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Alamyedin valley

Several valleys east of Ala-Archa have good walks and fewer visitors. Also south of Bishkek, running parallel to, and east of, the Ala-Archa valley, is the Alamedin valley, which follows the river of the same name, a tributary of the Chui River. Alamedin is reached by way of the village of Koy-Tash, which lies 30km south of Bishkek. Koy-Tash is a sprawling but pleasant enough place with many weekend dachas (summer houses) owned by wealthy Bishkek residents.

On the west side of the river, a road at the village's southern end climbs south over a ridge past the village of Tatyr and the Golubinyi (Pigeon) Falls, a well-known local beauty spot, before meandering west to reach the Ala-Archa valley at Kashka-Suu.

Alamedin Canyon, 40km south of Bishkek, the main destination for local people is an old sanatorium at an altitude of about 1,800m called Tyoplye Klyuchi (hot springs/mud bath) and boasting healing mineral spa waters. The sanatorium is run by the Ministry of Power, with cheap accommodation and food. Although not protected by a national park, the scenery above and beyond here is as grand and walkable as that of Ala-Archa Canyon.

Alamyedin valley is also the place to see Bishkek city folk at play. Keen to escape the heat of the capital, they head for the Tyoplye Klyuchi Sanatorium, 12 kilometres up the valley from Koy Tash.

Though Alamyedin can't quite rival Sokoluk or Ala Archa valleys for beauty, it has the advantage of comfortable chalet-style accommodation with fabulous walks right from your front door.

The sanatorium was opened in 1984 for employees of the Ministry of Energy. It is now a shadow of its former self but still offers a swimming pool, massage services and baths at 54°C, fed by underground hot springs (due to radon levels a maximum of ten minutes per session is recommended unless you wish to emerge with a radioactive glow). The spa waters are extremely popular with Bishkek residents and the place can become very busy on hot summer weekends.

The chalets and dining room are a 15-minute walk up the hill. Two four-bedded rooms share a grubby bathroom with a fairly reliable supply of hot water. Regular visitors in the know bring their own salads, fruit, cakes and vodka to supplement the scanty meals. Overall, a visit to the sanatorium is a veritably Soviet experience, enhanced by fine, if dilapidating, examples of Soviet kitsch architecture.

Most Western visitors tend to prefer the hiking opportunities that the valley has to offer and the sanatorium serves as an excellent starting place for a day hike further up the valley. A trekking route continues south from the sanatorium over the mountains through gorgeous alpine scenery past waterfalls, meadows and birch, larch and juniper forest, to eventually skirt a glacier to reach the Alamedin Pass at 4,032m. Although this is certainly as beautiful a valley as Ala-Archa it has not been granted national park status. Consequently, there are no facilities whatsoever other than those at the sanatorium.

For a beautiful day walk towards snowy peaks, follow the bounding river up the steep-sided valley through larch woods to picturesque pasturelands, grazed by herds of horses, cattle and goats. Just above the chalets a rickety bridge crosses to the right side of the river where an occasional yurt is established in summer. Koumys (fermented mare's milk) is sometimes offered for a small sum. There is said to be a trekking route over the ridge to the Ala Archa valley.

TRANSPORT

To get to the sanatorium you first have to catch a bus from outside Bishkek's Alamyedin Bazaar to the village of Koy Tash. Several buses for other destinations go through the village so it is best to ask for the earliest bus. Koy Tash, dotted with new dachas, straggles for a couple of kilometres as the road climbs the 12 kilometres up valley to the sanatorium. You'll need to hitch or get a taxi in the village for this stretch.

If you have your own transport, the Golubini (Pigeon) Waterfall, up the river valley from the village of Tatyr, makes a pleasant detour. To reach Tatyr (about three kilometres from Koy Tash) cross to the west side of the river in Koy Tash and follow the road south up a tributary to the Alamyedin river.


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