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Trek the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Hike the most spectacular mountain range in Central Asia and sleep under the stars

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Trip Ref #10040

Trek the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Hike the most spectacular mountain range in Central Asia and sleep under the stars

DURATION
9 nights
LOCATION
Kyrgyzstan
ANNUAL LEAVE
7 days off work
SEASON
Jun—Sep
GROUP SIZE
Up to 10 people
MEETING POINT
Manas International Airport, Kyrgyzstan
ACCOMMODATION
Classic

Hotel · Guesthouse · Yurt · Wild camping

OVERALL RATING

4.9

Based on 47 reviews
DIFFICULTY
Challenging

The terrain is rough, uneven and completely magnificent, so you should be comfortable walking for up to 8 hours and 22km a day

Hike dramatic, red sandstone canyons and swim in the pristine water of the Issyk Kul high alpine lake

Experience the legendary hospitality of the Kyrgyz semi-nomadic shepherds and spend a night in their yurt

Cross the epic Jukku Pass (3800m) - a spectacular climb surrounded by glaciers and meet Aitbek, one of the last remaining Eagle Hunters in Kyrgyzstan

Day 1

Welcome to Kyrgyzstan

Check into your hotel in Bishkek, the cultural hub of Kyrgyzstan, and meet your fellow adventurers. If you arrive early enough, join for lunch and then head into the city on foot with your guide to explore the huge Osh Bazaar before sitting down for a traditional Kyrgyz feast.

Day 2

Issyk Kul Lake

Hiking

3hrs · 7km · 400m up · 400m down

Driving

7hrs

Take a scenic road trip across the vast Kyrgyz plains to the city of Karakol at the foot of the Tian Shan Mountains. Along the way, hike through the red sandstone Konorchek Canyon, stopping for a picnic lunch with a seriously good view. Journey on to the northern shore of Issyk Kul Lake, the second-largest mountain lake in the world. In Karakol, visit the unique Dungan Mosque and settle into your cosy guesthouse for the evening.

Day 3

The 7 Bulls

Hiking

7-8hrs · 18km · 825m up · 725m down

Rise early for a visit to the wooden Orthodox church of Karakol, or just enjoy a lazy start to the day. Cross the pasturelands that lay above the lake and head to the valley of Jety Oguz, or ‘the seven bulls’ - 7 red stone cliffs from where you'll hit the trail. See your first yurts, home to Kyrgyz semi-nomadic farmers and shepherds and get your own taste of the local culture as you bed down in one for the night. Learn about the age-old traditions still employed, but expect an exchange - they are just as curious to know about your lives too.

Day 4

Jailoo Kyzyl Suu

Hiking

8hrs · 22km · 1000m up · 1100m down

Cross the Jailoo Kyzyl Suu, and join the Jukkuchak Valley, a path previously used by explorers in the 1930s on their way to Chinese Turkestan. Either way you’ll be back in time for dinner at your first wild camping spot.

Day 5

The Jukku Valley

Hiking

6hrs · 17km · 720m up · 150m down

Leave the foothills of the mountains behind and ascend the beautiful Jukku Valley, flanked on both sides by Tian Shan pine trees. As you hike the landscape will change fast as you journey deeper into the mountains, ending at 2600m above sea level. Keep your fingers crossed for clear skies as shooting star spotting is a must from your wild camping spot.

Day 6

Jukku Lake

Hiking

6hrs · 18km · 820m up · 250m down

Venture further and higher into the Jukku Valley, which was once trafficked by caravans heading to China along the ancient Silk Road. Set up camp at around 3140m above sea level in a serene spot on the shores of the first Jukku Lake.

Day 7

The big one: The Jukku Pass (3640m)

Hiking

6-7hrs · 12km · 750m up · 200m down

Climb to the top of the incredible Jukku Pass. It’s a long day with a lot of up and down, but the view from the top makes every step worthwhile. Once on the other side of the pass, it continues to rise gradually and you'll be glad to reach camp on the Arabel Syrt around lunchtime. Fuelled up on a hot meal, those who want can walk up to the plateau at 4000m for an unforgettable panorama of the surrounding snowy peaks before bunking down in your tent. Sleeping at 3680m, you’ll be sure to feel the cold tonight and will probably welcome the never-ending cups of tea that are passed around.

Day 8

The Arabel Syrt

Hiking

1-2hrs · 5km · 70m up · 50m down

Cross the ‘syrt’ (elevated flatland) of Arabel - a unique ecosystem of highlands dotted with crystalline lakes. After a few kilometres, cross a bridge over the river to find the vehicle waiting to drive you back to Issyk Kul Lake. There may be time for a short hike to the Barskoon Waterfalls en route (if your legs still have the appetite for more) before ending the day at Tamga where tonight's guesthouse and a hot shower await.

