The walnut forest of Arslanbob is the largest walnut forest in the world and is like entering a fairytale land.
The local community of 16,000 residents from Arslanbob village is ethnically Uzbek and you will get a different vibe here than other parts of Kyrgyzstan.
Straddled alongside 2000 meters high hills the forest is a magical place and you can wander in there for days taking in the atmosphere.
Enter The Forest
Waking up every morning with a warm cup of black tea and some bread with locally made jam at the homestay in Arslanbob village, I would then start out walking into the forest.
Arslanbob forest is around 1000’s of years old and as mentioned in the beginning is the largest walnut forest in the world.
Entering the forest is like escaping into another land, so to speak.
Amongst the ancient walnut trees that go for what seems like forever you will find the local people from the nearby Arslanbob town wandering and working the walnut harvest.
You won’t find many noisy cars buzzing around in the old dirt tracks but instead the sound of horse and cart to transport the walnuts, and people, in and out of the forest, along with the occasional 4×4.
Harvesting The Walnuts
The people of Arslanbob are experts at harvesting the walnuts.
The harvesting season starts in early October.
When the season starts many of the people from Arslanbob will camp in simple shelters in the forest for months for the harvesting season.
Men stay in a tent during the harvest season.
One main technique involves climbing up high in the tree to reach the branches with the walnuts on to shake them loose onto the ground.
Man climbs a tree to get to the walnuts.
Another technique is to throw a rope over a branch and then shake the branch from the ground with the rope to shake the walnuts loose.
Throwing a rope over a branch to shake it.
Once the walnuts are on the forest floor the family members all pitch in to collect them, from young children to the elders.
Everybody pitches in with sorting out the walnuts.
There are elderly people you can meet that have been doing it their whole lives.
The walnut forest was not always the main financial source of the region but after the fall of the Soviet Union, the walnut harvest been its main economy.
The older generation teaches the young.
Locals still use horses and donkeys to transport things in and walnuts out of the forest.
The scenery outside of the forest is equally beautiful.
Walking back into Arslanbob at the end of the day.
Places to Stay in Arslanbob
The best places to stay in Arslanbob village are the homestays. You will be with a local family in a room in their house and they can be very comfortable.
On top of that, you will get excellent home-cooked food and get to meet more local people and here the famed stories of the area that are passed down from generation to generation.
Homestay in Arslanbob.
Another possible option that can be interesting is to see if you can camp with some local people in the forest.
If you have your own tent that would be easier, otherwise check and see if there is anybody who would let you stay in their shelter. Just be prepared to rough it a bit.
Simple shelter in the forest.
Arslanbob is a bit out of the way from the main tourist draws of Kyrgyzstan, like Song Kul Lake, but it’s that what makes it special.
It’s not crowded with tourists, in fact, I didn’t see any during my three days there.
You will either be alone in the forest or with local families, and you can even join in and help with the harvest if you are there during that time.
The best way to get to Arslanbob is from the nearest main city of Osh
If you happen to be doing the Pamir Highway road trip from Osh to Khorog in Tajikistan then if you can spare a few days heading to Arslanbob is well worth it.
Take travel insurance for your journey just in case. I use World Nomads which I find to be great for backpacking.