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Issyk-Ata Valley

There is another spa complex in the valley east of the Alamedin valley, about 45km from Bishkek by way of Koy-Tash at the head of the Alamedin valley. Another, longer, road reaches the spa via the Chui valley towns of Kant and Ivanovka. The resort is nestled between meadows and orchards in the shadow of craggy mountains at an altitude of 1,775m.

There is a 10th-century Buddhist carving of the Curing Buddha on a large boulder near the entrance to the complex, where 19th-century visitors used to smear sheep grease in gratitude. Now, there is an eagle sculpture on top of the rock and, sadly, plenty of contemporary graffiti. Comfortable accommodation is available at the complex for around US$50 for a double. There is also a basic hostel with shared facilities.

Issyk-Ata (literally, 'Father Heat') has long been a place of pilgrimage for the healing properties of its waters. Both Turkic nomads and Russian colonists came here for the waters, and a female Uzbek shaman is said to have lived here as a hermit until the 1950s. Another legend tells of a local beauty who bathed every day in the river here and never grew old or wrinkled because of the magical power of the waters. Whether or not the river has such life-preserving properties is hard to ascertain but it certainly has plenty of trout and many come to fish here.

Trekking possibilities abound in the valley. The most ambitious route is to continue southwest to eventually reach the Issyk-Ata Pass at 3,929m. It would be possible here to either descend or to turn around and climb over the Alamedin Pass (4,032m) from the south and return along the Alamedin valley.


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