accomplish the trek to Ala Kul, we decided to hire a driver to take us up to Altyn Arashan. If you choose to hike the path up to Altyn Arashan, the trip will take about 1 day longer. The drive from Karakol to Altyn Arashan camp took about 3 hours.
Our transportation from Karakol to Altyn Arashan. Definitely a bumpy ride!
Getting to Ala Kul:
After checking out the yurt we would be staying in and dropping off some of our things, we began the intense 5 hour hike up to Ala Kul at 10:00 AM. The path was easy to follow and I only pulled out my navigation to reassure my steps twice. This was probably one of the most intensely rewarding hikes I have ever done. If the inclines don’t make you tired, the altitude and crossing of rivers will. My group got separated due to different walking speeds, so I walked alone for a majority of the hike, but was accompanied by my 90’s hiphop playlist and a sporadic flow of other trekkers on the path. After reconvening at the top and taking in the spectacular views at Ala Kul, we turned around and headed back down. The hike down was quick and only took about 3 hours, arriving back at camp at 6:30 PM.
Information: Reviews and routes to Ala Kul.
We ate a filling meal provided by the staff at Altyn Arashan and then went out to soak our muscles in the boiling hot springs. An hour later, we were all in bed, gazing up at the opening at the top of our yurt that gave a magnificent view to the starry sky above us.
In the morning, we woke up at 6:00AM to a quiet valley and very sore legs. We ate breakfast, packed our things, and left Althyn Arashan with our driver at 7:00AM. Three hours later, at 10:00 AM, we were in Karakol, having iced coffees at Fat Cat Karakol, celebrating our trekking achievement and planning our next adventure.
Looking over from the hot springs to the Altyn Arashan Yurt hotel.
Information: Booking a stay at Altyn Arashan.
For a longer ‘quick’ trek (2 days) from Karakol-Ala Kul-Altyn Arashan, check out Visit Karakol & stay jiggy!