Mountains and Lakes of Tian Shan Trekking Tour11 Days | Bishkek, Son Kul Lake, Karakol, Karakol Gorge, Ala-Kul Lake, Altyn Arashan Gorge, Cholpon-Ata

Mountains and Lakes of Tian Shan Trekking Tour

The tour is offered in summer.
Mountains and Lakes of Tian Shan Trekking Tour will take you to new heights as you trek to Kyrgyzstan’s Karakol Peak, the highest point of the Terskei Ala-Too in the Tian Shan Mountains. Along the way you will see magnificent lakes and valleys, relax in natural hot springs and experience authentic Kyrgyz culture around Lake Issyk-Kul, one of the largest mountain lakes in the world.

Trip grade: Moderate

Tour itinerary:

Day 1, 22 July, Fr: Airport – Bishkek
 
Highlights:
- Capital of Kyrgyzstan;
- Osh Bazaar, a traditional Oriental market;
- Ala-Too Square with unique historical buildings.
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). After a rest visit the famous Osh Bazaar, a colorful eastern market where you can buy handmade souvenirs, dried fruits and spices. Continue to 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 cafés. Overnight at the hotel.
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of sightseeing tour: 2-3 hours
Day 2, 23 July, Sa: Bishkek – Son Kul Lake
 
Highlights:
- One of the oldest existing minarets in Central Asia;
- Lunch in a local home;
- Second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan.
In the morning transfer to Son Kul Lake (390 km, 8-9 hours), 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. Enjoy lunch in a Kazakh home in Tokmok, where you will learn about local life. In the afternoon continue to Son Kul Lake, 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).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Distance: 390 km
Duration of tour: 8-9 hours
Day 3, 24 July, Su: Full day at Son Kul Lake
 
Highlights:
- 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, 25 July, Mo: Son Kul Lake – Karakol
 
Highlights:
- 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 Lake 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, 26 July, Tu: Karakol – Karakol Gorge
 
Highlights:
- Tour of the main historical sites of Karakol;
- First night in 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. Meet your mountain guide and porters before driving to Karakol Gorge on a special military truck. Dinner and overnight at the tent camp (2500 m).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Distance: 25 km
Duration of sightseeing tour: 1 hour
Day 6, 27 July, We: Radial hike to the foot of Karakol Peak (5216 m)
 
Highlights:
- Highest peak of Terskei Ala-Too; - Mountain sauna at the tent camp.
Take a radial hike (16 km) to the foot of Karakol Peak. Begin by passing along Uyun Tor River, following for part of the way an old dirt road which ends at a small river. After crossing the river the trail winds through a Tian Shan blue spruce forest. (Starting in May there are snowdrops, tulips, primerose, white anemone, alpine aster and large edelweiss in bloom here). After exiting the forest, hike up a stone hill to reach a point with a view of Karakol Peak, the highest point in Terskei Ala Too. Enjoy lunch and the wonderful scenery before hiking back to the tent camp along the same route. Dinner and overnight at the tent camp (2500 m).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of hiking: 6-7 hours
Day 7, 28 July, Th: Karakol Gorge – Ala-Kul Lake
 
Highlights:
- Magnificent Ala-Kul Lake;
- Highest overnight of the trip.
After breakfast descend for 1 kilometer along a gorge, eventually crossing the river on a bridge. Follow a trail that leads into a forest. A rather long ascent finishes at a steep slope covered with grass. The trail winds past a strong river and arrives to a fairtyale-like log cabin called Sirota. Inside are a table, benches and fireplace, along with many sculptures of animals and idols carved into the wooden walls. After rest and a snack continue up the trail, leaving the forest behind as you hike (10 km) along the river to reach a beautiful waterfall flowing down from Ala-Kul Lake. Pass the waterfall and ascend a natural dam, from where you can see the lake. The final kilometer before the tent camp follows the lake. Dinner and overnight at the tent camp (3600 m).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of trekking: 6-7 hours
Day 8, 29 July, Fr: Ala-Kul Lake – Altyn Arashan Gorge
 
