Best Winter Spots in Kyrgyzstan: Ski touring, Driving, Yurt Camps, Horseback etc
Why Kyrgyzstan in winter?
Kyrgyzstan is full of countless micro climates that are great for ski touring or for winter trekking journeys. The landscapes are changing from dry red rocks gorges to white snow-covered mountains with fir trees. The weather is typically sunny here in Kyrgyzstan and on skis, horses, or trekking with snowshoes, it will be unforgettable! It’s also possible to sleep in heated yurts in winter where you can ski from the doors or strap on snowshoes and hit the mountains, Kyrgyzstan has it all.
Where are the best spots of ski touring here in Kyrgyzstan?
Every year more and more travelers are going deep into the mountains and exploring the snow-covered slopes deep in the backcountry of Kyrgyzstan. There are countless spots to ski tour here in Kyrgyzstan and I would like to interduce you a few of my favorite spots.
Issyk Kul Region:
In the Issyk Kul Region, there is cotton like lake effect snow from the 2nd largest alpine lake in the world. The snow is deep and there are numerous different valleys to ski in the region.
- Jyrgalan is one of the most famous spots for ski touring in Kyrgyzstan due to the countless different slopes to ski and discover. The slopes can be from 25% to 35% with 1000 m runs. I prefer human power, but it’s also possible to hire a snow cat or a snowmobile in the Jyrgalan valley.
- Ak-Tash near Chong Kyzyl-Suu is a great spot for ski touring from the doors of your yurts to the high mounting peaks of the red river valley. Ak-Tash is a growing dentation in Kyrgyzstan for its lake effect snow and hot springs that are just 4 km from the winter yurt camp.
- Ski touring in the highest altitude and snowiest alpine roads in Kyrgyzstan is in the Suusamyr valley. The snow is dry and fluffy which is great for big turns on the large alpine valley. The Suusamyr valley, is at 3,000 m which is great spot to ski skin up a few peaks in the distance. Even in early December, it’s possible to have 160 cm of snow but the strong wind and subzero temperatures can make it difficult to get an early start.
- Ski touring in Arslanbob is unlike ski touring in other parts of Kyrgyzstan due to the snow which is like magic where it can be fluffy like in Suusamyr and like cotton in the Issyk Kul Region. It’s a real mix of skiing and local culture that makes Arslanbob a magical spot here in Kyrgyzstan.
- Char Valley near the At-Bashy village is a great alpine valley that can provide for an amazing spot to tour from the backside of the guesthouse. In addition, you have great access to the unknow At-Bashy ski range where there are countless virgin peaks to ski from. The snow is dry and has a sugar-like feeling when touring.
- Song Kol Lake is also a great spot for ski touring from Ak-Tash peak or the many mountain passes that lead into Song Kol. The views are quite breathtaking and sleeping in heated yurts makes for a great destination for skiing in Kyrgyzstan.
- There are other countless places to discover here in Kyrgyzstan such as Ara Bel, At-Bashy, Sary Tash, where little is known but the possibilities are endless. Kyrgyzstan is 95% mountains and if you’re looking to discover new spots come to Kyrgyzstan.
Where are the best winter yurt camps?
- Ak-Tash with its banyan and hot springs just 4 km away it’s a great spot for any mountain lovers. It’s in the Chong Kyzyl-Suu valley with a 40-mint drive from Karakol. The price is around 55 dollars a night per person with 3 meals per day.
- Song Kol in winter is breathtaking. It’s quite an expedition to reach the heated yurts and on horseback or touring skis, it’s quite unforgeable. The price is around 65-75 dollars a night for the organized trip for a group of 5-6 travelers.
- Jyrgalan ski in and ski our yurt camp. It’s a great yurt camp to ski in and ski out of and enjoy the supper hot banya and jump in the river nearby to cool off real fast. The yurt camp is one of the best in Central Asia and it’s in a small village of Jyrgalan. The price is 75-95 dollars per night per person with 3 meals per day.
