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Besh-Tash Valley

This beautiful valley to the southeast of Talas is home to the Besh-Tash National Park, which begins 13km from Talas (entrance fee of US$10) and covers 32,41l ha in total. The national park was set up in 1996 and contains more than 800 plant species along with threatened brown bear, snow leopard, Turkestan lynx, eagles and falcons.

Besh-Tash means 'five stones', a name which comes from five tall standing stones that are found in the upper part of the park. As with many isolated groups of standing stones, there is a legend connected with them. This one tells of five bandits who lived in the valley and robbed everyone who travelled this way. One day they carelessly robbed a holy woman who cursed them and turned the robbers into stone.

From the entrance to the canyon, where there are hot springs, the road from Talas follows the Besh-Tash River to a height of around 3,000m in the Talas Ala-Too range, before it strikes off to the 3,573m Terek Pass. Here, there are two crystal-clear lakes, a small and a large one, the larger of which offers superb views over the surrounding mountains.

The mountain scenery here is quite spectacular and the area makes for an excellent day trip from Talas or as a base for hiking trips. There are many idyllic camping places along the valley and it may be possible to stay in yurts in summer. With adequate provisions and experience it is also possible to trek from the lakes over the Terek Pass to Toktogul in two days.