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Guided walking tour from gorge Karakol to Altyn-Arashan.

Adventure tours in Kyrgyzstan.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving” 

Terry Pratchett. “A Hat Full of Sky”.

The tour we offer you below is a light version of trekking on Terskei Ala-Too range and trip to Son-Kul lake. It begins in Bishkek, the capitals city of Kyrgyzstan. By a driven car you are transferred to Son-Kul lake, where you can see beautiful panorama of lake, nomadic life of Kyrgyz people. You enjoy horseback riding or just hiking, spend time with friendly Kyrgyz families and taste their fresh airan (yogurt) and kymys (a fermented national drink from mare’s milk), also you will view horseshow. 
Then you continue the trip to eastern shore of Issyk-Kul lake, to Karakol town. After that you are transferred to Karakol Gorge, from here the trekking part starts. A Trekking tour in Terskei Ala Too mountain range is a wonderful combination of landscapes and romantics of adventures. Overnights in tents under the starlit sky, campfire after a long day, amazing beauty of the hidder coners and unusual nature views it is worth coming to our mountainous land – Land of Kyrgyzstan! 
We can see a Karakol Peak 5216 meters above sea level and famous moraine-glacial lake Ala Kol  3532 meters above sea level. We go over mountain pass Ala Kol 3800 meters above sea level. As a “dessert” we offer you bathing in the hot natural springs with curative mineral water in Altyn Arashan valley! 

The short description of a route of tour in mountains in Kyrgyzstan:

Bishkek  – Song-Kul Lake - Karakol town – Karakol gorge – Ala Kol Lake – Arashan gorge – Cholpon Ata town – Bishkek.

Duration of the route: 1 362 km.
Season: From July, 5th till September, 1st.
Duration of the tour: 11 days, 10 nights.
Distance in an active part of a tour: 44 km.
Best time for travel: July, August.

The detailed description of the program of a hiking in gorges Karakol and Altyn-Arashan in Terskey Ala-Too mountains:

Tours to Karakol gorge in Kyrgyzstan.

