Much Better Adventures

Adventures / Epic Treks

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 / Epic Treks

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 16 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

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking guides

Accommodation

5 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

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.

What about all the carbon?

We mitigate 4x the carbon generated by all our customer flights annually through our partnership with Cool Earth.

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.

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.

If you get the chance, be sure to join in with the cooking and learn more about the local specialities.

What is the accommodation like?

Guesthouses

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 available for guests whilst the family sleep in an old Soviet-style wagon. 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 (3640m)

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

Back to Bishkek

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.

Please Note

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.

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, Runner's Need, and Cycle Surgery.

What do I need to bring?

Bags

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack for the horses to carry
  • Daypack (35+ 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

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.

We’ve teamed up with the guys at World Nomads to offer insurance designed for adventurous travellers across 140 countries that includes overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. To get yours sorted, click here.

We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book the trip, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

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

All of our group adventures are especially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded.

"I cannot recommend this highly enough! The people on the trip were amazing. Easily the best trip I've ever been on!" Charlotte, 2019, Trustpilot.

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.

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Free date changes up to 31 days before departure.

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