Exploring of Tian Shan


The trekking area lies between the southern shore of the Issyk Kul Lake and the northern slopes of the Terski Alatau mountain range. The area belongs to the most beautiful and remote parts of Central Asia. As the trek goes in the immediate proximity to the highest part of the range, the trekker has a unique opportunity to continuously enjoy the views of its immense and severe peaks: Karakol Peak (5,218m), Djhety-Oguz Peak (5,181m), Djhigit Peak (5,172m) and Aksu Peak (5,020m). Travellers will immerse in the freshness of fragrant fir forests and experience the healing effects of hot mineral springs (Djhialisu, Altin-Arashan). Tourists will get to know the harsh beauty of nature during the round day trips to the foot of great summits. Best time for trekking is from July to September.

Tour duration: 15 days.


Program of the tour:

Day 1. Arrival in Bishkek. Transfer. Hotel.
Day 2. Daily round sightseeing trip to Ala-Archa gorge.
Day 3. Transfer by bus from Bishkek to the Karakol.
Day 4. Transfer by truck to the valley of Djhety-Oguz river + easy hiking to valley camp.
Day 5. Daily round trip to the Djhety-Oguz ice wall with wonderful panoramas of snow & ice.
Day 6. Ascend along Telety River to the camp before pass.
Day 7. Cross over Telety pass down to the Karakol River.
Day 8. Round trip to the foot of the Karakol Peak.
Day 9. Ascend from Karakol river up to Alakul Lake.
Day 10. Cross over the Alakul pass and descend to green valley of Arashan River. Camp at upper forest line.
Day 11. Daily round trip to the foot of Aksu Peak.
Day 12. Descend alongside of Arashan River to Altyn Arashan hot springs.
Day 13. Transfer from mountains to Issyk Kul Lake - Cholpon Ata. Overnight in cottages.
Day 14. Transfer Cholpon Ata - Bishkek. Hotel.
Day 15. Transfer to airport. Departure.

detailed tour program »»


Cost includes:

  • meeting/seening off at the airport, all transfers airport - hotel - airport;
  • all transfers according to the program;
  • air-conditioned transport;
  • accompany guide on transfers and general tour guide;
  • FB (B+L+D, three times meals) on transfers;
  • accommodation in the hotels in the cities on a share twin with breakfast (B&B);
  • sightseeing guides on SS tours in the cities, SS entrance fees for the main monuments;
  • full board in mountains on trek, accommodation in double tents;
  • services of mountain guide, cook, interpreter, necessary amount of porters (or pack animals);
  • porterage for transportation of all personal and group equipment;
  • rent of necessary equipment on the trek (tents, diner tent, kitchen tent, WC tent, kitchen equipments etc.);
  • visa support letter (for Kyrgyz visas).

The cost does not include:

  • Kyrgyz visa - according to Embassy`s tariffs;
  • Permit for visiting mountains;
  • Ecological tax.

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Detailed tour description:

Day 1. Arrival in Bishkek. Transfer. Hotel.
Half of the day a traveller will be spending at leisure in Bishkek - the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
This modern city of 1 million-odd population was originally designed and built in 1868 as a Russian military garrison base. Independent since 1991, the city still is regarded as one of the most Russian-speaking cities of Central Asia. The city is located at 800m above sea level in the foothill of Kyrgyz Alatoo Range of which the highest one - Alameddin Peak (4895m) - can be seen from the city (50km to the south). Bishkek is regarded as one of the greenest cities of Central Asia - for its straight-lined streets generously bordered in tall plane trees and its verdure-drawn parks holding Russian Soviet monuments and statues.
Places to see/visit in Bishkek are: Erkendic Square (Independence Square), Historical Museum with its unique for CIS countries collection of bronze relieves and statues of the Soviet period, Museum of Fine Arts richly presenting paintings and sculptures of Kyrgyz and European artists, colourful Osh Bazaar and bustling small-size-wholesale Dordoy Bazaar. Opera goers may choose to attend impressive Opera House to enjoy opera or ballet performance given once or twice a week or opt to listen to European classic- or Kyrgyz folk music concerts given at the Kyrgyz State Philharmonic Society. The lovers of special kind of entertainment may spend their money and time visiting round multiple casinos of the town. No problems in changing you foreign currency (USD, Euros, JPY, British Pounds and Chinese Yuans) in Bishkek as well as using your travellers checks and credit cards for buying local currency (called Kyrgyz Som).

