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Barskoon Valley

Branching southward from Lake Issyk Kul, Barskoon Valley has long held a historic role in the world of commerce.  Silk Road traders from China made their way over Bedel Pass and navigated toward the lake, using the route that weaves through Barskoon.   Today that same route is marked with a graded dirt road that leads, eventually, to the Kumtor gold mine.  Year-round the road remains open and well-maintained, allowing miners and gold to traverse through the mountains, contributing their share to the Kyrgyz economy.


For travelers, Barskoon Valley is an interesting diversion between Karakol and Bokonbaevo.  About 20 km from the turnoff, impressive waterfalls can be seen, some near the road and some requiring a bit of a trek up into the wooded hillside to get a closer look.  The larger of these, Ak-Sakal, or “bearded elder”, gets its name from huge dripping icicles that it forms in the winter.  This frozen mass of ice can be seen from the road, and even reached during the winter with appropriate gear and supplies.


At the base of the waterfalls, where a bridge crosses the small river running down from the hills, sits a Star Wars-esque monument to the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.  A glossy deep red mold of Gargarin’s face is embossed onto an enormous bolder, resembling Hans Solo, frozen in carbonite. Gargarin spent time in Kyrgyzstan recuperating after his legendary excursion into space in 1961. 


Drives into the valley and away offer incredible views of towering fir trees, peeking mountain peaks, and the stunning convergence of foothills into lakebed.  Trekking and horseback riding are popular during the summer time, with longer Tien Shan treks connecting from the valley into the wilderness that lies to the south.    

Ruby Mitchell

Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.

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