Following on from my incredible morning hiking to the Alpine Cemetery in Ala Archa National Park in Kyrgyzstan, I decide on the easier waterfall and gorge trail in the afternoon. I say easier because the trail is obvious and even has better markings on route, plus a clear path.
This was in my first week in magnetic Kyrgyzstan, a country where I have decided to base myself for a month to work online, relax, finish my book, do some touring and secure some difficult visas. I crossed into the country from Kazakhstan and also toured Ruh Ordo and Petroglyphs in my first week here.
Just to re-cap, here are the details for booking the tour and getting to the National Park, also mentioned in the first part of my day tour:
Booking a tour to Ala Archa National Park
There are two main tour companies I recommend for booking your tour to Ala Archa National Park – Silk Road Explore and Iron Horse Nomads. Both companies are experts in the field and they are based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. They both have websites and are easy to work with.
I opted for a day tour of Ala Archa that included a hike to the Alpine cemetery and a hike along the gorge to a mountain waterfall. The one day tours cost from $45 US and this includes transport there and back (they do hostel/hotel pick up), entry to the national park, a guide for the day and lunch. Prices vary depending on time of year, group size and any personal requirements etc. They are so easy to work with and flexible that they can tailor the tour to your own needs. I wanted a local lunch included and a trip to the cemetery, the one you read about in part 1.
Leaving Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
My guide for the day is Azamat, from Iron Horse Nomads. Azamat is local to Bishkek and his English is superb. He is a good tour guide and driver to have and my tour was arranged through Dinara at Silk Road Explore. We leave Bishkek by car and within half an hour we are on the edge of the Ala Archa National Park.
Arrival at Ala Archa National Park
When we arrive at Ala Archa National Park, there is an entry gate where the fee to enter the national park is paid and taken. Please note that NOT all tours include the entry fee. As of January 2016, the cost to enter the National Park here is 450 Som, around £4 or $6 USD. It is a one off entry fee, whether you are staying over night in the hotel or camping inside the National Park.
Please note that there is no public transport inside the park or that go to the gate and park entrance. The nearest you can get to Ala Archa National Park on public transport is by Marshrutka to Kashka-suu (a ski resort). If you are going it alone, from Kashka-suu you will need to pay a driver for a taxi right up into the National Park (and back again of course, so it’s less than ideal).
When you pay for your national park entry, you get a small information sheet, it’s written in Russian.
Hiking on the Ala Archa Gorge and Ak Sai Waterfall Trail
After lunch in the car with Azamat, we drive further through Ala Archa National Park, to the entrance to the second series of trails. Here is much more touristy than the first hike and there is a large car park, even in winter, the car park is packed.
Behind this is the Ala Archa hotel and two pillars at the start of the hike, one for a gazelle and one for the famous snow leopard.
Azamat tells me there are only four snow leopards left in the national park. Sightings are rare. But you can grab a selfie with the fake one!
Beyond this is the start of a series of trails. One is a short trail that heads by the river, this trail is for 1.3 kilometres. It’s called the Ala Archa River Trail. The trail I choose is called the Ak Sai Waterfall Trail.
There is a sign and map at the entrance. I choose the 3.75 kilometre trail to the gorge and waterfall. This time, I travel alone without a guide as it is an easy to follow and obvious path. There are no rivers to cross and a clear sense of where to go.
The first part of the trail is through a snowy forest. Again, breathtaking scenery and natural beauty as you veer left around the side of the mountain. Some of the path can be steep and slippy but not too challenging.
After about 45 minutes, I can see the gorge and views all the way are simply tremendous. The trail follows along the side of the gorge by a frozen river to the Ak Sai waterfall, this continues for another 30 – 45 minutes to a viewpoint.
In winter of course, the Ak Sai waterfall is frozen, but you can still see it.
I meet Germans and Kyrgyz people on the hike and am simply in awe of the magnificent landscapes.
I stopped a few times to rest and admire the views and drink my water. The entire hike is hard to put into words. You will love it.
On the way back, some of the path is slippy so I slide down instead of walking!
I walk back the same way and check out the hotel when I’m back at the entrance.
In order to book the tour to Ala Archa National Park, here are the details of the two companies I recommend using:
1.Silk Road Explore
28 Minbulakskiy Lane, 720042,
Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
+996 550 914 408
2.Iron Horse Nomads
49 Turusbekova (between Kievskaya and Toktogula), Bishkek, KYRGYZSTAN
English: +996 555 800 278
Russian or Kyrgyz: +996 550 375 509
In the USA: +1 864 641 0515
Here are some videos of my tour to Ala Archa National Park on the waterfall and gorge trail: