Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Gorge Trek

Wild pastures, Kyrgyzstan
Yurt camp, Kyrgyzstan
Trekking in the Tian Shan, Kyrgyzstan
Monument to the Revolution, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • What's Included
  • Dates
  • Exodus

Trek in the 'celestial mountains' with views over Kyrgyzstan's Lake Issyk-Kul

Spectacular trekking through alpine meadows and wild pastures inhabited by Kyrgyz nomads - past gushing rivers and waterfalls, taking in panoramic views of Lake Issyk-Kul and the snow-capped peaks of the Tian Shan Range, meaning 'Mountains of Heaven'. The first part of the walking route crosses a series of rugged, seldom-visited gorges, which only the most intrepid of outsiders have laid eyes on. Whilst the latter part of the trek crosses into Jety-Oguz Gorge, famed for its immense beauty. There's also the chance to hike to the foot of Karakol Peak (the highest in the region) and there are all sorts of other delights besides the trek itself: rejuvenate in the thermal baths of Altyn Arashan, learn to make traditional 'lagman' noodles in a family home, take a guided tour of Bishkek, and visit ancient sites including the Cholpon-Ata Petroglyphs.

* Views of Lake Issyk-Kul and Aka-Kul * Hike through 6 different gorges, including the famously beautiful Jety-Oguz Canyon * Chance to bathe in Altyn Arashan hot springs * Discover Bishkek, Burana Tower and the Cholpon-Ata Petroglyphs * Panoramic views from Telety Pass (3,800m)  * Learn how to make traditional 'lagman' noodles in a family home in Karakol * Daywalk to the foot of Karakol Peak, the highest in the Terskey Ala-Too Range

All breakfasts, 12 lunches and 12 dinners are included.  During the trek breakfast will comprise of porridge and an additional dish. The additional dish will usually be one of the following: omelette with bacon/cheese, fried sausages, pancakes, scrambled eggs with sausage, boiled eggs. Lunch on trek will be a box lunch. There will be a buffet selection for you to fill your lunch box from each day. The type of foods available will be: bread, cakes, various types of sausage and cheese, pate, canned fish, boiled eggs, vegetables, fruits, dried fruits, as well as cookies and chocolate, plus a soft drink. Dinner during the trek will consist of salad, soup, a main dish and a dessert. Salads: funchoza (starch noodles), rice with crab sticks, eggs with fish, cabbage with carrot, Greek salad, beans with onion. Soups: minestrone, kesme (egg noodle), lentil, rice soup, pumpkin soup, fish soup or soup with dumplings. Main dish: kuurdak (meat stew), pilaf (rice cooked in broth), stew with spaghetti and cheese, dymlyama (potato and meat stew), stuffed pepper, lagman (noodles), beef stroganof with rice. Dessert: cakes, waffles, fruits and rolls.  

* 15 days land only/16 days flight inclusive * 8 days point-to-point walking with full porterage * Altitude maximum 3,800m, average 2,730m * 4 nights hotels, 8 nights full-service camping and 2 nights basic yurt camp (multi-share) * All breakfasts, 12 lunches and 12 dinners included * Optional single supplement (excludes yurt camps)
  • The Silk Road
  • Asia
  • Kyrgyzstan
Tour Types
  • New Walking Holidays
  • Walking & Trekking
  • Point-to-point
  • Adventure
Day 1

The group flights depart London this afternoon. 