Day 1. “Manas” international airport - Bishkek (40 km, 1 hour).  
Arrival in Bishkek early in the morning. Meeting at the airport. Transfer to the hotel or guest house. After breakfast a short sightseeing tour in the city. The capital and industrial centre of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek is a town of wide avenues, handsome buildings and Soviet heritage.
It is the permanently snow capped Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range which towers over Bishkek providing a quite stunning backdrop. Visit Manas Monument, the main national hero of the Kyrgyz people. Lunch in local restaurant.  Then excursion to the State History Museum and walking tour around main Ala Too Square to watch ceremony of changing of the Guard of Honor, Independence Monument, and finish at the Old Square with Government House.
Transfer to the Victory Square to finish the city tour by short excursion there. After excursion tourists may go shopping in the largest department store in the city – TSUM and a colorful oriental bazaar. Farewell dinner in restaurant, overnight.
Day 2. Bishkek – Burana Tower – Son-Kul (390 km, 8 hours, + 900 meters). 
Breakfast. Transfer: Bishkek - an architectural complex «Burana Tower» (72 km, 1 hour). Arrival on an architecturally-archeological museum «Burana» ruins of ancient site of ancient settlement Burana. Visiting of museum open-air - Stone statue monuments with image Turkomans VI - X centuries, here is collected more than 80 various Stone statue. Visiting of collections the mill millstones found at excavation in territory Burana of site of ancient settlement (X - XII c.c., millstones from mills of our time and millstones XVIII - beginnings XX с.с.
Visiting of museum Burana Tower, the pottery of different forms and the sizes, utensils from glass, ceramic and bronze fixtures, manual grain bruiser, Kairaks with Arabian and Nestorianism writing, potter's water pipes, subjects of arts and crafts, bronze coins here is presented.
Visiting of monuments Epigraphy which are presented gravestone stela with inscriptions in the Arabian language, on stela sayings from the Koran, name, year of death of the late are include. Visiting of tower Burana Tower. Burana Tower - minaret of XI century. Initial height Burana of minaret was 45 meters now height of tower makes 24,6 meters. Visiting of the central ruins where there is hill in the sizes 100 х 100 meters and height of 10 meters which where there are rests of palace complex or temple existed here up to X centuries. The excavation lead on hill, on the top surface here have opened inhabited constructions X - XII c.c. And burial places XIII - XIV c.c. The end of excursion.
The further transfer: an architectural complex «Tower of the Burana» - settlement Kochkorka - pass Kalmak-Ashuu of 3446 meters above sea level - lake Song-Kul of 3106 meters above sea level (318 km). Arrival on lake the Song-Kul, accommodation in yurts camp, a dinner and overnight.
Day 3. Lake Song-Kul.
Breakfast. High-mountainous jailoo in vicinities of lake Song-Kul for the Kirghiz shepherd the best. Here for the summer drive the herds of horses, herds cattle and flocks of sheeps many shepherds Naryn of area. Foot walk on coast of high-mountainous lake, trip to stones Manas (Tash-Tulgasy), visiting yurts the Kirghiz shepherds, acquaintance to nomadic life of the Kirghiz shepherds. Lunch. Today you step into the nomadic life at the Song-Kul Lake. Here, the Kyrgyz people still live in traditional simplicity.
You enjoy horseback riding or just hiking, spend time with friendly Kyrgyz families and taste their fresh airan (yogurt) and kymys (a fermented national drink from mare’s milk), also you will view horseshow.  In second half of day walk on horses in vicinity of mountains towering above lake Song-Kul, photographing of panorama on lake. Returning in yurts camp, dinner and overnight.  
Day 4. Lake Song-Kul of 3106 meters above sea level - pass Kalmak-Ashuu of 3446 meters above sea level - settlement Kochkorka - Orto-Tokoi a water basin - town Karakol (414 km, 7 - hours, - 1300 meters).
Breakfast. Transfer: Lake Song-Kul - settlement Kochkorka (130 km). Arrival in settlement Kochkora, visiting of a craft workshop, walk on a local market. After settlement Kochkorka the settlement Ottuk will be the first settlement at southern coast of lake Issyk Kul, we shall see all southern part of lake Issyk Kul in the extent more than 200 kilometers. Soon we shall see the largest water basin Issyk-Kul of a hollow - Orto-Tokoi.
The further transfer: settlement Kochkorka - settlement Ottuk - settlement Bokonbaevo (152 km). On a way we shall visit village Bokonbaeva in which local handicraftsmen will show us indicative manufacturing of carpets (40 minutes - 1 hour). Together with local residents we shall participate during manufacturing carpets, we shall feel culture of nomads. In settlement Bokonbaevo inhabitants produce greater felt carpets for a floor yurts. At manufacturing felt carpets use ancient recipes and traditions.
Transfer: settlement Bokonbaevo - town of Karakol (132 km). Arrival in the town of Karakol, transfer to hotel, accommodation, a dinner and overnight.
Day 5. Karakol - Karakol gorge 2500 meters above sea level (25 km, 1 hour, + 900 meters). 
