Trekking in the Celestial Mountains of Kyrgyzstan
Go discover the nomad way of life in the pastures of Son Kul Lake, followed by two days of hiking to discover the Kol Ukok and the Kol Tor alpine lakes.
We then head to the majestic Issyk Kul Lake, for a trek to the splendid Ala Kul Lake.
You should be fit for the trek to Ala Kul
Day 1The green valley of Suusamir
Manas airport - Bishkek
Pick-up at the Manas airport and drop-off at your hotel in Bishkek, where you can rest.
Bishkek - Kyzyl-Oi
You will head towards the splendid Suusamyr Valley, where you will have lunch and enjoy breath-taking scenery.
We then take a dirt road to the small village of Kyzyl-Oi. We follow the great Kekemeren River, where landscapes gradually change colors and take on a bright red tone. Once we reach the village, you can go for a walk in the surroundings.
Day 2The Son Kul Lake
Kyzyl-Oi - Son Kul lake
We continue our Kyrgyz adventure on a stunning road to Son Kul Lake. The road zigzags in a gorge, before climbing up to the Karakeche Pass at 3389 m altitude. We then reach Kyrgyzstan’s marvel, Son Kul.
We arrive on the shores of Son Kul Lake. This huge alpine lake is an important water reserve in Kyrgyzstan. Nestled in the celestial mountains, it is located at 3016 m (9895 ft) above sea level. Its crystal clear water changes colors depending on the weather, which can change every hour. The lake takes on blue, turquoise and sometimes even orange colors. It hosts nomadic shepherds and their herds in the warm months of summer.
You can enjoy the day, relax, and discover the daily life of our host family. You might be lucky enough to attend the production of Kumys, the local mare milk, or see how shepherds gather their herds.
Day 3Horseback Riding
Son Kul lake - Kochkor
Enjoy a small horseback riding adventure in the morning.
We leave Son Kul in the afternoon for the village of Kochkor, famous for its local development initiatives.
In the evening, we’ll get to see a traditional Kyrgyz music concert. The program includes the performance of a Manaschi, as well as national instruments and songs.
Day 4Towards Kok Ulok Lake
Kochkor - Kol Ukok lake
Early in the morning, we drive to the small village of Isakaev where our hike will start. We meet our local guide, who will accompany us on this two-day trek.
After putting our equipment on the horses, who will carry it, we start walking on a small trail. We walk through fields, cross a few small streams, until we finally gain in altitude. New landscape appears before us, rocky, mountainous, and less green. On the way, we’ll see herds in the jailoos.
The last hour of our hike is more difficult: we have to climb up a pass at 3000 m (9842 ft) to arrive at the lake.
Finally, we get to see the Kol Ukok Lake, whose turquoise water contrasts with the rest of the landscape.
We settle in our yurt camp for the night.
- Day 4
Day 5Another small lake
Kol Ukok lake - Kol Tor Lake
Those who want will have the possibility to hike to another small lake, the Kol Tor Lake, at around 3500 m altitude. We’ll leave at dawn for a hike of 3 hours total (to and back).
We follow the river until reaching a stone heap. The trail becomes steeper, with tall grass. Be careful if it has rained recently, it could be slippery.
We reach this beautiful lake after about one hour of hiking.
Kol Tor Lake - Kochkor
Then we hike back down to Kochkor.
Kochkor - Bokonbayevo
In the evening, we reach our destination: Bokonbayevo, a picturesque village on the south shore of Issyk Kul Lake..
- Day 5
Day 6The Seven Bulls of Jety-Oguz
Bokonbayevo - Jeti-öghüz
We visit the superb Skazka Canyons, whose name translates as Fairy Tale Canyons in Kyrgyz language. Formed from erosion and volnaco eruptions, the rocks tower over the Issyk Kul Lake and offer a great contrast in color. Let your imagination work to make out the shapes of the rocks.