Day 2

The tour starts in Bishkek. The group flights are scheduled to arrive into Bishkek in the morning; those on the group flights will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel (approx. 40km/1hr drive). We have requested early check-in for all clients so the rooms should be ready for when you arrive. Land only clients who have booked their own flights and are making their own way will join at the start hotel.  Your leader will suggest somewhere for an optional group lunch (pay locally) and in the afternoon there will be an excursion to visit the Frunze Museum and Museum of Fine Arts (these visits are not possible on day 2 as museums are closed on Mondays). Please note that the National History Museum is closed for maintenance at the time of writing. In the event that all group members arrive on the group flight/in the morning, your leader will move the Bishkek city tour to this afternoon. There will be a welcome briefing at the hotel this evening. *Hotel Asia Mountains, or similar*

Day 3

Bishkek is Kyrgyzstan’s modern capital city and industrial centre, and this morning we'll have a guided tour to explore its wide avenues and Soviet heritage. We visit the city's main sites (on foot and using transfers where necessary), taking in Manas Monument, Lenin Statue, Ala-Too Square (where we witness the ceremonial changing of the guard), Kurmanzhan Datka Monument, and the Government buildings. We end the tour at Victory Square. In the afternoon, we take an excursion to Ala-Archa National Park, located about 40-60 minutes (40km) north of Bishkek and go for a gentle approx. 2-3 hour warm-up walk, usually along the river.  (Groups who did the city tour yesterday will head straight to Ala-Archa National Park today and will follow one of the longer walking trails available here: usually to a waterfall which takes approx. 4-5hrs for a round trip / 3.75km each way.)  *Hotel Asia Mountains, or similar*

Day 4

We begin our journey towards the Tian Shan, or more specifically, the Terskey Ala-Too Range. Our destination is Tosor on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul (the drive is approximately 310km/6-7 hours). We break up the journey with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site - Burana Tower, an 11th century minaret and the first of its kind in Central Asia and an important point along the Great Silk Road.  Issyk-Kul is the second largest salt lake in the world, after the Caspian Sea (and fast becoming the largest as the Caspian Sea recedes), it measures 70km by 180km and is almost 700m at its deepest point. Its name translates as 'Hot Lake' and was given as, even in the depths of winter and despite being just above 1,600m, it never freezes. The area around the lake is a mixture of forest and meadow with a backdrop of towering mountains.  Tonight, we usually sleep in a yurt camp but as space is limited, occasionally we may have to stay in a guesthouse in Tamga village instead. *Tosor Yurt Camp, or similar*

Day 5

We have a free morning to take in the scenery, perhaps swim in the lake or sunbath on its shores. After lunch at the yurt camp we drive for around 1.5hrs (70km) to Juuku Gorge and onwards into a smaller branch of the canyon -  Juukuchak Gorge. Upon arrival our tents will be ready and waiting for us. We'll meet our trekking guides and camp staff and this evening there will be a full trek briefing.  *Full-service wild camping*

Day 6

After breakfast we set off walking along a trail from the foot of the mountains up and over Orto Bulak Pass (2,540m) in the Kichi-Kyzyl-Suu Gorge. The scenery is pristine which adds to the beauty.  *Full-service wild camping*

Day 7

This morning we begin following the trail to Chon Kyzyl-Suu Gorge. Chon Kyzyl-Suu Gorge is popular with Kyrgyz nomads, as there are many green pastures and mountain rivers. We will usually see several nomadic families along the way, together with their livestock and yurt settlements. In the evening we will reach the hot springs of Djili-Suu. There is a small pool with hot springs are the waters are believed to have good health properties. You may opt to have a soak after a long day of walking.  *Full-service wild camping*

Day 8

We continue our hike to the Jety-Oguz Gorge, one of the most beautiful and famous canyons in Kyrgyzstan. To reach this gorge, we have to cross the river and cross the Kok-Jaiyk Pass (2750m). It's quite a climb but the view from the top of the pass will give us a new appreciation of these so called 'celestial mountains' as we're rewarded with an unforgettable mountain panorama. During today's walk we will also get magnificent views of Lake Issyk-Kul. At the end of the day, we reach the yurt camp - a chance to grab a shower. This evening we meet our team of porters who will carry our main luggage for the remainder of the trek. * Jety-Oguz Yurt Camp, or similar*

Day 9

We follow a path along the bank of the West Telety River, through a very narrow wooded gorge (Bay Tor), and eventually emerge in alpine meadows. We usually stop for a picnic lunch in the meadows, which are awash with colour in spring as the wild flowers bloom. After a rest, we continue the trek to our tented camp (approx. 3000m) at the foot of Telety Pass.  *Full-service camping (fixed tented camp)*

