This is a video of my recent trip to Kyrgyzstan. A little hard to get to but so worth it. Kyrgyzstan is a fantastic mix of cultures and ideologies with a rich history and an amazing varied landscape.
I traveled with Garret, a good friend. The last time we had traveled together was in Brazil in 2003, so we are a little bit older and wiser! We did our research online and had a fair idea of where we wanted to go and what hiking we could get done in our 17 days there.
Overall it is a fantastic country to travel in. The people are friendly and accommodating. Outside of the tourist industry, English is not spoken widely, but I think that is changing. Zyrgyz and Russian are the official languages. We got an automatic tourist visa when we arrived.
The hiking was very rewarding. We traveled in late September/October. The season was nearly at an end and we were lucky with weather conditions. There was snow on the higher parts of each hike. Some of the mountain passes don’t open up until late June/July. While it is cold at high altitude, it is hot in the valleys. Early September is probably the best time to go for hiking. Hiking days are long on these treks and you need a good level of fitness. As you near mountain passes, the paths are steep. This is why there are sections missing from the video as I was 100% concentrated on going over the pass.
On the Ala Kol Hike we used the app Mapsme. We had no guide and this app was fantastic, and kept us on the track ( even with GPS turned off).
CBT is a community based tourism organization in Kyrgyzstan. They are in most towns and can arrange accommodation and hiking, yurt stays etc http://cbtkyrgyzstan.kg/
We traveled from town to town by Marshuka (minibuses). Travel from north to south can be difficult and take up alot of time, so we got cheap internal flights from Bishkek to Osh
Our Trip Info –
Bishkek – The capital, a city of parks and monuments and the most modern part of Kyrgyzstan. This a a young vibrant city with great food and the amazing Osh Bazaar. We stayed at the excellent MyHotel .
Karakol – Gateway town to hiking in the east of the country. This a regional town with great access to the surrounding Tien Shan mountain range. We stayed at Riverside Guesthouse.
André from RIverside is a local guide and can quickly get you up to speed on hikes that suit you and weather conditions. We also rented some walking poles off him as there was some snow on our hike. Breakfast here and in MyHotel was out of this world.
Ala Kol Trek – This is a 3 day trek, through beautiful alpine valleys of the Tien Shan Mountain Range. On day 2 you ascend to the breathtaking Ala Kol Lake and then over the pass at 3800m with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. We camped on day 1 and stayed in Altyn Arashan on the second night with the friendly and hospitable people from Ala Kul Guesthouse.
Osh – The capital of the south. This city feels much more traditional with a long history. It was a hub on the Silk Road. It is still a melting pot of cultures and a great city to wander around.
Sary Mogul – About 6 hours south of Osh. This was our base for the 4 day Heights of Alay Trek and our attempt to view Mount Lenin. This town is on a high plateau between The Pamir and Alay mountain ranges. Coal mining is the main industry. It was great to hang out here for a couple of days in this remote small sleepy town.We stayed at the CBT Guesthouse here and arranged our trek through the CBT Office.
Heights of Alay Trek – This is a 4 day hike. We hired a horse and guide from CBT and arranged transport to and from the start/end point. This cut down the hike from 5 days to 4 days. As elsewhere these were long days. We went over two high passes: Jiptik 4185m and Sarymogul 4306m. This hike takes you through barren, beautiful mountains and down into breath taking valleys with very varied landscapes. We camped 2 nights and stayed in a CBT guesthouse in a village the last night.