Day 2. Daily round sightseeing trip to Ala-Archa gorge (2.500 m - 2.800 m).
From Bishkek we drive (30 km;1h ) south along the road ascending to the scenic mountain Ala-Archa National Biosphere Park of Kyrgyzstan to have acclimatization and a preparatory hike at 2500-2800m and to explore flora (birch trees, fir trees, larch trees, junipers etc.) and fauna (pheasants, vultures, eagles, awls, magpies, finches, deer, mountain goats, wild boar and even adders!) of the Park. The area contains some of the most attractive routes on rock and snow for climbers. At least three options where to go for a hike are available: 1) To carry straight up the valley on a well-trodden path, nearly without gaining altitude along the stream to the upper reaches of Ala-Archa River; or 2) (Suggested option) to cross the stream over the dilapidating pedestrian bridge and climb up on a side mountain spur along the track winding up amidst junipers, firs and deciduous larch trees to reach the glade where up to 30 Kyrgyz mountaineers have been finding their last repose since 1960s. The only vantage point to get better view of the Alameddin Peak dominating the area is there. Then you can carry on up to the glacier to have a look at the Adagheneh Peak (4200m); or 3) Keeping on the left from the cottages of “Alaarcha” Mountaineering Base, adventure on the uphill along the track to the Ratzek Glacier that slips down from the slopes of Alameddin Peak.

Day 3. Transfer by bus from Bishkek to the Karakol (1.600 m; 400 km; 8 hours).
Gradually gaining altitude, we drive along the fertile oasis of Chu River valley - once part of Great Silk Route travelled by merchants as well as hordes of Mongols of Genghis Khan (13th century AD) and armies of ruthless emperor Tamerlane (14th century AD). On our way we pass major towns Tokmok, Balykchi and Tamga. The road winds into the picturesque narrow Boom gorge (“shoelace” in Kyzgyz) and, halfway to Karakol, reaches Balykchi where Lake Issyk Kul (“warm lake” in Kyrgyz) starts from - a natural wonder of Central Asia. The phenomenon of the lake is not only in its being world’s second largest (both by deepness and square area) alpine lake but also that, despite altitude (1.608m), it never gets ice on its surface. The lake attracts hundreds of birds (local as well migratory), is abundant in fish (trout, carp, pike-perch etc.) and provides habitat (the lake-shore riparian forests as well as surrounding mountain forests) for diverse wildlife including nearly extinct snow leopards and red wolves. Since ancient times the Lake Issyk Kul concavement is historically known as fertile oasis (especially in its western edge where Karakol town is situated).
The town of Karakol (population of 65,000) is set 8km away of the Lake Issyk Kul. Abundance of rains and deep mountain streams bring here a lot of water and make local climate extremely favourable for agriculture farming and cattle breeding. That is why the streets of the town are drawn in impressively thick and tall poplars as well as apricot, cherry, pear and apple trees. Local bazaars attract with its mix of Chinese, Dungan, Uighur and Russian faces and a diversity of local fruits and vegetables.
We get accommodation in shared rooms in a simple wooden chalet of the “Ala-Too” mountaineering base where one can also get, as extra, hot shower and sauna. Do not forget to enjoy panoramic view that opens up next morning: just beyond the base is Terskey Alatoo Range, the peaks of which reach heights over 5.000 metres - the area of your trekking.