Day 9

The Great Aitbek

After an early breakfast, drive back to Bishkek along the dry south shore of the high altitude Issyk Kul Lake. There’ll be time for a swim before visiting Skazka Canyon, with its many shades of red and yellow. Stop to meet Aitbek, one of the few remaining ‘berkutchy’ (Kyrgyz eagle hunters) and learn how he trains his golden eagle before returning to Bishkek and a final group dinner.

Day 10

Head for home

Wave goodbye to Kyrgyzstan and head back to the airport in time for your flight home.

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking guides

Accommodation

2 nights in a hotel, 2 nights in a guesthouse, 1 night in a yurt, 4 nights wild camping

Meals

Munch on tasty food throughout

Transfers

To and from the airport and everything in-between

Porterage

Pack horses to carry your overnight luggage

Equipment

All the camping equipment you'll need

Permits

All permits and entry fees

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Visas where required

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Guesthouse · Twin or triple share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3

Yurt · Multi share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4 – Day 7

Wild camping · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8

Guesthouse · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 9

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 10

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Traditional Kyrgyz food revolves around meat and various dairy products. The preparation techniques and major ingredients have been strongly influenced by the nation's ancient, nomadic way of life, so many of the cooking techniques are conducive to the long-term preservation of food. If you get the chance, be sure to join in with the cooking and learn more about the local specialities.

During the trek, breakfast will comprise of porridge, eggs, soups and sausages. Lunch will likely be a packed lunch of a sandwich and various other local treats, such as dried fruits and nuts. Dinner will always be hot and usually a combination of stews, noodle dishes and soups.

As the local economy is traditionally based on animal rearing and breeding, vegetarianism is still largely unheard of, however, your host can arrange this if requested. For other dietary requirements (including vegan and gluten-free diets, which are difficult to cater for on this trip), please check with your host.

What is the accommodation like?

Bishkek

In Bishkek you'll stay at the Navat Hotel, or a hotel of similar standard such as Hotel Evropa or Hotel Damas. You'll stay in twin-share rooms by default.

Guesthouses on trek

In Karakol and Tamga, you’ll stay in small family-run guesthouses in either twin or triple rooms. These are basic but clean with shared facilities.

Traditional Yurts

The yurt camp in Chong Kyzyl Suu valley is owned by a local family, with three yurts available for guests whilst the family sleep in an old Soviet-style wagon. You'll be sharing a yurt with up to six people. There is a wooden latrine and one banya (Russian-style bathroom/sauna). There is electricity, but no plugs. Meals are taken in the wagon with the family, or outside next to the river.

Wild Camp

On Days 4 to 7, you’ll camp in wild locations in twin-share tents. You'll need to put up and take down your own tent. There will also be a tent for group meals and a toilet tent for larger groups.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking, as this is subject to availability. This is available on all nights, except for the night in the yurt.

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Manas Airport

11:00 on Day 1

Ends

Manas Airport

Depart anytime on Day 10

Transfers

Airport transfers are included for arrivals at any time on or before day 1, and at any time on or after Day 10 (provided you have supplied your arrival and departure details in advance). There will be a welcome briefing at the hotel in Bishkek at 11:30 on Day 1 so please aim to arrive by then if possible.

Travel options

There are regular flights to Kyrgyzstan from major airports across the UK and Europe, usually with a brief stopover.

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What do I need to bring?

Bags

  • Soft (ideally waterproof) overnight duffel bag or rucksack for the horses to carry (60-80 litres)
  • Daypack (25-30 litres litres) with rain cover (or bring drybags)
  • Waterproof liner or drybags for main duffel bag/rucksack

Clothes

  • Mid-weight down jacket
  • Waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
  • Waterproof and windproof trousers / overtrousers
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Fleece jacket or similar
  • Thermals (wool/merino is best)
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Buff or neck scarf
  • Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts T-shirts
  • Underwear & socks
  • Swimwear
  • Suitable UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Waterproof hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Gaiters (optional - for early June and late Sept/Oct trips only)
  • Sandals / Crocs

Sleeping

  • Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
  • Sleeping bag (3/4 season, down to -5°C Comfort Rating): available to rent also (see Optional Extras)
  • Travel pillow or pillowcase
  • Thermarest or sleeping mat (optional - basic foam mats are provided but you may want to bring your own Thermarest for additional comfort)

Other

  • Trekking poles (optional but recommended)
  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Ear plugs
  • High SPF suncream and lipbalm (SPF 50+ recommended)
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Alcohol hand-gel
  • Headtorch or torch
  • Reusable water bottle x 1-litre and/or hydration bladder/pouch
  • Water purification tablets or treatment system
  • Quickdry travel towel
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Energy bars and snacks (optional, local snacks provided)
*Requests for optional extras can be made after booking on your “My Bookings” page