- Asku Valley Ski Touring Yurt Camp which is in the Aksu gorge which is 30 mints from Karakol town is also a great spot to enjoy the high mountains of Kyrgyzstan. They have heated yurts and an outdoor hot tub that is to die for deep in the mountains. If you are snowshoeing or ripping lines in the mountains nearby it’s a must-stop yurt camp. The price is ~85 to 110 dollars per night per person with 3 meals per day.
Where are the best hot springs in Kyrgyzstan?
Kyrgyzstan has many hot springs and most of them are in the Issyk Kul area. After an active day of skiing, snowshoeing, or ski touring what’s better than dipping into a hot spring? Hot springs typically cost 200 som / 3 dollars per person and don’t forget to bring your own towel.
- Asku gorge a 30 mins drive from Karakol has hot springs that are outside and new. It’s very clean and worth spending 1 hour to enjoy the views and hot springs.
- On the north shore of lake Issyk Kul near the village of Chong Oryuktyu the outdoor hot springs are great for a quick stop when you are traveling from Bishkek to Karakol.
- Altyn-Arashan is always a great spot to enjoy the hot springs. Altyn-Arashan is an alpine hut that is close to Karakol and it takes about 4.5 hours of snowshoeing to reach the alpine hut. After the long hike up make sure to jump into the hot springs. At Altyn-Arshan there is a large fireplace that you can curl up next to with a book or with a game of cards.
- Another great hot spring is near the Ak-Tashk Yurt Camp near Kyzyl Suu, it’s called Au-Tor (Bears Pasture) You have the option to have the outdoor hot springs and the indoor hot springs as well. It’s a bit old-fashioned, but the water is hot and it feels great after a day of ski touring from the Ak-Tash Yurt camp.
Where is the best spot to drive to in winter?
Winter is the best time to test your driving skills. Many of the mountain roads are still open in winter and if you have the right 4x4 for your trip you can pass just about any place.
- Kol Suu in the Naryn region on the border of China is a popular place to visit in winter, but it’s strongly recommended to take 2 strong 4x4’s with you. The road is wild and in the Ak,-Say valley can be -30 C in winter, dress warm. Don’t forget that you need border zone permits to reach this area.
- The abandoned Engilcheck village is a great spot to see the runes of an empire. Crossing the snow-covered Chong Asku pass at ~3800 m in winter is quite special. The Engilcheck village is a dry valley where you can enjoy the wild hot springs if you are a bit clever. Don’t forget that you need border zone permits to reach this area.
Where are the best spots for winter horseback riding?
In winter it’s recommended to only do day trips on horseback with good gloves and make sure the horses all have metal shoes for winter.
- Song Kol is one of the most famous places in Kyrgyzstan for horseback riding in summer but in winter only the brave would cross the snow-covered mountains to Song Kol lake. It’s quite a journey to reach the heated yurts, but once you arrive you can understand how Nomad’s felt during the time of the Silk Road traveling during winter.
- In Karakol there is many options for horseback riding in winter. I would recommend horseback riding in the Karakol gorge where you are able to brake new trials and be the only travelers in the whole valley.
- In Chong Kemin it’s a great spot for a day of horseback riding from your guesthouse. It’s a great spot for beginners looking to try horseback riding for the first time in winter.
A day of resort skiing?
Kyrgyzstan has over 20 ski resorts with a fun mix of ski lifts for every level of skier. If you’re looking for a day trip from Bishkek there are many options to choose from. Typically, it cost 1200 som (18 dollars) to 700 SOM (11 dollars) for a ski lift ticket and the price for renting gear is about the same.
- Zill ski Resort for beginners.
- Ak-Tash Resort near Bishkek for advanced skiers looking to head out of the bounds.
- Karakol Ski Resort is one of the most famous ski resorts in Kyrgyzstan and always great.
Anytime is a great time to come to Kyrgyzstan and my favorite time of the year is winter. Join me on a trip to the mountains.