Trek the Tian Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan
Trek the most spectacular mountain range in Central Asia and sleep under the stars
Why it's much better
- Hike the dramatic red sandstone canyons and gorges of Konorchek & Skazka
- Wild swim in the pristine water of Issyk Kul high alpine lake
- Share a bowl of kumys with Kyrgyz semi-nomadic shepherds and spend a night in their yurt
- Cross the Jukku Pass (3800m), a spectacular climb, surrounded by glaciers
- Meet Aitbek, one of the last remaining Eagle Hunters in Kyrgyzstan
- Wild camp under the stars in vast alpine meadows, pastures and mountain passes
- Ease your tired legs with a soak in mineral-rich hot springs
- Guides Expert, English-speaking local guides
- Accommodation 5 nights in a guesthouse, 1 night in a yurt, 3 nights wild camping
- Meals All your food
- Transfers All airport transfers
- Permits All permits and entry fees
- Equipment All camping equipment
- Porterage Pack horses to carry overnight luggage
- Happiness Guaranteed We're so confident that your holiday will be your best yet, we actually guarantee it
- Feel Good Vibes We mitigate 4x the carbon emitted by all our travellers and support important conservation projects
Day 1: Welcome to Kyrgyzstan!
Bishkek, a cultural hub of Central Asia, is the starting place for your adventure. Dense with Soviet brutalist architecture, countless city parks and the huge Osh Bazaar you won’t be short of things to do if you arrive early. For those who do, there’s the option to join a walking tour with your guide. Or, just arrive at the hotel tonight to meet your fellow adventurers and hear about the journey ahead over your first traditional Kyrgyz feast.
Day 2: Canyon Hiking and journey to Issyk Kul Lake
Today starts with a road trip as you journey through vast plains making your way towards the city of Karakol at the foot of the Tian Shan Mountains. As you enter the Ala Too Mountain range, you’ll head for a hike through the red sandstone Konorchek canyon, stopping for a picnic lunch. Next you’ll journey to the northern shore of Issyk Kul Lake, the second largest mountain lake in the world, and settle into your cosy guesthouse for the evening.
Approx 3 hours trekking
Day 3: Pasturelands and the 7 Bulls
You'll have an early rise this morning if you're keen to visit the wooden Orthodox church of Karakol and the Dungan Mosque. Next it’s trekking boots to the ready. Your first proper day in the pasturelands above the lake should be an easy warm up to your hiking expedition. You’ll eventually arrive to the valley of Jety Oguz, meaning ‘the seven bulls’ in Kyrgyz language, referring to the 7 red stone cliffs overhanging the picturesque village. Another night in a small local guesthouse tonight.
Approx 4.5 hours trekking / 12km / Ascent 450m / Descent 300m
Day 4: To Chong Kyzyl Suu
Prepare for a long day today. You'll trek from the rock formations of Jety Oguz across vast ‘jailoos’, the Kyrgyz term for summer pasture lands. The landscape starts to change dramatically and you’ll begin to see many yurts dotting the landscape. These yurts are lived in by Kyrgyz semi-nomadic farmers and shepherds. You’ll get your own taste of local culture as you also bed down for the night in one of these traditional yurts. Learn about the age-old traditions that are still employed here and expect an exchange: the locals are curious and just as keen to know about your lives too.
Approx 6.5 hours trekking / 17km / Ascent 650m / Descent 650m
Day 5 : Valley Hopping
Another day of rolling hills as you head up and down vast open valleys. You’ll 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. For those with fuel left in their legs, there’s the choice to continue further and jump into the natural hot springs. You’ll be back in time for dinner at your first wild camping spot.
Approx 7.5 hours trekking / 20km / Ascent 800m / Descent 800m
Day 6: Among the Tian Shan pine trees
Leaving the foothills of the mountains behind, you’ll head to the beautiful valley of Jukku, flanked with Tian Shan pines. The landscape will change a lot today as you really get deep into the mountains, ending the hike at 2660m above sea level. Keep your fingers crossed for clear skies tonight as shooting star spotting is a must from your wild camping spot.