Day 4. Transfer by truck to the valley of Djhety-Oguz river (40 km; 2 hrs) + easy hiking to valley camp (5 km; 4 hrs).
Once our gear and everyone is loaded on the truck we set off along the road. The countryside is rich (wheat, barley) and green (lucerne, rape) with some farm settlements initially giving way to pine forest and meadows (good for beekeeping) set in a narrow valley. Gopher sentries see our truck approaching and alert their mates by whistling. One hour on we have a quick stop at Djety-Oguz (“seven bulls” in Kyrgyz) - a small village and a dyed away Soviet-time spa, hot mineral water of which, rich in radioactive rhodon, is believed to be good remedy against arthritis. Here we can see an unusual formation of red sandstone cliffs that gave the place its name - Seven Bulls. We carry on then on the uncoated road winding into narrow canyon. Every now and then we cross the stream on rickety bridges. One more hour past we reach ultimate point of our drive amidst Tien Shan fir trees - the object of interest for local lumberjacks. From this place we start our trek. Trekking slow and steady with a light pack, we get used to a little bit of altitude. We ascend through the forest along the river on a good path heading to alpine meadows. Soon the mountain peaks come into view. The predominant mountain is Oguz Bashi (5168m) or “head of the bull” which is usually nearly completely snow covered. After a few hours of walking, having had our picnic lunch on the way, we reach our camp set on a grassy spot besides the river and forest at approx 2000m.

Day 5. Daily round trip to the Djhety-Oguz ice wall with wonderful panoramas of snow & ice (8x2 km; approx 7-8 hrs; +600 m; -600 m).
A day is set aside to explore the upper end of the valley. Two hours on from the camp we ford the main river. Two other lateral creeks are usually shallow and make no problems to cross. We cannot miss opportunity to get to know lifestyle and customs of Kyrgyz herders and their families by visiting their yurts positioned just on the trail side. Time permitting, we observe process of mare milking and taste traditional Kyrgyz “kymyz” - light alcoholic drink which is fermented mare’s milk.
At it’s upper reaches the valley forks out and we continue on to the right hand side valley - to Baytor gorge. The herdsmen’s trail climbs up through tall fire and pine forests to alpine pastures where marmots and uhlars (Himalayan snowcock) salute us. We trek as far as we feel. As a reward for our efforts, an astonishing view opens out to an amphitheatre of peaks (Baytor Peak, 4700m and Aylanma Peak, 4800m) and snow passes as well as Baytor glacier. We have a picnic lunch by the river and make our way back to yesterday’s camp on the same route.

Day 6. Ascend along Telety River to the camp before pass (8 km; 7 hrs; +1000 m). Camp (3000 m.).
We sort out our loads to be carried on horses and proceed with trekking. We trek a short way until turning left at the confluence of Djheti Oguz and Telety rivers to carry on by a good path on the orographically left hand side of a beautiful valley along the Telety river through the fir forest. One hour past we reach the confluence of Ayutor River and Telety River. We can see Archaly Peak at our front. Two hours on we cross the Telety river over a log bridge and start ascending on rather steep trail winding up on the mountain spur through a thicket of juniper shrubs. After lunch we ascend rather steeply approximately 400 metres to our camp. On the way we enjoy views of the picturesque valley. Camp is situated near small waterfall on the nice grassy spot in the packet between the neighbouring mountain spurs protecting out tents against strong highland wind.

