Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan

In Arslanbob River Valley, the huge stretches of forest filled with nut and fruit trees occupy over 600,000 hectares. Every year, up to 1500 tonnes, plus 5000 tons of apples, pistachios and cherry plums, are grown in the Arslanbob valley. The Arslanbob region is now a state-protected woodland area to preserve these generous natural presents. Recent deforestation has been very controversial (despite the fact that the trees are covered by law).

In its heyday, noodles from this region were carried along the Silk Road to far parts of the country. The trees can live for up to one thousand years and can grow to 30 m (98 feet) long, with a dome-shaped crown on top of dense trunks. Walnut trees are typically located at altitudes between between 1000 and 1800 meters above sea level on mountain slopes and on river banks – Arslanbob itself is 1700 m (5577 feet) higher than the sea level. Walnut wood is a valued quality and is used for making furniture, apart from nutrient-rich nuts.

Legends about Arslanbob

A tradition tells that the Great once led his forces too far east, but wanted to bring some of the nuts home when he returned to Greece with him. There were also stories about the forest and how they came into being. Thus did the walnut go from the Kyrgyzstan mountains all the way to the coast of Greece and the rest of the country (and also why walnuts are known as Greek nuts in many places).

It is said that the name of Arlsanbob (“The Forest King”) is after a hero of the 11th century, who died near his wife after being traced. Still visible at this point are his fingerprints, handprints and blood. Another legend tells of a humble worker assigned to find a lovely and convenient location by Prophet Muhammed – the heaven on earth. Before he reached a picturesque valley with a smooth mountain river, though, he passed through many lands. The Prophet gave him inspired by his reports a bag of fruit seeds, including the walnut tree, naturally.

Arslanbob Sights

The valley has a population of 15,000 on the banks of the river (many of the houses have spectacular views). The statue of a lion is in the central square and a new mosque and a mausoleum of Arstanbap-Aty are nearby (dating from the 15th century and sporting spectacular carved-walnut doors). The village center is a small waterfall within convenient walking distance (23 meters or 75 feet). In front of the cascade is a small cave called the Forty Angel’s Cave in the place of a holy lady. People used to come and make requests, and now the cave is holy. A bigger waterfall and a sacred lake are a little farther out (80m or 260m).

The village is located at the soviet tourist base and offers lodging and other facilities to the local Community-based tourism initiative. The village is a traditional village, particularly Uzbek, community and conservative.