Adventures / Wild Hikes

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

Adventures / Wild Hikes

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

Guesthouse · Yurt · Wild camping

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

The terrain is rough, uneven and completely magnificent, so you should be comfortable walking up to 8 hours/20km a day.

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

Share a bowl of kumys with 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

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Alexandra, September 2021

A truly amazing trip! Great balance of fascinating culture and history, delicious food and super hospitable hosts, as well as stunning trekking. The walking is definitely challenging with some long days but incredible scenery made every step enjoyable. Our host and guides couldn't have been more welcoming, were extremely knowledgeable and a joy to be around. I honestly can't recommend this trip enough and look forward to going back to Kyrgyzstan for more adventures!

Charlie, September 2021

A fantastic trek! The scenery was absolutely stunning. The guides and hosts were fantastic - hugely knowledgable, great to be around and provided us with an endless supply of delicious food. Would love to do it all again!

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking guides

Accommodation

2 nights in a hotel, 3 nights in a guesthouse, 1 night in a yurt, 3 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

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Manas Airport

Arrive anytime on Day 1

Ends

Manas Airport

Depart anytime on Day 10

Transfers

Airport transfers are included if you arrive any time on Day 1 and depart anytime on Day 10. If you decide to extend your stay or arrive early, airport transfers can be arranged by your host. Please see Optional Extras for the price.

Travel options

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

Day 1

Guesthouse · Twin or triple share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2 – Day 3

Guesthouse · Twin or triple share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4

Yurt · Triple share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5 – Day 7

Wild camping · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8 – Day 9

Guesthouse · Twin or triple 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 (vegan included), 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. You'll stay in twin-share rooms by default.

Guesthouses on trek

You’ll stay in small family-run guesthouses in either twin or triple rooms. These are basic but clean with shared facilitiess. Depending on the group size you may also stay in their yurts if available.

Traditional Yurts

The yurt camp in Chong Kyzyl Suu valley is owned by a local family, with 3 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

You’ll camp next to a local family's yurt in roomy, twin share tents. 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 (this is subject to availability). This is only available for the guesthouse and camping nights, not the nights in a yurt.

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, explore the huge Osh Bazaar or join your guide for a city walk before sitting down for a traditional Kyrgyz feast.

Day 2

Issyk Kul Lake

Hiking

3hrs · 7km · 400m up · 400m down

Take a scenic roadtrip across the vast Kyrgyz plains to the city of Karakol at the foot of the Tian Shan Mountains. Leave the car behind you and hike through the red sandstone Konorchek canyon, stopping for a picnic lunch with a serious view. Journey on 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.

Day 3

The 7 Bulls

Hiking

4.5hrs · 12km · 450m up · 300m down

Rise early for a visit to the wooden Orthodox church of Karakol and the Dungan Mosque, 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 overhanging a picturesque village where you’ll stay tonight.

Day 4

Chong Kyzyl Sus

Hiking

6.5hrs · 17km · 650m up · 650m down

Prepare for a challenging day as you trek across the vast ‘jailoos’, the Kyrgyz name for summer pasturelands. 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 5

Valley hopping

Hiking

7.5hrs · 20km · 800m up · 800m 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. For those with fuel left in their legs, continue further and jump into some natural hot springs. Either way you’ll be back in time for dinner at your first wild camping spot.

Day 6

The Jukku Valley

Hiking

6.5hrs · 18km · 660m up · 100m down

Leave the foothills of the mountains behind and head into 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 2660m above sea level. Keep your fingers crossed for clear skies as shooting star spotting is a must.

Day 7

The big one: The Jukku Pass (3800m)

Hiking

7hrs · 15km · 1055m up · 100m 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 make every step worthwhile. Sleeping at 3715m, 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

6hrs · 20km · 100m up · 50m down

Cross the ‘syrt’ (elevated flatland) of Arabel - a unique ecosystem of highlands dotted with crystalline lakes. The crossing itself is pretty spectacular, with the surrounding glaciers close enough to explore. Keep your eyes peeled for ibex, foxes, bearded vultures and even wolves. End the day with a quick transfer to 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.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What do I need to bring?

Bags

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack for the horses to carry
  • Daypack (25+ litres)
  • Waterproof liner for kitbag/rucksack or drybags

Clothes

  • Light down jacket
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Fleece jacket or similar
  • Thermals (merino is best)
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Buff or neck scarf
  • Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts T-shirts
  • Underwear & socks
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Sandals

Sleeping

  • Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
  • Sleeping bag (3/4 season rated down to -5°C ideally)
  • Travel pillow or pillowcase
  • Thermarest or sleeping mat (foam ones are provided but pack yours if you have a preference)

Other

  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Ear plugs
  • Suncream
  • 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 x1 ltr
  • Quickdry towel
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Energy bars and snacks (optional, local snacks provided)
  • Water purification tablets or treatment system

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

Airport Transfer One Way

Payable Before Departure

Airport Transfer One Way

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

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 for 2022 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. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

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/20km. The terrain is largely undulating and you will be walking at a steady pace. The Jukku Pass is the most challenging section and you will climb over 1000m, 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 50% 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. 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.

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.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

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.

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