If you are in Talas Region, the Gumbez of Manas is the thing to see and a recital of Manas is the thing to hear. See our blog post the Epic of Manas for details. The Talas Region is one of the most isolated regions in Kyrgyzstan and also offers off road adventures.
The town of Talas is a town in northwestern located in the Talas River valley between two mountain ranges and is the administrative headquarters of Talas Region (Oblasty). It was founded by East Slavic settlers in 1877.
To the south is the Besh-Tash (five rocks) valley with the Besh-Tash National Park. (see below)
Talas on the Silk Road
During the Middle Ages, the Talas Valley was one of the mining centers that supplied silver to most of the Muslim world. Nomadic and settled agricultural cultures coexisted at that time and multiple sites–ancient settlements, mines, burials, stone statues, epigraphy and rock art have been preserved.
After the 13th century, sedentary life was nearly over, while the middle and upper reaches of the River were mostly home to nomads. Sites with ancient Turkic runic script, for the first time found in Central Asia
The Talas Valley is located in the north-west of Kyrgyzstan,between the Kyrgyz Alatoo Range in the north-east and the Talas Alatoo Range in the south, which converge in the east and then diverge in the west. The northern slope of the Kyrgyz Range is steep, glaciers and large fern fields are absent. The slopes of the opposite Talas Range are better hydrated, strongly dissected and form a complex system of foothills
The main stream is the Talas River, from the confluence of the Karakol and Uch-Koshoy rivers with headstreams in glaciers and snowfields. The valley is 230km long with a maximum width of 80km. Absolute altitude within the valley ranges from 650 to 4,500m ( 2,100 to 14,750 feet).
Administratively, Talas Valley is divided into four districts. It is a relatively small and somewhat detached part of Kyrgyzstan occupying 6% of the country’s territory. The population is a little more than 200,000 people. Kyrgyz are the majority, but other ethnic groups include – Russians, Germans, Kurds, and others. Talas is rural is pastorialism and agriculture as the main occupations.
Getting to Talas
The Talas valley has suffered severely from the imposition of rigid border controls by Kazakhstan following the demise of the Soviet Union, as transport and trade links to the rest of Kyrgyzstan are now constrained by the mountains separating it from the Chuy Valley and Bishkek.
Though much transportation does occur from Bishkek to Talas by transiting through Kazakhstan via the border crossings at Chaldovar in Chuy Region and then re-crossing into the Talas valley of Kyrgyzstan at Taraz.
The only drivable road within the borders of Kyrgyzstan to Bishkek and the rest of the country crosses two mountain passes that rise to heights of more than 3000 meters (9,850 ft) above sea level over the Ötmök Pass into the Suusamyr Valley and then again the Töö Ashuu Pass before descending to the Chuy Valley and Bishkek.
Aisha Bibi – Chongkapka Border
It’s easy to get transport from the bazaar in Talas to take you to the border crossing and then you can walk though or drive through and it’s easy to get a taxi in Taraz.
There are four major passes along the Talas Ala-Too (or Alatau) range. Ötmök pass (closed in winter) is the road entrance from the east. Located at an altitude of 3330 m on a road that connects the western most Taldy Bulak with the Suusamyr Valley connecting to the east.
The Talas Ala-Too range of the Tian Shan mountains forming the southern and eastern border of Talas Region of Kyrgyzstan. Its western end extends into Kazakhstan, and its south-western end joins the Pskem Mountains and Ugam Range of Uzbekistan. Its eastern end joins the Kirgiz Alatau mountains. To the north is the Talas River valley, and, to the south, Jalal-Abad Region. The highest point is Mount Manas (4484m) near the Uzbek border.
Things to Do in Talas
Gumbez of Manas
This is the place to learn more about the Kyrgyz hero Manas. If you are in Talas Region, a recital of Manas is the thing to see.
