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Ala Archa National Park, Kyrgyzstan

The Ala Archa National Park is an alpine national park in the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, established in 1979 and located approximately 40 km south of the capital city of Bishkek. The park, which includes the gorge of the Ala-Archa River and the mountains surrounding it, is a popular destination point for weekend picnicers, hikers, horse trekkers, skiers as well as mountain climbers looking for challenging ice, rock and mixed routes. The park is open year round, although the most popular season is late summer and early fall.

In Kyrgyz, the archa, which gives the park its name, is a bright or many-colored juniper which the Kyrgyz people have traditionally held in special esteem, using smoke from its burning wood to chase away evil spirits. However, the archa is not supposed to be planted near the home, because it is believed gradually to sap the energy from human beings living close-by.

The park covers about 200 square kilometers, and its altitude ranges from about 1,500 meters at the entrance to a maximum of 4,895 meters at Peak Semenova Tian-Shanski, the highest peak in the Kyrgyz Ala-tau range of the Tian Shan. There are more than 20 small and large glaciers and some 50 mountain peaks within the park. Two smaller rivers, the Adygene and the Ak-Sai, originate from these glaciers' melting waters. The Adygene gorge is a beautifully wooded valley, with waterfalls, springs and abundant trout. A small reservoir on the Kargay-Bulak river was built to study the Amu Darya trout. Other wildlife includes the very rare snow leopard (in Kyrgyz: "ilbirs") on the alpine meadows and snowfields above 2,500 m elevation, wild goats, roe deer and marmots.

Ala Archa National Park

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