Day 10

Today is a challenging day with a reasonable amount of ascent and descent and some tricky terrain. The route over Telety Pass follows a narrow path which ascends gradually for the most part. There are however, two steep slopes, which require considerable effort. From the top of the pass (3,800m) the views are spectacular. The descent is along a wide slope covered with talus, which gives way to alpine meadows and then follows the East Telety River. One of the latter sections of the trail passes through woodland, where you will need to concentrate on your footing to avoid the overgrown tree roots. Tonight's camp is situated at about 2,500m elevation. *Full-service camping (fixed tented camp)*

Day 11

Today we go on a return daywalk up and along Uyun Tor River to the foot of Karakol Peak. We have a chance to see Tien Shan blue spruce forest, underwood (dog rose, honeysuckle, black barberries, mountain ash, black currents, etc.) and wild mushrooms. In the summer flowers are in bloom in the meadows, such as snowdrops, tulips, primroses, and edelweiss. We trek to a point from where we can see Karakol Peak, the highest of the Terskey Ala-Too Range. *Full-service camping (fixed tented camp)*

Day 12

We firstly descend along the gorge for about a kilometre, and then cross the river by bridge to follow the trail into a forest. A long ascent brings us to a grassy slope, from where the path snakes its way onwards, passing by a river overflow, to finally arrive at a log hut, known locally as Sirota mountain hut. There's a table, benches and a fireplace inside - the perfect spot for a rest and a snack. There are some sculptures of animals and idols carved in wood in the area surrounding the hut - like something out of a fairy-tale. From here, the trail climbs up higher, and leaving the forest behind, we hike along the river and reach a beautiful waterfall, flowing down from Ala-Kul Lake. Tonight's camp is situated at approx. 3,600m elevation. *Full-service camping (fixed tented camp)*

Day 13

As we ascend we enjoy wonderful views of the lake - in the Kyrgyz language Ala-Kul means "colourful Lake", and its water can appear as different colours depending on the light. As we get closer to its shores, we see the main Terskey Ala-Too Range, including Aksu, Djigit, Karakol and Oguz Bashi Peaks. From the lake edge it will take us another hour and half to the pass. The initial descent from the pass is on a scree slope, and then through the picturesque Keldike Valley, where we'll encounter herds of cattle and flocks of sheep grazing. Later the trail brings us into a forest again and descends into Arashan Valley.  At the tent camp in Altyn Arashan, there's the option to relax in the hot springs (there are thermal baths of up to +50degC). *Full-service camping (fixed tented camp)*

Day 14

This morning we spend some time admiring Altyn Arashan and the surrounding area, especially the fir forest in contrast with the snowy mountain backdrop. We then descend to Karakol town by military truck (approx. 1 hour).   We'll have a short sightseeing tour of the town, visiting Dungan Mosque, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and Prjevalskii Memorial Complex. Tonight's dinner will be taken in the Dungan family home in Karakol town, where we can see traditional cooking methods and learn how to make lagman noodles, before sitting down to eat together. *Hotel Amir (Karakol), or similar*

Day 15

We drive back to Bishkek, stopping to visit the Cholpon Ata Petroglyphs along the north shore of Lake Issyk-Kul en route. The drive is approximately 250km and takes 5-6 hours - we'll stop for lunch at a road cafe on the way.  Close to Cholpon Ata are Scythian burial mounds, as well as the 'stone forest' or petroglyphs which are between 4,000 and 1,400 years old. They are located at the foot of Kungei Alatau Ridge at a scenic spot overlooking the lake. A farewell dinner is included in Bishkek and if you wish, there is the option to arrange a Kyrgyz folklore show. The talented musicians and singers wear traditional Kyrgyz costumes and play a wide range of national musical instruments – including a Komuz (a three-stringed wooden musical instrument) to Chopo Choi (wind instrument made of mountain reed). *Hotel Asia Mountains, or similar*

Day 16

The tour ends in Bishkek after breakfast. Those who are travelling on the group flights will be transferred to the airport in time for the flight back to London. The group flights are scheduled to depart early in the morning and arrive into London the same day.