Day 7. Cross over Telety pass (3650 m) down to the Karakol River (9 km; 8 hrs; +650 m; -1050 m).
We are awoken by whistles of eagles and marmots. It takes us 15 minutes to reach ancient moraine which we bypass on the right. Air is thickened with omnipresent sparrows and daws soaring around. Eagles and lammergeiers are patrolling the area hovering on the updrafts. We ascend on a good stony path - good for people and poor for horses. Two hours past the trail levels and we see the circ - cliffy and scree terrain - from where the pass becomes visible. These are rugged mountains and the views spectacular all around. To the other side of the pass is the Karakol valley, and our route now takes us down valley.
First the trail goes down on the stiff rocky terrain. Then it levels into green grassy spot, bypasses coarse-stone scree and runs down the mountain stream that is forded twice. Past first confluence (right hand side lateral) the trail reaches marshy glade covered in mountain garlic. We cross the stream here and follow the trail running on the left bank of the stream - a herder’s trail through juniper shrubs.
After lunch we carry on downhill on the alpine meadows till thick fir, spruce, larch and ash forest. There from we clearly hear rumbling of Karakol River flowing down at the bottom of the valley - we are close to our camp now. Camp (2600m) in the upper reaches of Karakol River valley is on the river bank near big bolder. Terrain around bears traces of human deforestation activity.

Day 8. Round trip to the foot of the Karakol Peak (5281m) (8x2 km; 7 hrs; + 400 m; - 400 m).
We trek up valley and in one hour past reach a large rock presenting memorial plates set to those mountaineers who perished on the most challenging sheer walls of Karakol Peak and Djigit Peak. We head than out of the tall fir forest and above the river to green meadows blanketed in flowers - poppies, daises, pansies, calendulas, jointweeds, mallows, motherworts - and clumps of juniper bushes. Just past the forest a view opens up to Karakol Peak - a white trapeze face adorned in hanging glaciers. The trail runs on a grassy slope to the top of the natural dam where small lake lies followed, further up, by the other bigger one. Here on alpine meadows Pink Roseola grows - an herb the roots of which possess curing properties similar to ginseng. The lure is not just to picnic beside the mountain stream, but to appreciate the grandeur of Djigit Peak (5170m) which commands a presence over the left hand side of the valley. We can also enjoy a view of the Hair Waterfall (on the right). After a picnic lunch we return back to our camp.

Day 9. Ascend from Karakol river up to Alakul Lake (8 km; 5-7 hrs; +600 m).
Moving on now, we trek first down valley along a good road for a short while and, past mountaineering camp site, cross over a foot bridge into the thick forest. We follow a narrow winding trail upwards and soon get into open slopes of grasses and shrubs. We enjoy picturesque views across to adjacent valleys. We reach a small blue lake where we may take a picnic lunch and then trek on through the forest to a place where a climbers hut is located (2600m). We may set camp here, or trek on up for another two or three hours beside alpine stream and scree and boulders to a higher camp on the shoulder of the expansive azure blue Alakul Lake at approx 3200m. This will depend on logistic and weather conditions, and decision will be made by your group leader. Camp at 2600m in the green zone provides more warmth and comfort compared to camping at 3200m on the small rocky spot in the windy narrow bottleneck where the stream overflows the lake.

Day 10. Cross over the Alakul pass (3600m) and descend to green valley of Arashan River. (12 km; 6-8 hrs; +400 m; +1000 m; -1000 m). Camp at upper forest line (2600m).
We gain altitude moving along the trail running up and down the scree-rocky slope. We keep the lake on our right. The turquoise-blue lake stretches as far as the eye can see, and peaks and glaciers of the Terskey Alatau range (among which the 4900m-high Ekichat Peak is clearly distinguishing) provide the backdrop for the entire panorama. The climate is much cooler now and warm clothing, hat, gloves and waterproofs are essential items to have with you whilst in this locality through to the other side of Alakul pass. Nonetheless, it makes sense to top up your water bottles as there will be no sources of water till we cross over. It may take us up to 3-4 hours from the lake to top the pass. The views across to the Terskey Alatau span kilometre after kilometre. Looking to the south from the top we can see Djigit Peak (5170m) on the left and Karakol Peak (5281m) in the middle. The view of Alakul Lake is unmatched. After photos we commence our descent to the Arashan Valley. The trail first follows on the scree into alpine meadow zone of Kurgantor River fed by glaciers and down to forest of the main valley of Arashan River. It may take us 2-3 hours to reach to the bottom of the valley. Today we do not rush down to Altyn Arashan hot springs leaving it for tomorrow and we camp on the river bank. This day is the climax of the trek.

