Kyrgyzstan. Home of Tian-Shan, or as we Kyrgyz call it, Tenir-Too. Both titles aptly name the grand mountain range as The Celestial Mountains. Their thawing glaciers replenish the great lakes Isyk-Köl, Son-Köl, Köl-Tör and Ala- Köl – the Pearls of Kyrgyzstan. Needless to say, the lakes are transparent/clear water and clean. In this tour, we will explore these four lakes (two of which are located 3000 metres above sea level), stay in a traditional Kyrgyz yurt, ride horses and enjoy authentic local dishes.
Price includes: 4x4 car and driver, fuel, personal guide, breakfast, lunch and dinners, accomodation during the tour (excluding hotel in Bishkek), entrace tickets.
- Day 1. Bishkek – Burana – Cholpon-Ata.
9:00 a.m. Pick up from hotel in Bishkek. Burana tower – a UNESCO world heritage site -- is two hours (90km) away. Burana is the only surviving building from Balasagun city – the medieval capital of the mighty Karahan state, the perfect place to learn about the Silk-Road and Kyrgyzstan’s past. After an excursion in the museum and the surrounding stone sculptures, we will have ‘dimlama’:a delicious stew of lamb and vegetables. An afternoon drive of two hours (200km) will take us to our guest house in Cholpon-Ata – the town with active nightlife where World Nomad Games took place.
- Day 2. Cholpon-Ata – Karakol – Altyn-Arashan.
8.00 a.m. We start our second day by visiting an open-air rock art gallery. There you may admire prehistoric petroglyphs of the nomadic people – from Scythians to modern Kyrgyz people – untouched two thousand years. Many are drawings of deer and mountain goats; they are related to the widespread belief in Bugu Ene, the deer mother, and protector of infants and warriors. After a two hour drive (140km) we will have a lunch in a local restaurant and prepare for a hike. We will walk about 5 hours (13km) to arrive at Altyn-Arashan – a stunningly beautiful pasture with sky-reaching peaks, herd animals and steaming hot springs. The night will be spent in a nearby guesthouse.
- Day 3. Altyn-Arashan – Ala-Köl lake – Altyn-Arashan.
8.00 a.m. Wake up is as early as possible, for today is the most important day of our tour – we will visit one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in Central Asia. However, it will not be easy to get there. The hike to the lake usually takes 5-6 hours (12km) -- hard work, but well worth it. After a one-hour break with lunch (lunch boxes taken there ourselves), we shall head back for dinner and well-deserved rest in Altyn-Arashan.
- Day 4. Altyn-Arashan – Karakol – Jeti-Ögüz – Fairy Tale Canyon – Bokonbaevo.
9.00 a.m. After breakfast, we return to the Karakol town via an old Soviet car UAZ. These are off-road cars that were manufactured specially for military purposes. We will visit two main religious sites in Karakol – the Dungan mosque and the Russian Orthodox Church (both of which are unique examples of wood craftsmanship and Kyrgyz history). Afterwards, we will visit the red sandstone formations of Jeti-Ögüz-- Seven Bulls in Kyrgyz. It is named so because the huge red rocks resemble great big bulls. We will also view the rocks from a different angle, where it resembles a mammoth instead, and have a lunch right at the feet of these majestic beasts. The next spot is Fairy tale canyon (100km – 1.5 hours from Jeti- Ögüz). We will get there in the evening, right before sunset, when the unique colours and relief of the canyon can be best seen. After a short hike climbing the natural “Great Wall of China” and observing the Wall of A Hundred Faces, we will drive to the Bokombaevo town (35km – 30 minutes) where we finish our busy day with supper in a nice local guesthouse. Overnight stay in the guesthouse.
- Day 5. Bokonbaevo – Kochkor – Son-Köl lake.
9.00 a.m. Our next spot is Kochkor town (120km - 1.5 hours). On the way to the town we will see sky-reaching Tian-Shan mountain range, which is the beginning of Tibet. After a short walk accompanied by lunch in Kochkor town, we continue our drive to Son-Köl lake (130km - 2.5 hours). A 50km-section of the road is bumpy, but we will take several breaks so you can rest, take photos and enjoy the beautiful sceneries. In particular, sceneries of Karatal-Japyryk national park. We will get to the lake by the evening so you can enjoy one of the most gorgeous sunsets one can experience in Kyrgyzstan. A calm ride on horseback surrounded by a peaceful atmosphere will make the car ride worth it. Dinner and overnight stay in a yurt camp.
- Day 6. Son-Köl lake - Kochkor - Kegeti valley.
9.00 a.m. After breakfast we have 2 hours of free time. You can swim in the lake, ride the horses, go on a short hike or do a combination of these activities. Following this, we will make our way back to Kochkor town (115km - 1.5 hours). This time we take another road which is shorter but no less beautiful. After lunch in Kochkor we will join a mastery class on making the traditional carpet - Shyrdak -- you will be taught to make your own. Shyrdak is made 100% of wool and completely hand-made. Recently, Shyrdak was added to the global lists of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. After shopping (optional) in a souvenir shop (shyrdaks are available there too) we head to Kegeti valley, right at the foot of the 5000-meter high Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range. Dinner and overnight in a guesthouse.
- Day 7. Köl-Tör lake - Bishkek.
9.00 a.m. Today we will make a hike to the last lake in our program -- Köl-Tör lake -- located 2700 meters above sea level. It takes no more than 3.5 hours (7.5km) for 70% of the path is less than no more than 15º slope. We will have take our time having a picnic by the lake, walking around, enjoying the nature, taking pictures (and even sleeping by the lake as I often do). We return head back in the afternoon or whenever you choose. After a coffee/tea break in a guesthouse,we drive back to Bishkek (90km - 1 hour). In Bishkek we will have some time to check into your hotel and a shower. Our last (farewell) dinner together will be in a nearby restaurant, a nice ending to our fulfilling trip.