Meet the Guides
Learn the stories behind the local guides leading you into the mountains.
Part of what makes visiting the Jyrgalan Valley so special is the chance to sink into the Kyrgyz experience a bit, off-the-beaten-path from other travelers. In Jyrgalan, you'll stay within the community at one of our guesthouses — many owners have lived in the village for decades, if not their entire lives. You'll learn about the village from a range of passionate guides who have spent their lives learning the region's mountain passes, valleys, and peaks. Each trekking and horse trekking guide brings his own stories and own perspective while sharing Kyrgyz hospitality with others (that means you!).
Even more, by using local guides for your tourism experiences, you are an active part of Jyrgalan's remarkable transformation story — a former mining town that embraced tourism as a means for economic development and a brighter future for the local residents living in the Jyrgalan Valley. This was the entire mission and purpose behind the founding of Destination Jyrgalan Valley. Every member of the organization believes that tourism can be a force for positive change in their community, including the guides below, who share their story in the hopes of welcoming you to their small corner of the world one day soon.
Trekking Guides in Jyrgalan
Ruslan is a family man and true horse lover. He and his wife have five children, from toddler-aged to teens, and they keep two homes in the area. He lives in Boz Uchuk village during the winter months, and his family moves to Jyrgalan during the warm summers. Ruslan believes that God has blessed the Krygyz people with the unparalleled natural beauty of their surroundings. He works as a horse trekking guide, sharing with tourists this place he calls home. He supplies kymyz, fermented mare’s milk, to Jyrgalan villagers, and also offers the village’s popular kymyz treatments — a wellness activity enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Since horses are such a big part of Ruslan's life, it makes sense that kok-boru is among his favorite games.
Azamat and his wife Bermet are founding members of the Jyrgalan DMO. They have a strong belief that tourism can change their town — and their family — for the better. He and his wife run Baitor Guesthouse, and Azamat is one of the town’s key horse trekking guides. He takes an active, hands-on role in everything from training his horse to leading his treks to repairing his own cars and machinery — something he loves doing. He owns 30 horses, in addition to many cows and sheep, all which he keeps on his land in Razdolnoe village. After a hard day of work, he loves to come home and enjoy a traditional Kyrgyz meal of beshbarmak or chuchuk, topped off with kymyz, the fermented mare’s milk.
Urmat has always loved the mountains. Since childhood, he would head into nature with a deep need to explore, a need to know better the nature surrounding his home. He knows the mountains well, and as tourism grows he is committed to sharing his love for nature with travelers interested in immersing themselves in Jrygalan Valley’s quiet, clean, and untouched lakes, and rivers, and mountain peaks. In addition to guiding tourists, Urmat saddles up, takes his dog for companionship, and heads to the jailoo (high mountain summer pastures) to care for his family’s sheep, cows, and horses. In his free time, he loves watching martial arts movies, listening to music, and learning English. He loves that tourism has come to the Jyrgalan Valley so he can share with tourists his love for natural spaces.
Born in the Jyrgalan Valley, Taalay has never wanted to leave the place he and his family have always called home. His wife Nazira works at the local elementary school, and the pair enjoy raising their two daughters in such a close-knit community. Fluent in both Kyrgyz and Russian, Taalay studied law at Karakol University, but returned to his village soon after he finished his studies. Although he worked in coal mining for a time, he is now grateful to have fully realized his goal to become a mountain guide for tourists. One surprising passion is his love for hunting dogs. He has two dogs that are so well trained that he once called to the dogs from more than two kilometers away, and the dogs returned home on command. Taalay believes that Jyrgalan is a holy place — the beauty of nature is unsurpassed — and he could never imagine living elsewhere.
Azamat is a man with many talents, all of which have made him an integral part of the Jyrgalan community. He has worked for Jyrgalan’s Emergency Ministry Department for more than eight years, he studied auto mechanics at a trade school in Karakol, he served in Kyrgyz Army from 2006 to 2007, and he’s even a local driver’s education instructor. On top of that, he has a deep love for nature and works as a guide, helping tourists safely and thoroughly explore the mountains, lakes, and valleys in the region. With a young daughter at home, he and his wife see a great future in tourism for their family, and for their community as a whole.
A native to Jyrgalan Village, Almaz is also a student of history whose specific interest is in modern China and Ancient Rome. He inherited his love of learning from his father, the principal of his local school. He left Jyrgalan to attend Bishkek Humanities University, where he studied Chinese language — making him trilingual in Kyrygz, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese (and he is quickly learning English, as well!). Almaz loves going into the mountains, especially when he can guide travelers on one of his two favorite treks: Keskenkija trek and Turnaluu Kol lake trek. While he is guiding tourists, his wife cares for their two young daughters. He believes his family has a strong future in tourism — he and his wife run Nur Hostel in the village and Almaz will continue work as a trekking guide.
As the youngest of eight children, Elaman Imanbay returned to Jyrgalan after studying engineering at university. He and his wife live with his parents in his family home and he will remain in Jyrgalan to care for his parents, as is the Kyrgyz custom. Although he has livestock and a farm in the nearby village of Ak Chiy, he has a strong passion for the arts. He is fond of painting and also deeply enjoys listening to a traditional Kyrgyz artform called Akyns, where storytellers improvise poems and songs. The beauty of the region inspires him. He loves guiding travelers on the Boz Uchuk trek, and he dreams of building a cafe in Jyrgalan at a panoramic spot on the way to Tulpar Tash.
Altynbek and his wife, Tatna, were highschool sweethearts who married in summer 2017, after eight years of dating. They plan to build their life in Jyrgalan village and are eager to contribute to their hometown in their life and careers. Tatna studied tourism at university and now teaches geography at the local school. Altynbek will soon finish his engineering studies, and — as a lover of sports — he plans to build a local park for the village children, as well as an open air gym. His two favorite spots nearby include Ailampa Lake and Turnaluu Kol Lake. He loves that his work guiding tourists has allowed him to meet people from so many diverse cultures around the world.
Fluent in Russian and Kyrgyz, Eldiyar worked in construction for many years, both in Bishkek and in Kazakhstan. After he returned to his hometown in the Jyrgalan Valley, he worked briefly worked in coal mining before becoming a deputy in the village parliament. He has big dreams for Jyrgalan, and has led efforts to build the village’s first public gym. He hopes to raise the funds for a beautiful arched structure welcoming visitors to the town. As tourism increases, he hopes to run his own guesthouse, continue guiding tourists through the mountains, and improve his English skills. He’s an avid reader — he particularly loves historical fiction — and plays volleyball in his free time. He loves his hometown’s sheer beauty and plans to make this his permanent home as he grows his family in the coming years.