Highlights:
- Natural hot springs;
- Highest pass of the trip.
Moraine Lake of Ala-Kul (which means “Colorful Lake” in Kyrgyz) stretches from east to west for 2.8 kilometers; its width is 500 meters and depth is 70 meters. The water changes color depending on the light and may be emerald green, turquoise with white clouds reflected, light green, dark grey or even black. After breakfast, start the ascent to Ala-Kul Pass, enjoying wonderful views of the lake on the way. As you near the lake you will see the main range of Terskei Ala-Too, includig Ak-Suu, Djigit, Karakol and Oguz Bashi Peaks. From the lake’s edge it will take another 1.5 hours to reach the pass. Descend from the pass along a talus slope and later across the wide and picturesque Keldike Valley, complete with grazing cattle and flocks of sheep. Upon arrival to the tent camp you can relax in the valley hot springs (up to +50C) at the resort in Altyn Arashan. Dinner and overnight at the tent camp (2600 m).
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of trekking: 6-7 hours
Day 9, 30 July, Sa: Altyn Arashan Gorge – Cholpon-Ata
 
Highlights:
- Transfer on a special military truck to Karakol;
- Overnight on the shore of the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan.
Apart from its famous mineral hot springs, Altyn Arashan has wooden huts located in a meadow along the Arashan River. The banks of the river are covered with fir trees whose dark green shade is very picturesque in the morning against the snowcapped wall of mountains (up to 5022 m). After breakfast, a special military truck will pick you up from the tent camp. Drive towards Karakol along the valley. The descent will take you through green fields filled with flowers and crystal mountain springs. The final 5 kilometers of the gorge are not more than 30 meters in width, with high rock walls. At the entrance to the valley is Ak Suu village (the name comes from the hot springs). Here you will transfer to a car and drive to Karakol. After lunch at a local cafe, continue driving to the town of Cholpon-Ata. Upon arrival, check in to a hotel on the north shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. Dinner and overnight at the hotel (1600 m).
Distance: 185 km
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of trekking: 4-5 hours
Day 10, 31 July, Su: Cholpon-Ata – Bishkek
 
Highlights:
- Scythian petroglyphs near Cholpon-Ata;
- Beautiful Boom Gorge.
city In the morning begin the return drive to Bishkek. En route you will 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. Continue driving to Bishkek through Boom Gorge, stopping for lunch on the way. Upon arrival to the capital, check in to the hotel. Enjoy a final dinner together at a cafe. Overnight in Bishkek.
Distance: 270 km
Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
Duration of sightseeing tour: 5-6 hours
Day 11, 1 August, Mo: Bishkek – Airport
 
Early in the morning, transfer to the airport for your departure flight. End of Mountains and Lakes of Tian Shan Trekking Tour.
Meals: Breakfast
  • Accommodation in TWIN/DBL room at hotels and in tents - 11 nights (4 ppl per yurt at yurt camp);
  • Meals - full board (B - 11, L - 10, D - 10), 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;
  • Special military car for going to/from Karakol Gorge and Altyn Arashan Gorge;
  • Hot springs entry fee at Altyn Arashan.
  • 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.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW:

  • 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 4000 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.

EACH FIXED TENT CAMP PROVIDES:

  • 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.

OBLIGATORY ITEMS FOR THE TREK

  • 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.

OPTIONAL ITEMS FOR TREK

  • 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.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT IN TENT CAMPS: 70 USD

Accommodation:

Bishkek - 3 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
Karakol Gorge - 2 nights
Tent camp
Ala-Kul Lake - 1 night
Tent camp
Altyn Arashan Gorge - 1 night
Tent camp
Lake Issyk-Kul - 1 night
4-star Karven Issyk Kul or similar

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