Contrasts of Tian Shan Trekking Tour14 Days | Bishkek, Son Kul Lake, Karakol, Karkara Base Camp, Inylchek Glacier, Putevodniy Glacier, Merzbacher Glade and Lake, Lake Issyk-Kul

Contrasts of Tian Shan Trekking Tour

The tour is offered in summer.
2-week Contrasts of Tian Shan Trekking Tour is an unforgettable foray into the beauty of Kyrgyzstan, where exquisite peaks, mysterious lakes and remote glaciers will leave you in awe. Several days of intense mountain trekking are sandwiched between amazing helicopter rides, city tours and visits to local towns and nomadic communities, providing you with an absolutely epic adventure!

Trip grade: moderate

Tour itinerary:

Day 1, 25 July, Mo: Airport – Bishkek
- Capital of Kyrgyzstan;
- Osh Bazaar, a traditional Oriental market.
Upon arrival to Manas International Airport, meet your local guide and driver and transfer to Bishkek. Check in to the hotel (early check-in is included). If time permits, visit the famous Osh Bazaar, a colorful eastern market in western Bishkek where you can buy handmade souvenirs, dried fruits and spices. Lunch and dinner at a local café. Overnight at the hotel in Bishkek.
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Day 2, 26 July, Tu: Bishkek – Son-Kul Lake
- Lunch in a local home;
- Second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan.
In the morning transfer to Son-Kul Lake. Enjoy lunch in a Kazakh home in Tokmok, where we will learn about local life. In the afternoon continue to Son Kul Lake (390 km, 8-9 hours), the second largest mountain lake in Kyrgyzstan. Upon arrival, settle into a yurt camp on the south shore of the lake. Dinner and overnight in the yurt camp (3100 m).
Distance: 390 km
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Day 3, 27 July, We: Full day at Son-Kul Lake
- Opportunities to experience nomadic life.
Spend the day experiencing nomadic life at Son-Kul Lake, where Kyrgyz people still live in traditional Central Asian nomadic tents called yurts. The yurt is built from wooden beams and several layers of felt. It can be quickly constructed, making it a practical option for nomadic people. You can choose to arrange your own horseback riding tour, go for a hike or spend time with friendly Kyrgyz families. Taste homemade products such as ayran (yogurt) and the national drink kymys (fermented mare’s milk). Lunch, dinner and overnight at the yurt camp (3100 m).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Day 4, 28 July, Th: Son-Kul Lake – Karakol
- Old town erected by Cossacks;
- Lake Issyk-Kul, the pearl of Kyrgyzstan.
Continue in the morning to the town of Karakol along the south shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. Stop for lunch in Bokonbaev village at a Kyrgyz home, followed by a walk around Skazka Canyon (Fairytale Canyon), which looks scenic against the dark blue waters of Issyk-Kul. Continue driving, reaching Karakol in a few hours. Upon arrival, dinner at a local cafe and overnight in a hotel(1700 m).
Distance: 350 km
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of tour: 7-8 hours
Day 5, 29 July, Fr: Karakol – Karkara Base Camp
- Tour of the main historical sites of Karakol;
- First night at the tent camp.
In the morning, drive 12 kilometers from Karakol to begin your sightseeing tour at the memorial complex of Nikolay Przhevalsky, famed Russian explorer of the Asian continent. Return to Karakol and visit a functioning Dungan mosque uniquely built to resemeble a Chinese pagoda. Continue to Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, famous for the miraculous Icon of the Tikhvinian Mother of God which was painted in 1897. After sightseeing, lunch at a local cafe. Transfer later to Karkara Base Camp (2200 m), located 120 kilometers and a 3-hour drive southeast of Karakol. The road passes through Tup village before continuing east toward the Karkara checkpoint with Kazakhstan. As you will enter the border zone, you must show your border permits and passports to the guards. Dinner and overnight in tents.
Distance: 120 km
Duration of sightseeing tour: 3 hours
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Day 6, 30 July, Sa: Karkara Base Camp – Iva Camp
