Arslanbob (Kyrgyz: Арстанбаб, Uzbek: Arslonbob, Russian: Арсланбоб) is a village in the Bazar Korgon district of the Jalal Abad region in the western part of Kyrgyztan. It is surrounded by the world's largest walnut forest, plenty of agricultural fields and the scenic Khrebet Babash Ata mountain range. Because of it's quiet and mountainous location Arslanbob attracts different kind of tourists. Adventurers will find a variety of (up to several day) hikes whereas those who come to relax will be spoiled by nature itself. Waterfalls, walks through endless forests or a cup of tea in one of the local restaurants, Arslanbob has much to offer. And thanks to the efforts of the village's CBT (community based tourism) the number of activities is growing.
Arslanbob is located at an altitude of around 1400m. Most of the village's 16,000 inhabitants are Uzbek and speak a local uzbek dialect. Because of it's history Arslanbob is a very conservative place and many people still whear their traditional dresses. That's why tourists are kindly asked to not dress inappropriatly, neither on the streets, nor in homestays.
Next to the village is the world's largest walnut forest which in total spans around 60,000 hectares of up to 1000 year old trees. Each autumn many villagers make a pilgrimage to the forest to harvest around 1,500 tonnes of walnuts. There are several legends about the forest. One tells that the prophet Muhammed charged a man to find the paradise on earth. After a long search he found the area of Arslanbob which seemed to be appropriate but unfortunately there were no trees. Therefore the prophet sent him a big bag of seeds, containig different seeds of fruit trees and walnut trees as well. The man climbed on top of Babash Ata and emptied the bag whereupon the wind scattered them over the whole region of Arslanbob. Another one states that the troups of Alexander the Great stopped their conquest close to Arslanbob because many soldiers where sick. The villagers gave them some walnuts to recover and Alexander took nuts as well as some seedlings back to Greece where he planted the first walnut trees in Europe. Since then walnuts from the Kyrgyz mountains are known as Greek nuts in Europe.
The village was named after the missionary Salman Farsi whose nickname was Arslanbob-Ata. It is believed that he brought islam to this area in the 11th century. In Arabic language arslan translates to 'lion' and bob to 'gate'. Ata can be translated to 'father of' in Turkic language, which makes Arslanbob-Ata the Father of the lion gate.
From Osh regular marshrutka and taxi services leave from the new central bus station close to the uzbek border. To reach Arslanbob you can either take a direct taxi (shared 900 som, private 4000 som) or a marshrutka to Jalal Abad (Kyrgyz: Жалал-Абад) bus station (120 som, two hours). From there take another marshrutka to Bazar Korgon (Kyrgyz: Базар-Коргон) bus station (30 som, 45 minutes) and another one to Arslanbob (Kyrgyz: Арстанбаб) (60 som, two hours). Even though you have to take three marshrutkas it is pretty straightforward because they all leave from where the previous one dropped you. Expect about five hours driving and waiting time from Osh. A direct mashrutka from Osh leaves at 2 pm from new central bus station.
From the center of Arslanbob which is also the marshrutka and bus stop, the bazar, the guesthouses and the CBT office are within walking distance. There are small trucks and jeeps as well operating as public transport if you want to cover longer distances in or around the village. CBT offers horseback riding to several destinations such as alpine pastures or the walnut forest.
Hiking, horseback riding, climbing, camping, playing table tennis, cycling, bird watching, etc.
Every wednesday is bazar day in Arslanbob. Besides a bigger variety of vegetables and fruites there is also an animal market worth seeing. Some stalls are open everyday though. Since a couple of years there is a cold press in town which produces good quality local walnut oil.
There is an ATM in the center which accepts VISA.
Around the central square and the bazar are some local restaurants serving typical kyrgyz and uzbek food for lunch. Since Arslanbob is a very traditional village people use to have breakfast and dinner in their own houses. Therefore the restaurants open around lunchtime only. In the CBT homestays breakfast is included and they serve dinner for an additional 300 som.
In the bazar you can buy vegetables and some fruits. The variety may not be as big as in the cities but most of the products you find are regional and, depending on the season, cheap. Some small shops will cover your daily needs.
It is possible to buy alcohol in some shops but drinking on streets is considered impolite. You should also ask your homestay if it is allowed to drink alcohol inside.
CBT has around 16 homestays in Arslanbob and in the office are pictures and short descriptions for each of them. There are some other guesthouses as well and at least a sign for a hostel on the mainroad downwards the center.
For detailed information about all the tours, activities and homestays visit the village's CBT office. From the bus stop follow the road uphill, next to the river for about two minutes. On the left side you see a blue door with CBT written on it. If the door is closed call the number, they speak english and will be happy to help you.
Same way back as getting in. A direct marshrutka to Osh leaves at around 6:50 am from Arslanbob bus stand and costs around 280 som.