Kyrgyzstan: Hiking in the Celestial Mountains

Nomads, Eagle Hunters, and a Silk Road Heritage


Kyrgyzstan’s landscape of alpine peaks and lakes is a spectacular—yet still 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 dramatic red-rock canyons, through verdant meadows, below the lofty peaks of the “Celestial Mountains,” and to the shores of two magnificent lakes—massive Lake Issyk-Kul and stunning Lake Song Kol, one of the most dramatic settings on the planet. We’ll also delve into local culture throughout our journey, as we visit open-air markets, experience life on a jailoo (summer pasture), and spend a few nights in traditional yurts. We’ll witness amazingly athletic Kyrgyz horseback games up-close and meet eagle hunters to see this thrilling ancient art in action. Once a vibrant link on the Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan also offers a rich culinary tapestry, with traditions from both East and West. At our meals with local families, we’ll taste cuisine that has 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 amid 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 3-4
Lake Issyk-Kul / Karakol

Driving along azure Lake Issyk-Kul, we visit Cholpon-Ata, a lakeside petroglyph site where images of ibex, wolves, and deer were etched into stone 3,000 years ago. We continue to the town of Karakol (5,775’), an ancient Silk Road crossroads, for a fantastic day hike in the surrounding mountains. One evening, we dine with a Chinese-Dungan family—and join them to make delicious hand-pulled noodles. 

Green Yard Hotel
Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Days 3 to 4 (2 nights)
Karagat Hotel
Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Days 3 to 4 (2 nights)
Days 5-8
Hiking and Tent Camping in the Tien Shan Mountains

We’ll spend these days exploring dramatic valleys in Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan (“Celestial Mountains”). One of our hikes brings us to dramatic red-rock towers where we can watch Kyrgyz horsemen compete in a game of ulak-tartysh—a thrilling sight! Our tent camping will be comfortable, with walk-in tents with cots, a fully staffed kitchen, a dining tent, and even a delightful mobile sauna. Our camp will move between two beautifully remote mountain valleys, giving us access to truly stunning hikes below dramatic peaks ringed with lush forests, alpine lakes, and herds of grazing horses. 

Days 9-14
Yurt Camping / Eagle Hunters / Lake Song Kol

At our special 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 enormous birds are magnificent creatures! From our next yurt camp at remote Lake Song Kol, at nearly 10,000 feet, one of our hikes 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 Yurt Camps
Days 9 to 12 (4 nights)
Solutel Hotel
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Day 13 (1 night)



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 Osh Bazaar, Bishkek’s huge open-air market
Experience the rich cultural heritage of Kyrgyzstan, a Silk Road jewel


Length: 14 days
Cost From: $6895  
Arrive: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Depart: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Lodging: 5 nights in comfortable hotels, 8 nights of more basic accommodations in tent and 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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