- Unforgettable helicopter flight;
- Wonderful views of Nansen Peak.
After breakfast take a helicopter ride to Prijim, the starting point of the Inylchek Valley trek. Begin trekking (10 km) along the valley to the foot of Inylchek Glacier. On the way you can see Nansen Peak (5690 m) and Tuz Pass (4001 m). In 1902 German geographer Gottfried Merzbacher noticed Nansen Peak, and although he had seen the Alps, Caucasus, Himalayas and Karakorum, he was delighted at the sight of this giant ridge that abuts Inylchek Valley from the south. The varied shapes of its mighty snow-capped peaks are visible from east to west, and in Merzbacher’s opinion are one the one of the greatest Alpine views on earth. Upon arriving to Iva Camp you will be greeted by local staff. Dinner and overnight in tents (2900 m).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of trekking: 3-4 hours
Day 7, 31 July, Su: Iva Camp – Glina Camp
- Putevodniy Glacier, the first huge glacier on the trek;
- First day of trekking (8km) along the glacier.
After breakfast, pack your lunch and set out from the tent camp. Today's trekking will continue along the lateral moraine of Inylcheck Glacier to its confluence with Putevodniy Glacier. The trail has constant steep ascents and descents which will add a real challenge to the day! If possible, you will pass through the right slope of the terrace. Please note: there are lots of landslides along this trail and we advise you to be very careful. Stop for lunch on the glacier before ascending another steep terrace along a narrow trail, whose varied terrains and steep slopes will fill you with adrenaline. Arrive to Glina Camp (3100 m) for tea/coffee and rest. The camp name means “clay” in Russian and is derived from its location on a green clay field. Dinner and overnight in tents.
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of trekking: 5-6 hours
Day 8, 1 August, Mo: Glina Camp – Merzbacher Glade
- Last grassy fied on the trek;
- Scientific station for glacier research.
Today you will trek up and down terraces along 9-10 kilometers of straight trail, crossing a small glacier and river only once. After lunch and a rest by a small lake there will be about one hour left before reaching the camp. Upon arrival, enjoy hot drinks and wonderful views of Merzbacher Lake. Merzbacher Glade is the last grassy area before Merzbacher Lake. There is a research station on the glacier where scientists from around the world congregate every summer to study the glacier’s movement, the meteorological situation in the region and Merzbacher Lake itself. A large green patch nearby is flat enough for camping. Dinner and overnight at the tent camp (3400 m).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of trekking: 5-6 hours
Day 9, 2 August, Tu: Radial hiking to Merzbacher Lake
- Mysterious Merzbacher Lake;
- Sauna at the tent camp.
In the morning begin radial hiking (7 km), crossing south Inylchek Glacier up to Mertzbacher Lake. The glacial terrain is ice covered with rocks, stones, sand and mud. Sandwiched between the northern and southern branches of the glacier is the mysterious Merzbacher Lake, which forms every summer and every August bursts through the ice banks and flows into Inylchek River. The lake empties twice a year – once in summer and once in winter – but most people only know about the summer event. In 1903, German geographer and mountaineer Gottfried Merzbacher first discovered the lake while leading an expedition in the Tian Shan Mountains aimed at reaching the summit of Khan Tengri. Dinner and overnight at the tent camp (3400 m).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of hiking: 4-5 hours
Day 10, 3 August, We: Merzbacher Glade – South Inylchek Base Camp
- Helicopter flight along the glacier.
Take a helicopter flight to South Inylchek Base Camp, where you will have lunch with hot drinks. Dinner is at 7 pm. Inylchek Base Camp is ideally situated at South Inylchek Glacier in the heart of the Northern Tian Shan at roughly 4000 meters above sea level. It offers picturesque views of Khan Tengri Peak (7010 m) and Peak Pobeda (7439 m). South Inylchek Base Camp is open from 6 July until 31 August every year and attracts not just alpinists but travelers who simply wish to enjoy the beautiful mountain views by helicopter. Dinner and overnight in the base camp (4100 m).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Day 11, 4 August, Th: South Inylchek BC – Karkara BC – Lake Issyk-Kul