The legendary hero Manas plays the key role in Kyrgyz culture and keeps forming the society in today. The cultural complex is dedicated to Manas and his batyrs. A small museum exhibition will introduce you the life of Manas from his birth through the most important events to his death. The sacred place on the territory is the mausoleum (gumbez) of Manas. If you decide to visit Talas region, take your time and stop here to learn more about Manas. The location is popular among local people, and less visited by tourists, it is a place to learn about the true local culture.
Roughly 20 km outside of the city of Talas stands one of the most treasured monuments in the Kyrgyzstan Silk Road: the Gumbez of Manas. This mausoleum, while slightly small (11 meters tall, 50 square meters), is ornately decorated as befits the legendary Kyrgyz hero of Manas known for uniting all the different Kyrgyz tribes despite their differences.
Gumbez of Manas Mausoleum
The Gumbez of Manas is made of brick, has Arabic inscriptions, is decorated in traditional Kyrgyz style, and topped with a dome. Something you may notice and find odd is that upon inspection of the mausoleum, there’s an inscription on that outside that says the daughter of a wealthy ruler from the Middle Ages is buried there, not Manas. However, as the legend goes, it was actually commissioned by Kanykei, Manas’s wife, and built by expert craftsmen all the way from Bukhara and Samarkand. The inscription was merely a ruse to confuse the enemies of Manas at the time so they would not defame his resting place.
The Gumbez of Manas is part of a complex dedicated to Manas. Near the mausoleum you can also visit a museum dedicated to the epic of Manas, a traditional epic poem highly regarded among the Kyrgyz people that was passed down orally for generations.
The Gumbez of Manas is visited by many in Kyrgyzstan tourism packages and treated as a national treasure and his mausoleum is most ancient of those similar structures which survived on in Kyrgyzstan today. It is located in the foothill of Manastyn Chokusu rocky hill near the city of Talas and is a landmark of the Silk Road epoch.
The Gumbez of Manas is a rare kind of structure made from burnt bricks and carved terracotta with portal architecture. The square building is covered with a hipped dome. The portal of the main facade is entirely covered with ornate tiles from carved terracotta.
The ornament includes calligraphical inscriptions; under the bright light they create surprisingly complex and subtle combination of light and shade. In cloudy weather they acquire tonal softness and beauty.
The Gumbez of Manas was erected in 1334 and was built above the tomb of the daughter of Emir Abuki Kianizek-khatun. However, the national memory has preserved it as the mausoleum of the legendary Manas, the warrior. The legend runs that that Kanykei, the faithful wife of Manas, built the mausoleum above his tomb. To save the tomb from being robbed Kanykei ordered to make the inscription saying his bride was buried there.
So Manas is buried at the Gumbez of Manas now, but the legendary warrior was not buried there in history,.
This 4,488 meter high peak (14,725 feet, higher than Mount Whitney the tallest mountain in the continental United States is the is the highest point of the Talas Ala-Too range as well as one of the highest of Western Tien-Shan. Called after the main Kyrgyz epic hero of Manas, this peak fully deserves its name as no other mountain in Talas can compete.
One traveler wrote, “An amazing peak west of Talas city! I did not summit the peak but I was there with some friends. We were on bikes and I thought it was a very amazing peak / mountain. I’m not sure if i will have time to summit it but it looks wild! ”
Manas Peak is considered one of the most breathtaking peaks in Kyrgyzstan and is an excellent choice for adventure climbing tours. It contains several challenging rock faces and ascents that are sometimes as steep as 50 degrees. Tours are offered by a variety of companies including Silk Road Explore, Explore Share, and World Expeditions.
Besh-Tash Lake (Kyrgyz: Беш Таш) is a rock-dammed lake in Talas Province of Kyrgyzstan. It is located at the altitude of about 3,000 m in riverbed of Besh-Tash river, left tributary of Talas River.
The alpine lake of Besh Tash, whose waters reach down to a depth of 28 meters, resides in the Besh Tash Valley (2,997 m) in the province of Talas. The lake’s turquoise waters are home to a variety of fish including osman, marinka, and trout.
Suusamyr Valley – Eurasia Travel
Gumbez of Manas – Trip Advisor