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4.9
| 53 reviews

Trek the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan

9 nights
Challenging

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

What's Included?

Activities & Certified Guides

All itinerary activities with expert, English-speaking guides

All accommodation

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

Meals

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners

Transfers

Your airport and local transfers, packhorses to carry overnight luggage, all permits and entry fees

Equipment

Tents, sleeping mats, a group mess tent and cooking equipment are provided while you're camping

Small Like-minded Groups

Solo-friendly by design, join our small n’ sociable groups of up to 10 like-minded, active and outdoorsy people
From

excluding flights

What's it like?

4.9
| 53 reviews
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
June 2024
Thomas E.
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
June 2024
Thomas E.
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
June 2024
Thomas E.
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
June 2024
Thomas E.
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
June 2024
Thomas E.
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
June 2024
Thomas E.
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
June 2024
Thomas E.
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
June 2024
Thomas E.
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
June 2024
Peter W.
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
June 2024
Peter W.
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
June 2024
Peter W.
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
June 2024
Peter W.
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
June 2024
Peter W.
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
June 2024
Peter W.
Mountain tea
June 2024
Richard D.
Mountain tea
June 2024
Richard D.
Mountain tea
June 2024
Richard D.
Mountain tea
June 2024
Richard D.
Mountain tea
June 2024
Richard D.
Words or photos won’t do it justice. Great...
November 2023
Florence
Words or photos won’t do it justice. Great...
November 2023
Florence
Words or photos won’t do it justice. Great...
November 2023
Florence
An amazing trip - thoroughly well-organised...
November 2023
Jonathan
An amazing trip - thoroughly well-organised...
November 2023
Jonathan
An amazing trip - thoroughly well-organised...
November 2023
Jonathan
An amazing trip - thoroughly well-organised...
November 2023
Jonathan
Highly recommended trip. Kyrgyzstan is a ve...
November 2023
Matthew
Highly recommended trip. Kyrgyzstan is a ve...
November 2023
Matthew
Highly recommended trip. Kyrgyzstan is a ve...
November 2023
Matthew
Highly recommended trip. Kyrgyzstan is a ve...
November 2023
Matthew

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

Key Information

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.

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?

Twin room in the Navat Hotel, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
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.

This trip has been rated as Challenging

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.

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.

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.

Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

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

Eoghan F.(June 2024)
Trek the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Amazing country, beautiful scenery and very friendly people.

Great trip with varied sights/activities. The guides had it organized perfectly and went above and beyond to make this trip special.

Thomas E.(June 2024)
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through
A unique wilderness, expertly guided through

This part of the world is so unknown and unique. This trip showcased the Kyrgyzstan countryside and particularly the wilderness. We didn’t see any other hikes after day 1. Proper isolation to enjoy the mountains on our own. Would wholeheartedly recommend this trio to any one who likes to get to up into the mountains, experience unique scenery and meet friendly welcoming local communities.

Peter W.(June 2024)
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes
Unique adventure way off the tourist routes

Stunning scenery, enormous variety, friendly locals and interesting cultural elements. But what made this trek unique was the sense that we were in a completely remote area un-touched by tourism. We really were the only people on the trail. The occasional farmer might say hello but that was it - we felt like true pioneers. The walking is not too arduous - long days but never too much.

Michael T.(June 2024)
Peaceful, connecting and wonderful

This is a very well organised adventure. Though advertised as challenging that is more about the wild camping conditions than the walking. Wild Camping is what it says on the tin, I had never done any form of camping before and found it appropriately adventurous. Everyone in the group and the horsemen help you put up the tents if you need additional help so no need to worry about that The hiking is steady paced, plenty of breaks and nothing too technical. Each day was well managed with plenty of stops for breaks, meeting local herdsmen or having a swim, run. Cannot recommend it enough

Richard D.(June 2024)
Mountain tea
Mountain tea
Mountain tea
Mountain tea
Mountain tea
Mountain tea

My holiday in Kyrgyzstan was an unforgettable experience filled with breathtaking landscapes and thrilling hikes . Trekking the Tian Shan mountains with Much Better Adventures was an incredible journey that exceeded all of my expectations.

The pristine beauty of the Kyrgyzstan wilderness was truly awe-inspiring. From towering mountain peaks to crystal-clear lakes, every step of the trek offered a new and stunning view. The knowledgeable guides from Much Better Adventures and their local agents Stas and Dima were very skilled in leading us safely through the rugged terrain sharing some stories about the local culture and history. Stas was a superb leader, very focussed on our needs, keeping us together , the daily yoga and stretching routine was excellent and the hot sauna in the final guesthouse was a brilliant reward after all of the hiking.

One of the highlights of the trip was camping under the starlit sky and waking up to the peaceful sounds of nature. The night time camping was probably the most personally challenging aspect of the holiday for me so do pack your clothes as per the kit list, you go from cold to hot and back again very quickly. The sense of tranquility and connection with the natural world was truly rejuvenating for the soul. The local cuisine was another delightful surprise, with traditional dishes that satisfied both the palate and the appetite. The team were fantastic with lovely nutritious cooked food every day.

Overall, my holiday in Kyrgyzstan with Much Better Adventures was a perfect blend of adventure, exposure to new cultures , and relaxation. I returned home with a newfound appreciation for the beauty of nature and the warmth of the Kyrgyz people. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a unique and rewarding travel experience in the heart of Central Asia.

Martin S.(June 2024)
Amazing trip

Thaks to Stas, Dmitri, Manin and team for an amazing trip. Every detail was taken care of and how they manage to make such great food every day during the Wild Camping remains a mystery. This trip is a challenging one and the camping (especially during the cold nights) was tough at time but the the reward was amazing hiking through one of the most remote areas of the world. Thanks for Stas for the fires, singing and card games helped us get through the cold nights. Highly recommend this amazxing MBA trip !!!

Florence(November 2023)
Words or photos won’t do it justice. Great...