We then drive to the Jety Orguz Valley. Covered with fertile vegetation, this gorge is probably one of the prettiest in the country. It stretches over 37 km (23 miles), between the Issyk Kul Lake and the Tian Shan Mountains. Strange rock formations, nicknamed the “seven bulls” and the “broken heart”, fill the place with mystical legends. We hike in the valley.
Jeti-öghüz - Karakol
We arrive at Karakol, a small town that borders Issky-Kul. We take the time to visit itsSaint Trinity Cathedral, an orthodox from the 19th century; and its Chinese mosque which looks like a Mongol Buddhist temple, built by the Dungan population. Finally, we visit the Przewalsky museum, where you will learn about local history.
Tonight, enjoy an original evening. You'll be welcomed by a Dungan family, who will treat you with Dungan culinary specialities and show you their culture.
Day 7The Ala Kul Glacial Lake
Karakol - Karakol gorge
Transfer to the start of the trek, from Karakol to our base camp.
Karakol gorge - Ala-Kul
After our arrival at the camp, we start our hike to Ala-Kul Lake (3522m or 1555ft).
The hike is difficult but worth all of your efforts. The Ala-Kul Lake is a real marvel nestled in the glacial mountains. Its turquoise water comes in contrast with the snowy mountains and glaciers that surround it.
Elevation: +1000 m. Around 4h-5h of hiking.
- Day 7
Day 8The golden spa of Altyn Arashan
Ala-Kul - Altyn-Arachan
Our trek starts with a steep climb up the Alak-Kul pass at 3860 m (12073ft), from which we will have a breath-taking view on the landscape and the Teskey Ala-Too mountain range. After lunch, we head to the Keldike gorge (3200m), and walk back down to the valley of Altyn-Arashan. We walk through a pine forest, and arrive at Altyn Arashan, also known as the Golden Spa, at 3000m altitude (9842ft). We take the afternoon to enjoy this scenery and the hot mineral sources.
Elevation: - 1100m
Around 5h-6h of hiking
- Day 8
Day 9The north shore of Issyk Kul Lake
Altyn-Arachan - Karakol
We head back down on these last kilometers of our trek. We say goodbye to our guides and take the direction of Jyrgalan.
Transport via soviet jeep 4x4
_ 2h30 car ride_ _ 4h by walk_.
Karakol - Grigorievka
We drive by the north shore of Lake Issyk Kul and arrive at our camp in Grigorievka. Today, we can follow a mountain road in the valley of Chon Ak-Suu for around 40 minutes. We follow the "great white river", a strong mountain torrent.
You can go kayaking near the camp (optional, extra fee).
- Day 9
Day 10Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital
Grigorievka - Tcholpon-Ata
In the morning, we visit the cultural center Ruh-Ordo in Cholpon-Ata. This center, nestled in a peaceful environment, is dedicated to the harmony between the four main religions, Islam, Judaism, Christianism and Buddhism. There are also spaces dedicated to art exhibits, and to main figures of Greek culture and of Kyrgyzstan.
Tcholpon-Ata - Burana's minaret
On the road to Bishkek, we stop to visit the ruins of the Burana Minaret, a Jami mosque destroyed in the 13th century during invasions. The monument is rich in history, archeological findings and legends, and belongs to the Unesco world heritage. We can climb at the top of the tower to get a beautiful view on the valley and the mountains. We’ll also visit the museum on site.
Burana's minaret - Bishkek
We leave the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, where we met a generous culture, and go back to Bishkek. Drop-off at your hotel, where you’ll be able to relax.
We visit the Osh Bazar, one of the most fascinating markets in Kyrgyzstan. Enjoy the colors and the smells coming from stands of dry fruits and spices. You can also buy a few traditional souvenirs to bring home.
Walk on the Ala Too Square in the center of Bishkek. Meeting place for Bishkek’s youth, it comes alive every evening with families and friends who come here to relax. It’s also an important historical place, since it hosted several revolutions.