Kyrgyzstan: Hiking in the Celestial Mountains

Nomads, Eagle Hunters, and a Silk Road Heritage

Overview

Kyrgyzstan’s landscape of alpine peaks and lakes is a spectacular—yet seldom visited—paradise for hikers. We’ve created an active hiking adventure that explores this mountain realm and its fascinating and vibrant cultures. Our day hikes bring us into the dramatic red-rock canyons of Jeti-Oguz, through the verdant meadows and to glacial lakes above Kyzyl Suu, and into the Chong Kemin Valley, which covers an incredible range of ecosystems and terrains. We traverse lush gorges, hike below the lofty peaks of the “Celestial Mountains” and to the shores of magnificent lakes—including massive Lake Issyk-Kul and stunning Lake Song Kol, one of the most idyllic settings on the planet. 

We’ll also delve into culture throughout our journey, as we experience life on a jailoo, or summer pasture, spend a few nights in a traditional yurt, and visit the lively animal market at Karakol, where locals buy and sell horses, sheep and goats. Witness the amazingly athletic Kyrgyz horseback games up-close and meet eagle hunters to see this thrilling ancient art in action. This fascinating crossroads, once a vibrant link on the Silk Road, also offers a rich culinary tapestry, with traditions that reach both east and west, as well as back in time. At our meals with local families we’ll taste dishes that have been influenced by Russians, Turks, Chinese, Mongols, and Tartars. Join us for an exhilarating Silk Road adventure and be captivated by the beauty of Kyrgyzstan’s terrain and the welcoming nature of her people, who are relaxed, open, and eager to share their world.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Bishkek’s Bazaar / Ala-Archa

After exploring Bishkek, the capital, and roaming the open-air Osh Bazaar’s wealth of colors and scents, we stretch our legs on a hike beneath the rugged peaks of Ala-Archa Canyon.

Solutel Hotel
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Day 13 (1 night)
Hotel Ambassador
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Days 3-6
Lake Issyk-Kul / Horseback Games / Karakol Market

We hike along azure Lake Issyk-Kul, encircled by mountains, and visit Cholpon-Ata, a lakeside petroglyph site where images of ibex, wolves, and deer were etched into stone 3,000 years ago. Another hike brings us below the red-rock towers of Jeti-Ögüz, and we’ll be welcomed by a nomad family for lunch in their richly decorated yurt. We’ll sip tea from a samovar at a local village as we watch Kyrgyz horsemen compete in a game of ulak-tartysh—a thrilling sight! In Karakol, an ancient Silk Road crossroads, we roam its famous market to witness the lively bidding among traders of horses, sheep, and cattle. One evening, we dine with a Chinese-Dungan family—and join them to make delicious hand-pulled noodles.

Kemin Guesthouse
Tar Su, Kyrgyzstan
Day 3 (1 night)
Green Yard Hotel
Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Days 4 to 6 (3 nights)
Karagat Hotel
Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Days 4 to 6 (3 nights)
Days 7-14
Yurt Camping / Eagle Hunters / Lake Song KÖl

In the beautiful Kyzyl Suu Valley, our special tented camp at a crystal-clear stream gives us access to stunning hikes among summer jailoos (yurts) below dramatic peaks. Heading to our yurt camp above the wild southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, we’ll savor a lunch of Kyrgyz dishes and meet an eagle hunter to learn about the fascinating tradition of training eagles—these birds are magnificent creatures! At remote Lake Song KÖl, at nearly 10,000 feet, our hike brings us up to airy Jalgyz-Karagay Pass (11,276') for panoramic views of the highest peaks in the Celestial Mountains. Depart on Day 14 via Bishkek.

Kyrgyzstan Tented Camp
Kyrgyzstan
Days 7 to 8 (2 nights)
Kyrgyzstan Yurt Camps
Kyrgyzstan
Days 9 to 12 (4 nights)
Solutel Hotel
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Day 13 (1 night)

Highlights

Highlights

Hike in the stunning landscape of the Tien Shan—the Celestial Mountains
Witness the amazing Kyrgyz horseback game of ulak-tartysh (a precursor to polo)
Meet a traditional eagle hunter, dine in family homes, learn about nomadic culture
Visit the open-air Mal Bazaar, Karakol’s famous livestock market
Experience the rich cultural heritage of Kyrgyzstan, a Silk Road jewel

Details

Length: 14 days
Cost From: $6395  
Arrive: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Depart: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Lodging: 7 nights hotels and guesthouses, 2 nights comfy tents, 4 nights yurt camps
Meals: All meals included as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

Varied hikes of 2-6 hours; maximum altitude of 11,276 feet

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Hiking Adventure in Kyrgyzstan

Recent Photo Blog Posts

Hiking Adventure in Kyrgyzstan

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