- Helicopter flight along Central Tian Shan Range, with views of Merzbacher Lake;
- Relaxing on the shore of the second largest mountan lake in the world.
After breakfast, take a helicopter flight to Karkara Base Camp. On arrival, drive to the hotel located on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. Lunch en route at a local cafe. Also on the way, stop to visit “Stone Garden” a.k.a Cholpon-Ata Petroglyphs, an open-air Scythian temple dated to the 9th-8th centuries BC and the 3rd-4th centuries AD. The petroglyphs lie at the foot of Kungei Ala-Too Range, which offers a beautiful view of the whole lake. From the petroglyphs it is a short drive to the hotel. Dinner at the hotel restaurant. Overnight in the hotel (1600 m).
Distance: 200 km
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of sightseeing tour: 3 hours
Day 12, 5 August, Fr: Lake Issyk-Kul – Bishkek
- One of the oldest existing minarets in Central Asia.
After breakfast drive to Bishkek, stopping en route to visit Burana Tower near the city of Tokmok. Burana is a minaret in the town of Balasagun, a 12th-century capital of the Karakhanid State. Also on site is a collection of balbals, ancient Turkic stone statues. Lunch en route. Continue driving to the capital. Upon arrival, check in to the hotel. Dinner and overnight in Bishkek.
Distance: 270 km
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of sightseeing tour: 5-6 hours
Day 13, 6 August, Sa: Bishkek
- Osh Bazaar, a traditional Oriental market;
- Ala - Too Square with unique historical buildings.
After breakfast take a walking tour of Bishkek’s city center* - Ala Too Square, a true legacy of the Soviet Union. Around the square you will see Manas Monument, a tribute to the Kyrgyz national hero; a gigantic Kyrgyz flag; Changing of the Guards ceremony; memorial to Kyrgyzstan’s 2010 revolution; the White House, Lenin Statue and many historical buildings; Oak Park with its small open-air museum; a unique art gallery; and Kurmanjan Datka Monument. Complete your Bishkek city tour with a short excursion to Victory Square, dedicated to WWII heroes. Lunch and dinner at local cafes. Overnight at the hotel.
*Travelers who were unable to visit Osh Bazaar on the 1st day of the tour may do so before touring Ala Too Square.
Distance: 30 km
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of sightseeing tour: 2-3 hours
Day 14, 7 August, Su: Bishkek – Airport
Early in the morning, transfer to the airport for your departure flight. End of Contrasts of Tian Shan Trekking Tour.
Meals: Breakfast
  • Accommodation in TWIN/DBL room at hotels and in tents - 14 nights (4 ppl per yurt at yurt camp);
  • Meals - full board (B - 14, L - 13, D - 13), including cooking services on trekking days;
  • Transport services from arrival till departure: 1 Toyota Sequoia (4 WD, with AC) for 1-3 pax; 1 Minibus Mercedes Sprinter (17 seats, with AC) for 4 -9 pax; 2 Minibus Mercedes Sprinters (17 seats, with AC) for 10 -12 pax;
  • English-speaking guide / Trekking guide for hiking portion;
  • Porter services (Your trekking bag should weigh no more than 12 kg. Past 12 kg, a payment of 12 USD per kilo will be required;
  • Bottled water (1 liter/day/pax) during treks, plus boiled water (please bring a flask);
  • Entrance and park fees throughout the tour;
  • Border permit for Karkara border zone.
  • Single supplement in hotels/tents/yurt;
  • Meals not included in the program and alcoholic beverages;
  • Insurance;
  • Sleeping bags;
  • All airfare;
  • Photo/video fees at museums;
  • Personal expenses, tips, porter fees in hotels;
  • Tips are not included, but would be appreciated;
  • Visa and visa support fee (if necessary). Citizens of the European Union may enter Kyrgyzstan without a visa for up to 60 days. Citizens of other nations may contact us for country-specific details.


