Sights & Activities
Arslanbob-Ata shrine The mazar or shrine of the village's founder is right in the centre of the village close to the chaikhana with the large plane tree. The shrine is said to have been around since the 16th century, although the building that stands today was erected in the 20th century. It is entered through a garden and colourful gatehouse behind the Univermag store.
The shrine is a small white, brick-built building with a walnut-wood door frame and rams' horns above the entrance. There are tables close to the mausoleum where visitors can sit and eat, and many pilgrims come to share food here and soak up baraka, the spiritual blessings of the shrine. The new mosque next door, with its elegantly carved ceiling, is also worth a look.
Small waterfall This is easily reached at the northeast of the village. This 25m- high waterfall is a popular spot with visitors and locals alike and this is borne out by the scraps of material tied to the trees and bushes that stand near it. Even some branches that hang over the waterfall itself have had ribbons tied to them, which must have been a highly hazardous activity for the person tying it. There are steps from the road leading down to the base of the waterfall, where there are a couple of prayer caves. One of these, known as 'The Cave of the 40 Angels', used to be frequented by a holy woman who visitors would come to petition.
To reach the waterfall, walk past the mosque and bazaar and turn left uphill. At the second road to the right, turn right (there is a faded sign on the wall pointing the way). At a junction of four roads, take the lowest one, which continues uphill past a couple of kiosks. The waterfall is now in sight and reached through a turnstile, which leads past benches and caves to the waterfall.
Large waterfall This much larger, 80m-high, waterfall is a 3-4 hour round trip from the centre of the village. It is a relatively easy walk apart from the last part, which can be tricky underfoot. Do not be tempted to try and climb up behind the waterfall - going up is easier than coming down and you may well end up stuck in a highly precarious position. As with the small waterfall, votive rags have been tied close to the site. As the votive rags attest, the waterfall is attributed with spiritual and magical powers and a visit is supposed to boost fertility.
The large waterfall lies in a cliff face due north of the village. To reach it, walk directly north from the main square along the main road that lies west of the stream. Continue steeply uphill until there is a fork in the road with a blue hut in the middle; take the right, not quite so good, road past the turbaza. This eventually reaches a junction at the very northern limit of the village. The left-hand fork leads across boulder-strewn open land, meadows and jailoos uphill to the holy rock (see below); take the right-hand fork, which leads along the course of a stream to eventually reach trees with votive rags tied to them. Cross the stream here and continue towards the waterfall, which should have come into sight by now.
Holy rock A visit to this sacred site requires a considerable investment of effort as it lies high above the village on the slopes of Babash-Ata at 2,900m. This large, almost cube-shaped rock is closely linked to the legend of Arslanbob-Ata. He is said to have been killed here whilst praying, betrayed by his wife who informed his enemies of his whereabouts. His bloodstains, footprints and handprints arc believed by many to be still visible on the rock. Incongruously perhaps, there is a metal step-ladder lodged in place behind the rock to enable pilgrims to climb up on top of it.
Ibn Abbas shrine This mazar is said to be little more than a ruinous hut in the woods and is hard to find as it lies deep in the walnut forest. If you wish to check it out for yourself then get a guide, or at least precise instructions on how to reach it, from the CBT office.
Walnut forest panorama One easy walk from the village centre, which is particularly delightful in the late afternoon, is to take the narrow road that leads south of the main square just to the west of the post office. This descends past a house to a wooden bridge over a stream and then climbs up along a steep path through walnut woodland to reach an area of red cliffs. From here, there is a panoramic view over the village, valley and walnut forest to the east. Continuing to the top of the path, a small plateau is reached that is filled with carefully tended potato and sunflower fields.
Approaching dusk, the path is quite busy with locals, mostly small parties of women and girls, on their way back to their homes in the village from the fields above it. This is a charming spot to soak up the tranquil atmosphere of the valley and enjoy the play of light on the silvery trunks of the walnut trees as the sun lowers in the sky.
Activities - There are several day-hike options, though the most popular is the three-hour return hike to a holy 80m-high waterfall. The last half hour is an uphill grind over a slippery scree slope – wear good shoes as the return leg is like walking down a slope of marbles. Horses are available but aren’t all that useful as you still have to slog up the last hill yourself. The fence in front of the falls is covered in votive rags, harking back to a pre-Islamic animism. An easier walk leads about 30 minutes to a smaller twin waterfall (23m) to the east, from where you can continue to a walnut forest and the shrine of Ibn Abbas. To get to the forest, follow the path back up the hill from the waterfall, then turn right and walk over the small stream (above the falls) and follow the path along the ridge. In a similar direction is Panorama, a viewpoint that looks back towards town. To get there, follow the road from the waterfall past the souvenir stands and take the second left, follow the path as it goes downhill, over a wood bridge and then up towards the view point.
It is also possible to walk to the Dashman walnut forest via Gumhana village and Jaradar in a long day. Back at the village square, check out the riverside mazar (tomb) of Arslan Bab-Ata, after whom the town and mountains are named. If you’re travelling in the winter months, try to time your visit for a weekend as you may be able to catch the locals playing horse games.
Skiing - It is developing the mountain jailoos surrounding Arslanbob for cross-country skiing. About 10 pairs of skis and boots are available for hire. Proposed transport to the jailoos would be via 4WD and on foot with the aid of snowshoes.