Sleeping bag rental

Payable Before Departure

Sleeping bag rental

Double or Twin Room in Bishkek (per room)

Payable Before Departure

Double or Twin Room in Bishkek (per room)

Single Room in Bishkek (per room)

Payable Before Departure

Single Room in Bishkek (per room)

Optional Private Room and Tent Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room and Tent Upgrade

Florence

Words or photos won’t do it justice. Great trip. Excellent hiking - challenging but in a good way. All inclusive. Our guides were exceptional. And generally well looked after and verify well fed

Jonathan

An amazing trip - thoroughly well-organised and put together. The scenery was stunning, and the guides Mir-Said and Ruslan were excellent. The only downside was when the trip finished!

Matthew

Highly recommended trip. Kyrgyzstan is a very beautiful country, and this trek passes through a diverse range of landscapes, from the red-rock canyons close to Issyk-Kul, through the broad glacier-carved Juuku valley, to the windswept Arabel plateau. As a result of the change in altitude, we experienced four seasons in a week, starting in hot sunshine and finishing in a chilly but magical snowscape. Our guides were excellent, working very hard to ensure we were well-fed (including accommodating dietary requirements) and entertained (one night there was a campfire). The horsemen also did a great job and the horses were very calm when we briefly rode them to reach one of our camping spots. The route was well chosen to allow time to acclimatise to the altitude, as well as plenty of time to rest and chat over a cup of tea. There were good opportunities to spot wildlife, including eagles, vultures, and marmots. Besides the trek, the cultural activities were very enjoyable - my personal highlights were the eagle hunting demonstration (and the delicious home cooking that followed) and meeting a lovely couple who make yurts.

I'm sure each group has a good dynamic in a different way, but I got on well with everyone in mine and I feel there wasn't too much difference in walking pace between the slower and speedier hikers. I came as an individual traveller and enjoyed making new friends. The whole experience was seamless and justified the price tag. Thank you Mir-Said for putting together such a good programme!

A few tips: Rent your sleeping bag - you'll have peace of mind that you'll be warm enough and have more space in your luggage for other things. Buy some gifts at very reasonable prices from the Osh bazaar and then leave them at the hotel to pick up at the end of the trip. Bring a book and a pack of cards or a similar game, as the evenings are long (especially if you choose September dates when it gets dark earlier).

Phoebe

Great trip. The guides were fabulous and the trek throughly enjoyable.

Katherine

Fantastic holiday! Really beautiful country and a well organised trip.

Folkert

My son with whom I traveled together summed it up best: "This was one of the best experiences in his life". I could not agree more. My only regret is that it lasted too short :-)

Kelly

Definitely do this trip - it was brilliant and such a great way to see a country as unique as Kyrgyzstan. During the whole hike you're going through their agricultural land so constantly surrounded by horses, cows and sheep - you feel totally immersed in their culture whilst exploring a magnificent landscape that exudes colour and beauty. The food was great, plentiful and healthy (and yes there was still plenty of chocolate!) - the home cooked lunch in the yurt was scrumptious. The guide and whole team were incredible, knowledgeable and funny, and clearly took on board feedback from prior groups to ensure we had the best time. Loved the variation in landscape and there was a cultural touch during the whole tour which was nice given the history and culture of the country. Be prepared for all weather - we went from blazing hot sunshine to blizzards and snow and back again and it made the experience fabulous.

Phil

Our guides Stas and Ibek were absolutely fantastic and the trip was spectacular. The hiking and scenery was beautiful and the culture and food was impressive too. If you're on the fence about going, then definitely go for it!

Alan

Amazing trip! Victor was the best and led us through the wilderness with skill and personality. Gorgeous vistas and great food and conversation with the group.

Stephen

A great trip into the canyons and mountains of Kyrgyzstan with a chance to meet with local traditions. Good food, well organised and great value

We partner with the World Land Trust to ensure this trip achieves Net-Zero emissions. We also support their Buy an Acre programme, helping local communities to buy and protect natural habitats in perpetuity.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 386kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. We partner with the World Land Trust to ensure this trip achieves Net-Zero emissions. We also support their Buy an Acre programme, helping local communities to buy and protect natural habitats in perpetuity, ensuring the protection of the reserve and its wildlife.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

This trip is suitable for trekkers of average fitness. You should feel comfortable walking for up to 8 hours a day/22 km although most days are 6-7 hours and up to 18 km. The terrain is largely undulating and you will be walking at a steady pace. The Jukku Pass (3640m) is the most challenging section and you will climb over 750m, with plenty of time to stop and rest your legs. You will also have horses carrying your overnight kit so will only need to trek with a small rucksack of essentials.

