Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Photo: Dave Proffer (stans08-339 Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Dave Proffer (stans08-339 Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s time for a cleanse. As summer turns into autumn, it’s time to rejuvenate. You’re looking for a new experience, a challenge, and, most importantly, a break as the seasons change. Some call it a pilgrimage. You simply call it a trek. Either way, it’s life changing.

In the past, you’ve followed the Pagan route to Stonehenge, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and the circuit many want to claim around Mount Kailash. But those well-worn routes are almost too popular. You want something quieter and under the radar this time. Sulayman Mountain, in Kyrgyzstan, should fit the bill.

Sulayman Mountain is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in this Central Asian country. It towers over the dry Fergana Valley and Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city, in the southern part of the country. Muslims believe that a shrine on the mountain marks the gravesite of the prophet Sulayman (Solomon). While legend claims that women who reach the shrine—and crawl through an opening in a holy rock—will give birth to healthy children. You’re climbing the mountain for the amazing view.

You arrive at the rocky mountain to find not one, but five peaks. A cemetery sits on a lower slope. While a paved path leads to the National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex Sulayman. The museum was originally established in 1949 as the Osh Regional Museum. The current building, carved inside the mountain, was built to celebrate the 3,000th—yes, that very high number is correct—anniversary of Osh. The museum, with its glass-and-concrete arch, is now one of the largest museums in Kyrgyzstan. It’s filled with paintings, sculptures, and handicrafts discovered in the area. Smaller museums, including an art gallery and a yurt, also sit on the hillside.

As you climb higher up the mountain, wildflowers and petroglyphs line the trail. Prayer flags are draped over bushes and low-hanging trees. Pilgrims pray inside small caves. Eventually, you reach a small Babur mosque near the top of the trail. You immediately get sidetracked by the view, though. Osh, which seemed large and hectic as you traveled through it, now looks small and quiet. Snow-capped mountains are in the distance. You breathe in a gust of cool air, take a sip of water, and silently say thank you to whoever is looking after you. The cleanse has begun.

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