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Talgar & Natural Reserve

The green town of Talgar is no more than 20 kilometres from Almaty, on the outskirts of a forked mountain ridge, the highest peak of which is Mount Talgar. With a height of 4,973 metres, the tooth-shaped mountain is higher than Mont Blanc. It is hard to climb, and an ascent takes three to four days. The valley of the Kotyrbulak brook, which runs between Almaty and Talgar, as well as the valleys of the Left. Middle and Right Talgar are all excellent for hiking. In summer, you can pick the wild fruits from raspberry and currant bushes as you go.

To reach the national park, leave the main road from Almaty before the centre of Talgar (behind the mosque at the first traffic light), and from here go right (south) on Abay Str past the fairground to the national park office and a small museum. After a further 4 km along the Talgar River you reach the entrance to the national park (an ID is needed at the checkpoint). You can continue further on foot without a special permit, on a relatively well-maintained southbound road, where you come to a fork: the Left (Lyeviy) Talgar comes from the right side and the Right (Praviy) Talgar from the left. The valley of the noisy, foaming Left Talgar stretches up to over 4,000 metres on the border with Kyrgyzstan, where the river originates from a giant glacier. This area has special protection status within the Ui-Alatau National Park due to its natural beauty and its rich variety of wildlife.

Many beautiful walking routes link the valley of the Left Talgar with those of Butakovka, Medeu and Shymbulak, and the valley of Big Almaty Lake. The landscape along the way includes Komsomola Peak (4,376 metres, recently renamed Nursultana in honour of the president), Ordzhonikidze Peak (4,409 metres) on its western flank, and the peaks Koptau (4,152 metres) and Bogatyr (4,580 metres) to its east. By crossing the latter's glacier, experienced mountaineers and climbers can reach the wonderful glacier-lake of Shokalskovo, which flashes up from the valley like a sky-blue eye. The stream is already beyond the watershed and carries its water into the Shelek on the far side of the Zailiyskiy Alatau ridge. Two routes are particularly popular to get to Issyk Kul through the valley of the Left Talgar. One leads across the Turistov Pass, a 3,920-metre shortcut over the glacier, followed by the ice-free Ozyorniy Pass, while the other, more difficult one, leads across the Razvyedochniy Pass (4,170 metres), and includes crossing a glacier. Both routes meet in the valley of Chong-Kemin. From there on, one still has to cross the Boztery Pass, which, at 4,110 metres, is also difficult.

The valley of the Right Talgar can be travelled by car for approximately four kilometres. From there, it is about a four-kilometre walk to the point where the Middle Talgar flows into the Right Talgar. Following the Middle Talgar upstream, you come to the foot of the peak where the river has its origin-at this point you are at 2,520 metres. Even if you don't want to climb to the summit you can get close to the beautiful glacier by following the Path that winds upwards for about five kilometres. From here, at a height of 3,000 metres, a niarvellous panorama reveals itself.

The valley of the Right Talgar has a less spectacular view, but here one can also follow a four-kilometre track into the mountains. Sure-footed trekkers can reach the Yesik Valley from here in a day's march across the 3,475-metre Birkaragay Pass.