* All accommodation  * All listed transport and activities * Tour leader throughout * Flights from London (if booking incl. flights) * Arrival and departure transfers (group flights only)

You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.

Dates Price Single Availability
06-Jul-2019 for 15 Nights Flight inclusive adult Flight Included Visit Website
07-Jul-2019 for 14 Nights Land only Visit Website
20-Jul-2019 for 15 Nights Flight inclusive adult Flight Included
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21-Jul-2019 for 14 Nights Land only
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03-Aug-2019 for 15 Nights Flight inclusive adult Flight Included Visit Website
04-Aug-2019 for 14 Nights Land only Visit Website
04-Jul-2020 for 15 Nights Flight inclusive adult Flight Included Visit Website
05-Jul-2020 for 14 Nights Land only Visit Website
18-Jul-2020 for 15 Nights Flight inclusive adult Flight Included Visit Website
19-Jul-2020 for 14 Nights Land only Visit Website
01-Aug-2020 for 15 Nights Flight inclusive adult Flight Included Visit Website
02-Aug-2020 for 14 Nights Land only Visit Website
15-Aug-2020 for 15 Nights Flight inclusive adult Flight Included Visit Website
16-Aug-2020 for 14 Nights Land only Visit Website

Touring with Exodus

Exodus is an award-winning company built on adventures. It started life on 4 February 1974 when two friends got together to provide an overland truck to travel to the Minaret of Jam, deep in the heart of the Hindu Kush, the most inaccessible of the world’s great monuments. They continue to discover countries, cultures, environments, cities, mountain ranges, deserts, coasts and jungles - exploring this amazing planet we all live on.

At Exodus, they know what makes you tick when it comes to holidays. It’s a desire shared by so many others. A yearning to visit new places and come home with a real sense of what they’re all about. This means delving into local traditions, cultures, cuisine, lifestyles – anything that contributes to its unique identity. At the same time, they always remember that they are only guests. So they ensure they travel courteously and respectfully, in smaller groups to minimise their impact, to ensure that every Exodus holiday is a beneficial experience for everyone involved. This is a philosophy they take around the world, helping you reach some incredible destinations on 500 itineraries across 90 countries – choose from walking, cycling, culture, wildlife and even polar adventures in guided groups or self-guided, tailor-made for you or a ready-made itinerary in Peru or India, Costa Rica or Italy – the choices are endless. They also strive to provide as much flexibility and choice as possible, making it simple for you to experience a very different holiday.

All staff at Exodus have a passion for travel and adventure with their combined experiences spanning 171 different countries and in their former lives, some team members have been professional archaeologists, wildlife guides, overland drivers, mountain leaders, diving and ski specialists and mountain bike gurus – all guaranteed to give you the very best adventure possible. Extensive planning, research, fact-finding and training are just some of the ways this expertise comes through in your adventure.

Exodus recognises their obligation to operate their tours in a responsible and sustainable fashion to address the environmental, economic and social impact tourism can have. They are committed to the well-being of the communities that host you and the natural environment that you are there to experience. Key points in their philosophy include small groups which have less impact on local communities and environments, putting money directly into the communities visited by using locally owned and run accommodation and eating locally produced food, ensuring local staff and operators receive a fair rate for their services, encouraging their own staff to take an active interest in responsible and sustainable tourism and train them accordingly, endeavour to ensure that their practices help in the environmental conservation of the areas visited and provide their clients with advice and guidelines on how to respect the social, cultural and religious beliefs of local communities.


tour details

This tour is operated by Exodus

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Group Size:4 - 16
Meals:14 breakfasts, 12 lunches, 12 dinners.
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