Arslanbob (the king of the forests) is a unique nuts forest, considered to be the oldest and the most significant wood of its kind. Its territory covers 608.000 ha. Some of its trees are thousand years old and can reach the height of 30 meters and an astonishing 2 meters in diameter. Scientists state that these forests are 50-million-year old and that nowhere on Earth there are as many nuts trees growing in the natural conditions as here. Every year they produce 1500 tons of nuts, 5000 tons of apples and other fruits to harvest. It is a delight to be in green and fresh natural resort Arslanbob, which consists of the forests, waterfalls, lakes, and even a health resort.
The name of walnut in Russian is the "Greek nut". According to the legends, when Alexander the Great was in Central Asia with his troops, on the way to India, they got poisoned and had stomach problems. Local people suggested to eat walnuts as a cure and, surprisingly, it helped. Impressed by its healing effects, Alexander decided to take some walnuts to his home, and that's how walnuts became known to the world as the "Greek nuts". Although, as you may have noticed, the real home of walnuts is the Arslanbob forest, where they have existed naturally since ancient times.
The natural resort Arslanbob is located near Jalal-Abad city (50 km distance) at 1800 meters above the sea level. It is a popular destination for hiking and skiing all year long for locals and foreign tourists alike. It is one of the must-visit places in southern Kyrgyzstan. The village of Arslanbob is a picturesque place with friendly and hospitable Uzbek inhabitants, who are known for being great cooks. So, you might want to try local delicacies like manty, shashlyk, plov, and samsy. You can reach Arslanbob from Jalal-Abad city by a marshrutka (mini-bus) for around 50 cents, and one hour ride. You can stay in a resort from Soviet times, inside the forest, or stay in the locals' guesthouses. The dense shade of the forests create nice conditions for hiking in the summers, but October is also a good time to come here because locals come together to harvest. There are no marked hiking paths, but you can hire the guides or explore the forest at your own pace. The locals can be very helpful; you just need to learn a few Uzbek phrases.
Unfortunately, because of the climate change and negative human influence on the planet, there is a real risk that the forest of Arslanbob that survived since the Ice Age, might disappear in the near future. It needs care, protection, and preservation that the Kyrgyz government is not providing, because of the lack of funding. Some locals depend on the forest financially, selling the wood to earn a living. Responsible eco-tourism, in fact, might help to protect the forest, because it would create new possibilities of income for the local people. There is a hope that, if approached from a different perspective, Arslanbob, a unique 50-million-year old forest, could have a long future ahead.
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