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/25km 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

What's it like?

    See the photos our community shared

    All our reviews are verified

    We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

    Andrew, September 2022

    Well run trek. Will definitely book with MBA again.

    Heetan, September 2022

    If you're looking to get off the beaten track, this is the trip for you. We hiked through varied scenery and spectacular landscapes without seeing another group of tourists. The guides together with the support staff were excellent. Highlights of the trip were hiking up to the Jukku pass and camping under the stars. Definitely recommended.

    Yaxin, August 2022

    Outstanding trip, fantastic itinerary, and such a fun and happy vibe. The length of the days were perfect and there’s a real no one left behind mentality. We were super well looked after (Mirs is an absolute dream of a guide) and saw and did so much. Highly recommend this trip!

    Teodora, August 2022

    One of the best trips in Asia I had. Beautiful sceneries, amazing people and off track hiking. Mirs and Stas were great guides, made the journey way better and they helped the group bond. I usually am a keen solo traveller, but Much better adventure made me reconsider travelling with a group. Seeking further for a new adventure :)

    George, August 2022

    Trip to Tian Shan mountains was an unexpectedly beautiful experience. Well planned daily schedule with a few visits to main attractions of major cities, but still plenty of time to enjoy stunning Kyrgyz mountains. I mostly enjoyed camping days by the glacier rivers. Local guides took care of all details (delicious local dinners included!!), making whole trip unforgettable!

    Stephen, July 2022

    Amazing

    Robert, August 2022

    Excellent trip, amazing guides.

    Roxana, August 2022

    One of the best trips I ever had! Our guides were Mirsaid and Stas. Mirs is the kindest sweetest person, best guide I ever had!!! The landscape is absolutely stunning! I enjoyed very much our wild camping nights next to streams and lakes. It was so peaceful! Stas cooked really tasty food every night! We learnt a lot about Kyrgyzstan and culture and traditions. Every day was really well planned and organised and everything went smoothly. I would definitely visit Kyrgyzstan again!

    Lydia, August 2022

    This trip exceeded my expectations in all ways. The views were amazing (canyons, mountains and the milky way), the group was great and I felt safe and well looked after for the whole of the trip thanks to our wonderful guide Mirs :) The route we took was clearly well thought through and whilst the uphills were uphill, they were very manageable and the group took plenty of rests - the best being a siesta in the sun! I thoroughly recommend this trip and wish I hadn't already done it so I could go back and do it again!

    GEORGE, August 2022

    Trip schedule was well planned, having a couple of days for city tour and meeting with locals but still allowing enough time to trek and enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Kyrgyz mountains, without rush. Food and accommodation, exceeded my expectations. Thanks to our wonderful local guides, who took care of all necessary details, whole trip was an unforgettable experience!

    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, please check with your host. 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

    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. 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 (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

    6hrs · 14.5km · 550m up · 750m 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

    7.5hrs · 18km · 825m up · 725m 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

    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 6

    The Jukku Valley

    Hiking

    9hrs · 29.5km · 1140m up · 360m 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

    8hrs · 16.5km · 1140m up · 360m 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 but beware of the marshy areas. 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
    • Waterproof hiking boots (worn-in)
    • Gaiters (optional - for early June and late Sept/Oct trips only)
    • 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 (optional - foam ones are provided but pack yours if you have a preference)

    Other

    • Trekking poles (optional but recommended)
    • 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 litre and/or hydration bladder/pouch
    • Quickdry towel
    • Biodegradable wet-wipes
    • Energy bars and snacks (optional, local snacks provided)
    • Water purification tablets or treatment system

    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

    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/25km. 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 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.

    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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