Sure can! Over 70% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

Your host will provide you with boiled water while trekking, but we advise that you also pack a filtration system of your own (e.g. Saywer or Steripen) or water purification tablets (e.g Aqua Tabs or Micropur) to ensure that the water is fully treated.

The trekking season in the Tian Shan is short and we only schedule departures when the temperatures are at their mildest and all the mountain passes are in use. Kyrgyzstan gets surprisingly little rain and has over 300 days of sunshine a year.

In the summer, the mornings are usually clear, but the afternoons can be hazy. Even in summer, there can be occasional snowfalls above 3000m and the Arabel Syrt can be wet and marshy as a result of meltwater. At lower altitudes (around the tree line) summer temperatures usually range from 16-28°C and it can feel very hot during the day. In the highlands, the temperatures range from 8-12°C. Night times will feel cold and the higher camps temperatures may hover only a few degrees above freezing or even dip below zero.

Bishkek and the lowland areas around Lake Issyk-Kul will be hot in the day and mild in the evenings.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. Your guide will help with advice, however, we suggest the following as a guideline per person:

  • Horsemen, driver and assistant: 70-200 KGS ($1-3 USD) per day.
  • Guide: 200-350 ($3-5 USD) per day

Of course, you are free to tip more or less and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

Absolutely. Your host can look after any luggage you don't need while trekking.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

For current advice about travelling in Kyrgyzstan, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

Owing to the nature of this trip, it is essential that your personal travel insurance policy provides cover to the maximum altitude visited on this trip (4000m).

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory for all of our adventures and you are required to provide your policy information before departing.

Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure. We also strongly recommend it includes cancellation and curtailment insurance, should you be unable to join your trip for specific reasons such as illness.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last-minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

You're always in good company on one of our adventures.

Our trips are typically made up of a mixture of solo travellers and small groups of 2 or 3 friends, with most in their 30s-50s.

Our sociable adventures are solo-friendly by design and naturally attract outdoorsy people with a shared mindset; a love for adventure, a desire to push themselves and meet awesome, like-minded people along the way.

It’s this camaraderie that has so often turned a great adventure into a life-changing one.

Don't just take our word for it:

  • 95% of people rate the group dynamics on our trips 5/5
  • 90% of people recommend joining a trip to make new friends
  • 75% of people have met people on our trips that they would now consider friends

See here for more info about the Much Better Adventures tribe.

Interested in a more exclusive experience? Opt for a 'Private Group' through the dates and prices tab to book this adventure for just you and your chosen companions.

Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

TRIP DEPARTURE DATES

June 2024

Saturday • 1st June 2024

to Monday • 10th June 2024
$1,800.00
Fully Booked
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 15th June 2024

to Monday • 24th June 2024
$1,800.00
Fully Booked
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 22nd June 2024

to Monday • 1st July 2024
$1,800.00
5 Booked • 7 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 29th June 2024

to Monday • 8th July 2024
$1,800.00
2 Booked • 10 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 6th July 2024

to Monday • 15th July 2024
$1,800.00
2 Booked • 10 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 13th July 2024

to Monday • 22nd July 2024
$1,800.00
3 Booked • 9 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 27th July 2024

to Monday • 5th August 2024
$1,800.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 3rd August 2024

to Monday • 12th August 2024
$1,800.00
2 Booked • 10 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 10th August 2024

to Monday • 19th August 2024
$1,800.00
1 Booked • 11 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 17th August 2024

to Monday • 26th August 2024
$1,800.00
Fully Booked
Guaranteed to run

Thursday • 22nd August 2024

to Saturday • 31st August 2024
$1,800.00
10 Booked • 2 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 31st August 2024

to Monday • 9th September 2024
$1,800.00
2 Booked • 10 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 7th September 2024

to Monday • 16th September 2024
$1,800.00
1 Booked • 11 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 14th September 2024

to Monday • 23rd September 2024
$1,800.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 21st September 2024

to Monday • 30th September 2024
$1,800.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 7th June 2025

to Monday • 16th June 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 14th June 2025

to Monday • 23rd June 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 21st June 2025

to Monday • 30th June 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 28th June 2025

to Monday • 7th July 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 5th July 2025

to Monday • 14th July 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 12th July 2025

to Monday • 21st July 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 19th July 2025

to Monday • 28th July 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 26th July 2025

to Monday • 4th August 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 2nd August 2025

to Monday • 11th August 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 9th August 2025

to Monday • 18th August 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 16th August 2025

to Monday • 25th August 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 23rd August 2025

to Monday • 1st September 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 30th August 2025

to Monday • 8th September 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 6th September 2025

to Monday • 15th September 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 13th September 2025

to Monday • 22nd September 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Saturday • 20th September 2025

to Monday • 29th September 2025
$1,890.00
12 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

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You can choose to pay for this trip in as many installments as you like, with no interest or fees.

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