Day 11. Daily round trip to the foot of Aksu Peak (4770m) (9x2km; 5-6hrs).
We follow the trail running alongside of the left orographic bank of the river valley, sides of which are richly covered in firs and deciduous trees. Harrier and eagle owls hover across the river looking for their prey. We cross the second right hand side lateral influx on the log bridge. We reach picturesque confluence of two rivers: Ekkichat River (right) and Geldike River (left) that give birth to Arashan River. We see impressive trapeze of the Palatka Peak (4800m) looming over upper reaches of Geldike River valley. It is not that easy walking on the cow trail pressing closer and closer to water line of the Ekkichat River until, at certain stage, the trail disappears. On the other side of the next lateral stream that we cross over on improvised log bridge there is no trail through a thicket of shrubs, prickly bushes and mixed riparian forest. But efforts are eventually rewarded by the astonishing view of the ice/snow-covered Aksu Wall topped with majestic Aksu Peak (5020m) and high-altitude passes (up to 4000m high) accessible only for well-trained tourists possessing knowledge of snow- and ice climbing technique. Time permitting, we carry on uphill to the snout of glacier (4-5 km) or, otherwise, return to our camp enjoying edelweisses and fragrant alpine flowers on the way.

Day 12. Descend alongside of Arashan River to Altyn Arashan hot springs (2400m) (8 km; 4 hrs).
We descent on the well-trodden trail alongside the river meeting local herders and, possibly, visiting their yurts to taste their produce - kumyz, yogurt, milk or even meat, photographing the process of mare milking.. We see interesting natural phenomenon on the path: fir tree growing just on top of the large detached rock. We camp at Altyn Arashan hot springs - a group of cottages and huts positioned at grassy spot mostly on the right bank of the river next to a big confluence and providing basic accommodation to all comers as well as - main attraction - bathing in spa, for a small fee. This place is very popular with local Kyrgyz visitors looking for opportunity to heal their body/muscle/joint-related illnesses by dipping in hot springs. Here we see a nursery area where local forest authorities grow young fir trees meant to replenish woods currently being heavily chopped down for firewood and other purposes. That is the ultimate point of our trekking and a roadhead where we meet with truck. End of trek and farewell party with our crew offers variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and wonderful array of dishes.

Day 13. Transfer from mountains to Issyk Kul Lake - Cholpon Ata (260 km; 7 hrs ). Overnight in cottages.
Next morning once everyone is loaded on the truck we head downstream alongside of Altyn Arashan river through thicket of fir forest back to Karakol city. We change vehicle, explore local bazaar and lunch there in Karakol. Then we carry on to Cholpon-Ata driving alongside of the northern shore of Issyk Kul Lake enjoying the views of Terskey Alatoo Range (south) and Kungey Alatoo Range (north). We end up the day in Cholpon-Ata - a 40 000-population big town and unofficial centre of resort area of Issyk Kul Lake where all spectrum of sanatoriums and rest houses is available. We have accommodation and evening meal in a one of the boarding houses there.

Day 14. Transfer Cholpon Ata - Bishkek (140 km: 4 hs). Hotel.
Those champions of early morning swimming can have a bath in the lake. And after breakfast we set off to Bishkek. In one hour or so we are in Balykchi, past which we are back on the road we were arriving by here - two weeks ago! We lunch on the way in a sideroad cafe. We arrive in Bishkek in the afternoon having enough time to explore more of the town, or to do last minute purchase, or simply to take shower and relax before dinner.

Day 15. Transfer to airport. Departure.
Depending on your departure time you will be provided with a vehicle that, after breakfast, will take you to Manas airport or to Bishkek railway station where you will be seen off by our local guide.


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