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February 2012
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Ala Archa – Alamedin Loop Drive

This is perhaps the closest and easiest way to see the high Ala Too Mountains up close from Bishkek. The full loop is about 55 miles long and makes a nice daytrip. The fields of wildflowers are gorgeous, in season. The loop trip can be easily combined with a stop off at Ata Beit, the memorial to soviet repression (and now to those who died in the April 7 revolution.

What’s more, in the spring, this may be one of the best places to go to see the famed wild tulips of Kyrgyzstan.  Good hunting!


This route is mostly on a reasonably well maintained dirt road, and, though it is passable in a car, is clearly more suited to an SUV. This is not a route you want to be driving in the rain, or soon after rain, as the road will get pretty muddy, and quite possibly, impassible.

clip_image004The route begins by heading up toward Ala Archa. About 12 miles from the intersection of Masalieva Absamata Prospect and Prospect Mira (the corner on which the U.S. Embassy sits), you will come to a left turn on a dirt road. From there on out, you basically just follow that road up from the Ala Archa canyon, over the mountains and down into the Alamedin canyon.

I’ve included a .gdb file you can use in your GPS or with Google Earth to orient yourself.

There are lots of places where you could stop for lunch, but my preference is probably in the Juniper-woods marked in the GPS file as “Barbaris” at about 20 miles. At its highest point, about 23 miles along, you will reach the maximum altitude of about 7,500 feet above sea level.

At 25 miles from the Embassy, you come to the upper Chong Kurchak Gorge.  The lower reaches of the gorge (where you will meet it again at 32 miles) are a favorite climbing area (see and home of the _MG_2115Chunkurchak State Biological Reserve, protecting rare tulips, including the Craig (or “King”) Tulip, which grows heads as wide as 15-18 cms, and the Zinaida Tulip with red flowers and veins which are green on the outside and yellow-gold inside. The flowers reportedly bloom in April and May.  It might be interesting to hike down the gorge from the upper road crossing to the lower.  As you can see on the map and the .gdb file, I’ve also followed spurs up the gorge from both of its intersections with the road.  I also put the path of the gorge, as closely as I could guage it from Google Earth onto the .gdb file, labeled as “C Kurchak Gorge.”

At 36 miles, after descending into the Alamedin canyon, you come to a road turning off to the right which you can use to cross the river and connect with the Alamedin canyon road, an alternative (and faster) route back to Bishkek. If you continue, you can visit, instead, Ata Beit, on the way back.


Pingback from Larry Memmott's Blog » Tulips, Poppies, And Other Wildflowers
Time March 29, 2012 at 10:29 am

[…] of my favorite drives near Bishkek is the Ala Archa-Alamedin drive.  As I noted in that write-up, it takes you very close to the Chunkurchak State Biological […]

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