Approx 6.5 hours trekking / 18km / Ascent 660m / Descent 100m
Day 7: The Big One: Jukku Pass (3640m)
Today’s the tough one. Climbing over 1000m today, you’ll get to the top of the Jukku Pass at 3640m. Once over the pass there is a steady incline before arriving at the ‘syrt’ (elevated flatland) of Arabel. It’s a long day of up, up and up but the views from the top make every step worthwhile. Sleeping at 3715m, you’ll be sure to feel the cold tonight and will welcome the never-ending cups of tea passed around.
Approx 7 hours trekking / 15km / Ascent 1055m / Descent 100m
Day 8: The Arabel Syrt
It's your last full day in the mountains. Today you'll cross the Arabel Syrt, a unique ecosystem of highlands dotted with crystalline lakes. The crossing of the syrt is pretty spectacular; the surrounding glaciers are close enough to explore from the side. It's worth making sure your eyes are peeled for ibex, foxes, bearded vultures and even wolves too. We’ll end the day with a quick transfer to Tamga, where your night's guesthouse and hot shower awaits.
Approx 6 hours trekking / 20km / Ascent 100m / Descent 50m
Day 9: Back to Bishkek along Issyk Kul
After an early breakfast, you’ll drive back to Bishkek along the dry south shore of Issyk Kul Lake. There’ll be time for a swim; this high altitude lake, with surrounding views of mountains, is sure to provide a unique wild swimming experience. You’ll also visit the Skazka canyon, with its many shades of red and yellow, before stopping off to meet Aitbek, a ‘berkutchy’ (Eagle hunter). He is one of the few genuine Kyrgyz eagle hunters and you’ll learn how he trains his golden eagle for the hunt. Heading back to Bishkek we’ll have a final group dinner and say goodbye to our local team.
Day 10: Transfer to Manas International Airport
Bid goodbye to Kyrgyzstan and head to the airport for your flight home.
All our adventures take place in wild places. Things can go wrong in wild places. Your perfectly planned itinerary may change a bit (or a lot) if the weather turns, someone gets hurt, or a volcano erupts. Usually though, changes make it all the better.
You will stay in small family-run guesthouses. These are basic but clean and you will share either twin or triple rooms. They will usually have shared facilities instead of private en-suites. Depending on the group size you may also stay in a yurt on these nights that are part of the same property.
Most of the guesthouses are run and owned by local families and at some, you may get the chance to join in with the cooking (optional!) and learn a bit more about their local specialities.
The yurt camp in Chong Kyzyl Suu valley is owned by a family. There are 3 yurts for the guests and one old Soviet-style wagon that the family sleep in. There is one wooden latrine and one banya (Russian style bathroom/sauna). There is electricity in the yurts but no plugs, only light. Meals are taken in the wagon with the family, or outside next to the river.
Camp is usually set up next to a family's yurt so that we can purchase some products from them (bread, milk, kumys etc). You will be sleeping in pairs in 3-man tents so there is plenty of room. There will be a tent used for group meals and a toilet tent for larger groups.
Private Room/Tent Upgrade
For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for $155 USD per person (subject to availability). Please request this at the time of booking.
Few places are as fascinating as the region of Central Asia, which has been inaccessible to most people until very recently. At its heart lies Kyrgyzstan, a country of spectacular views and where 90% of the land is mountainous. Traditionally inhabited by semi-nomadic, yurt-dwelling shepherds this nation is defined by its natural beauty. High alpine lakes and dramatic ridges has given the country the title 'Asian Patagonia' - which makes a lot of sense to us!
Your adventure begins at Manas (Bishkek) Airport. Airport transfers are included if you arrive on the start day, so please let your host know your flight times.
Your adventure ends at Manas (Bishkek) Airport on Day 10. Airport transfers are included, so please let your host know your flight times.
Please note, transfers are only included if you arrive or depart on the start and end days of the trip. If you would like to arrive early or extend your stay, your host can arrange airport transfers for an extra cost.
Dates & Prices
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There are currently no planned group departures. Please contact this host to request a quote for a custom trip.Request a Quote
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