Established in 1976, the Ala Archa National Park is located approximately 50km south of Bishkek and is part of the Tien Shan mountain range. In Krygyz its name means ‘colourful juniper’, after the numerous bushes that dot the landscape and colour the park yellow and orange when they turn in autumn. Quiet and peaceful, the landscape is reminiscent of the Swiss Alps, with snow-capped mountains and green slopes covered with pines. The gorge carved out by the Ala Archa river is the ideal starting point to explore the park, and is popular with walkers and families from nearby Bishkek. Look out for the ‘sacred trees’, which normally mark a stream or river; local people often tie ribbons to their branches to bring good luck. Wild goats, roe deer and marmots are commonly seen here, and the higher mountain slopes are the domain of elusive snow leopards, which are rarely seen.
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