Tash-rabat and Baetov region in Kyrgyzstan
All the information to discover the caravanserai of Tash-Rabat and the Baetov region
From desert gullies to green meadows, from high rocky cliffs to sparkling glaciers, the Baetov region is full of amazing landscapes. The region is also home to the famous Tash-Rabat caravanserai, an exceptional witness to the history of the Silk Road.
In this article, we give you some tips to discover the region:
The Silk Road
For more than a millennium, the “Silk Road” was a network of trade routes between China and the Mediterranean Sea. Connecting very different civilisations, this network of land and sea routes enabled not only commercial exchange, but also philosophical, religious, scientific, cultural, artistic, and technological exchange. Chinese silk was only one of the goods that passed through the legendary cities of Samarkand and Bukhara: there were also spices, rugs, furs, horses, weapons, glass, etc. Long and challenging, the merchants’ route varied depending on changes in natural hazards and local circumstances. They needed to cross the formidable Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts, survive attacks from nomadic riders, and pass through the Heavenly Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Each route was punctuated with staging posts and caravanserais, where merchants could stock up on necessities, rest and trade their goods. One of these caravanserais has endured the test of time and can be visited in Southern Kyrgyzstan: the Tash-Rabat caravanserai.
Along the road between Naryn and the Torugart Pass (3,752m) on the Chinese border, a small track leads down to the At-Bashi Mountains in a narrow valley with beautiful jagged rock faces. On the sides of the valley, at an altitude of 3,500 m, stands the magnificent Tash-Rabat caravanserai. This historical monument, dating from the 15th century, welcomed a multitude of Silk Road merchants and travellers. The well-preserved stone building houses a network of small rooms that served as bedrooms, prison cells, pantries and prayer halls. There is a small charge for entry to the caravanserai of 50 soms per person. The caravanserai is surrounded by a yurt camp for tourists who are passing through.
The surroundings of Tash-Rabat are ideal for hiking and horseback riding. There are routes lasting between 1 and 5 days through the At-Bashi mountain range on to Lake Chatyr Kul. The landscapes are beautiful, especially the Tash-Rabat Pass which rises up 3,964 m above Lake Chatyr Kul. Hiking down to the lake requires a border permit. Do not hesitate to ask at the different yurt camps for possible itineraries.
By and large unvisited by tourists because it is very remote and needs a border permit in order to reach it, this salt-water lake is nevertheless a wild and well-preserved site which is worth the detour. Accessible in a day’s hike or by horseback from Tash-Rabat, you might well get the chance to see some rare species of migratory bird such as the bar-headed goose or the demoiselle crane. Beginning at Kyzyl-Tuu (a village 75km west of Naryn), a 3-day horseback ride through the At-Bashi mountains leads to Lake Chatyr-Kul and ends in the beautiful surroundings of the Tash-Rabat caravanserai. You will find information about this trek in the Naryn agencies or on our website.
With nearly 10,000 inhabitants, Baetov is a well-known stopover point between Naryn and Kazarman. The city is not hugely interesting in itself, but is nevertheless a good place for stocking up on supplies on the way to Lake Song-Kul or Kazarman. You will find hostels, restaurants, supermarkets, banks, and petrol stations. From Baetov, you can choose between two routes which lead to Tash-Rabat: the easier route (level 2) passes through Orto-Syrt and the MELS pass (3,262 m), whilst the other, more difficult and longer route (level 3) goes through the Djaman Davan Suu canyon.
Between Baetov and Tash-Rabat
A pretty well-maintained, dusty track connects Baetov with Tash-Rabat. After crossing the Baetov and Terek oasis, the route enters a more arid, badlands area. It crosses two passes which have spectacular views of the region: Borulu Ashuu Pass (3,262 m) also known as MELS using the initials of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin, and Kulak Ashuu Pass (3,390 m). The route is lined with the ruins of ancient mausoleums that blend perfectly into the landscape and some yurt camps. This route is not very difficult, despite not being perfectly maintained. For the more daring, it is possible to take a trickier track through a canyon. For more information on these routes, please refer to Route 20 of the book EXPLORE KYRGYZSTAN.
You may like to stop at the Terek cemetery to appreciate the beauty of these traditional memorials to the dead, called Gumbez.
The term “badlands” refers to an almost ruin like landscape made up of clay and limestone which has been ravaged by water runoff. From the Borulu Ashuu Pass (3,262 m), you will have a magnificent view over the arid, gullied landscape of Baetov.
For more information on the Baetov region and these routes, we invite you to read the book EXPLORE KYRGYZSTAN.
The map below, available in foldable A2 format, illustrates the main roads of the country as well as the 24 off-road routes in the book EXPLORE KYRGYZSTAN accessible to vans, 4x4s, motorbikes and bicycles. The map also lists more than 50 sites of interest throughout the country. On the back of the map you will find a complete Kyrgyz-English phrasebook to help you start a discussion under the yurt!
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