It’s astonishing that such a wild space as this spectacular valley in the Ala-Too range can exist so close to a city the size of Bishkek, less than an hour’s drive away. And although the national park is popular with middle-class picnickers on weekends, few of its mountain trails see much traffic. Ranging from grassy, flower-filled meadows to snow-covered crags approaching 5,000m, the alpine scenery is also wonderfully unsullied by ski stations and other human encroachments, making the perfect backdrop for hikes of various grades, as well as hacks on horseback.
The ‘archa’ of the valley’s name refers to a species of juniper that grows in profusion hereabouts, and which local people believe keeps evil spirits at bay when burned as incense – a practise common across the Central Asian steppes and neighbouring Tibet.
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