  • Hotels may change due to availability, in which case accommodation of an equivalent quality will be provided;
  • Trekking days are subject to change due to security or weather conditions;
  • All guides speak English;
  • Transfer times are approximate and dependent on road and weather conditions;
  • Trekking time is approximately 5-7 hours (10-18 kilometers) per day, depending on weather and the physical condition of participants;
  • You will not climb above 4100 meters;
  • Lunch boxes will be packed by each participant after every breakfast during the trekking portion of the tour. A variety of options will be provided by camp staff;
  • Carrying a personal flask is highly recommended, as we provide boiled water on trekking days to reduce the use of plastic;
  • When trekking, nights will be spent in tents; comfort is rudimentary (no internet access or air conditioning) and you will have to share the tent with another participant.


  • RED FOX FAMILY tents (four-person capacity, but a tent will be provided for every two persons);
  • TEAM FOX dining tents (capacity of 10-20 pax);
  • 5-centimeter mattresses and sleeping pads in each Red Fox Family tent;
  • Electricity (generator) runs from 19:00 until 23:00 to charge your phones, tablets and other batteries;
  • Toilet tent and shower tent (for showers we provide a small basin, ladle and warm water. During bad weather it may be difficult to provide warm water);
  • Tea, coffee, sweets, biscuits, etc.;
  • Supplementary bar (vodka, wine, cognac, juices, etc.);
  • Kitchenware, table, chairs.


  • Waterproof trekking boots with ankle support;
  • Waterproof jacket or rain cape;
  • Sunhat or cap with ear and neck flap cover;
  • Daypack (30 to 40 liters) with rain cover;
  • Warm hat;
  • Sleeping bag (comfort rated -5°C, please ask about temperature);
  • Trekking poles (highly recommended for stream crossings and steep inclines or declines);
  • Basic First Aid Kit with antiseptic and antihistamine creams, throat lozenges, diarrhea treatment (Imodium), painkillers, plasters, blister treatment, insect repellent and rehydration salts;
  • Sun protection (including total bloc for ears, nose, etc.);
  • Fleece jacket or warm jumper;
  • Good quality sunglasses;
  • Warm gloves;
  • Trekking trousers;
  • 1-liter water bottles x2 (we encourage refilling water bottles rather than single-use plastic);
  • Water purification tablets;
  • Dry bags (to protect trekking bag contents, laptops, phones etc. during trek);
  • Chapstick;
  • Headtorch and spare batteries;
  • Thermal underwear.


  • 1 pair of tennis shoes or shoes for city walking;
  • Trainers / sandals for river crossings;
  • Socks (1 pair for 2 -3 days of trekking);
  • 1 pair of waterproof overtrousers;
  • For women: 1 scarf to cover your hair during visits to mosques and churches;
  • Shorts and/or swimwear (camps near lakes, hot springs or rivers);
  • Buff/scarf (to protect against dust and cold);
  • Washbag and toiletries;
  • Antibacterial handwash;
  • Small towel (fast dry material);
  • Thermarest or similar sleeping mat (please note that 5 cm sleeping mats with thin sleeping pad are provided on trekking days);
  • Penknife (remember to pack sharp objects in checked luggage);
  • Repair kit (needle, thread, duct tape);
  • Ear plugs against river noises, snoring, etc.



Bishkek - 4 nights
3-star Navat Hotel, B Hotel or similar
Son-Kul - 2 nights
Yurt camp (2 people sharing one yurt)
Karakol - 1 night
Green Yard or similar
Karkara - 1 night
Tent camp
Iva Camp - 1 night
Tent camp
Glina Camp - 1 night
Tent camp
Merzbacher Glade - 2 nights
Tent camp
Inylchek - 1 night
Tent camp
Lake Issyk-Kul - 1 night
4-star Karven Issyk Kul or similar

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