For the most vivid experience of Kyrgyzstan’s dramatic mountain landscapes, it pays to venture away from road level and up to the remote ‘jailoos’ where the region’s nomads look after their flocks and herds during the summer months. Our trips offer plenty of scope for off-track exploration, whether on foot or horseback, with routes ranging from easy half-day ambles along crystalline rivers and forest trails, to more challenging multistage adventures that crest high passes.
A two-day trek that’s highly recommended for its postcard-pretty alpine scenery is the Altyn–Arashan route, around the parallel valleys of the Terskey Alatau range to the south of Karakol and Issyk Kul Lake. Highlights of the walk include a panoramic view of exquisite Ala Kol, a brilliant turquoise-coloured glacial lake encircled by snow peaks, which you skirt during the ascent up a 3,800-metre (12,467ft) pass. After a sharp descent in the afternoon, the night is spent in a traditional boyuz (yurt) camp at the head of the remote valley.
Confirmed trekkers with experience of multistage expeditions should give serious consideration to the most spectacular of all the mountain routes in this region, the week-long haul to the mighty Inylchek Glacier. Winding for 39 miles (62km) through the heart of the central Tianshan range, the great ice river is among the longest in Central Asia, and flanked by some highest and most majestic peaks in this part of the world, including Khan Tengri (7,010m / 22,998ft) and Pobeda (7,439m / 24,406ft). From South Inylchek Base Camp, you can fly back to road level in an ex-military Russian helicopter – an unforgettable experience affording matchless views of the Tianshan.
Another experience not to be missed is a horse trek through the Kyrgyz mountains. Taking you deep into sublime Central Asian wilderness areas, with landscapes spanning sun-bleached semi-desert to rolling steppe and snow-dusted passes, the route we generally recommend – both for experienced riders and newbies – is a two-day trek from Kyzart, in the hills south of Bishkek. You spend the first night at altitude in a yurt, before crossing a 3,700-metre (12,139ft) pass to begin a descent to beautiful Song Kol lake.