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. With Hashmat Singh, Trip Leader extraordinaire, 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 with beloved leader Hashmat Singh—he’s been 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 and the wealth of colors and scents in Osh Bazaar, 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-blue Lake Issyk-Kul, encircled by mountains, visit a massive lakeside petroglyph site, and hike below the red-rock towers of Jeti-Oguz. We’ll be welcomed by a nomad family for a delightful lunch in their richly decorated yurt, and sip tea from a samovar at a local village as we watch Kyrgyz horsemen compete in a game of ulak-tartysh—a thrilling sight! Karakol is an ancient Silk Road crossroads, and at its famous market, we witness the 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 gorgeous Lake Issyk-Kul, we’ll savor a lunch of Kyrgyz dishes and meet an eagle hunter to watch this fascinating tradition—golden eagles are magnificent creatures! At remote Lake Song Köl, at nearly 10,000 feet, our hike brings us up to airy Jalgyz Karagai Pass (11,276') for panoramic views of the highest peaks in the Celestial Mountains. Depart on Day 14 from 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 an amazing Kyrgyz horseback game (the precursor to polo)
Meet a traditional eagle hunter, dine in family homes, learn about nomadic culture
Visit the amazing Mal Bazaar, Karakol’s famous livestock market
Experience the rich cultural heritage of Kyrgyzstan, a Silk Road jewel

Details

Length: 14 days
Cost From: $6195  
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

Recent Photo Blog Posts

Hiking Adventure in Kyrgyzstan

Recent Photo Blog Posts

Hiking Adventure in Kyrgyzstan