Breakfast. Morning short sightseeing tour in the town of Karakol, visit to Dungan Mosque, Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Prjevalskii Memorial Complex. We visit the museum of N. M. Przhevalski, the outstanding Russian explorer of Asian continent. You visit Dungan mosque, a unique construction in Chinese style, but serving as a mosque. Also you will see an old Russian Orthodox Cathedral made of wood without any nails. Lunch in a local café.
Diving to Karakol gorge. Arrival in Karakol gorge, accommodation in the tents. Walking around gorge. Dinner and overnight in “Karakol” tent camp.
Day 6. Radial hike to the foot of Karakol peak 5216 meters above sea level. (16 km. 6 - 8 hours, + 700 meters,  - 700 meters). 
Breakfast. Radial hike up along Uyun-Tor river to the foot of Karakol peak. We have a chance to see Tien-Shan blue spruce forest, underwood (dog rose, honeysuckle, black barberries, mountain ash, black current, etc. There are mushrooms in the forest. Lunch on the way. Starting from May there are flowers blooming on the meadows – snowdrops, tulips, primerose, white anemone, alpine Aster, edelweiss (really big ones), etc. We reach the point with a view at the highest peak of Terskei Ala-Too – Karakol peak. Dinner and overnight in “Karakol” tent camp.
Day 7. Hiking: gorge Karakol - Ala Kol Lake 3532 meters above sea level pass Ala-Kol 3800  meters above sea level - zone of the Alpine meadows (15 km, 7 - 8 hours, + 1500 meters). 
Breakfast. Descent along the gorge about 1 km, later we cross the river over a bridge and the trail leads us into a forest. Rather long ascent finishes at a steep slope covered with grass, the trail turns into a serpentine, passes by a river overflow, and arrive to an unusual place which is called “Sirota” mountain hut. It is a log hut.
There is a table, benches, fireplace inside. Lunch on the way. We can find a number of sculptures of animals and idols carved in wood around the hut. It looks like a fairy tale place. It is a nice place to sit down, rest, have a snack. Later the trail goes up higher, leaving the forest behind we hike along the river and reach a beautiful waterfall, flowing down from Ala Kol Lake. Moraine Lake of Ala-Kol stretches from east to west for 2.8 km, its width is 500 m, and depth 70m.
Ala-Kol means Colorful Lake in Kyrgyz language. Depending on the light the water might change its color. It can be emerald green, turquoise with white clouds reflected, light green or dark grey, or even black. During the ascent we enjoy wonderful views of the lake.
Arriving closer to the lake we see the main range of Terskei Ala-Too with a number of peaks – Aksu, Djigit, Karakol, Oguz Bashi, etc. From the lake edge it will take us another hour and half to the pass. Walking around on Alakel-Lake, photographing of landscapes and sights of lake Ala-Kel. Hiking: Ala-Kel lake – pass Ala-Kel – zone of the alpine meadows. Dinner and overnight in tent camp.
Day 8. Hiking zone of the Alpine meadows - descend to Arashan gorge 2600  meters above sea level (13 km, 6 - 8 hours, + 200 meters, - 1500 meters). 
Breakfast. Descent from the pass along a talus slope, and later across a wide valley of Keldike with picturesque landscapes, herds of cattle and flocks of sheep grazing. Later the trail brings us into a forest again and descends into Arashan valley. Upon arrival to the tent camp you may use an opportunity to relax in the hot springs. There are thermal baths (up to +50C) in the valley. Possibility to take thermal baths. Dinner and overnight in “Altyn Arashan” tent camp.
Day 9. Altyn Arashan gorge – pass Ortok 2300 meters above sea level - Karakol town - Cholpon Ata town (155 km, 4 - 5 hours, - 1000 meters). 
Breakfast. There is a resort Altyn Arashan founded 1963, famous for its hot mineral springs. The resort represents several wooden huts located on a big treeless meadow on the right bank of Arashan river. The Northern slopes of the left river bank are covered with fir trees. It gives an unforgettable picture – dark green trees with snowcapped mountains “Aksu wall” 5022 meters above sea level in the background. 
Transfer to Cholpon Ata town. Possibly to descent over green fields with blooming flowers and crystal mountain springs. The final 5 km of the gorge are very narrow not more than 30 m with high rock walls. At the entrance to the gorge we pass by a village – Ak-Suu (the name comes from the hot springs). Here you will take place inside the car. Accommodation in a hotel on the north shore of Issyk Kul Lake. Dinner and overnight in a hotel. 
Day 10. Cholpon Ata town – Bishkek town (250 km, 3 - 4 hours, - 800 meters). 
Breakfast. Morning, after breakfast, transfer to Bishkek town. Lunch en route. Upon arrival to the town, transfer to hotel, accommodation. Dinner in a local restaurant. Optionally: During dinner we take the unique opportunity to listen to the Manaschi (a singer performing the national Kyrgyz epos, Manas) and see Kyrgyz folklore show.
The musicians in traditional Kyrgyz costumes present you a wide range of national musical instruments – starting from Komuz (a three-stringed wooden musical instrument) to Chopo Choi (wind instrument made of mountain reed). You hear the fascinating singing of young Kyrgyz ladies and men and learn more about the traditional music and poetry of Kyrgyz. Overnightl. 
Day 11. Bishkek town – Airport “Manas” (30 km, 1 hours). 
Morning transfer to airport. Departure from Bihskek.

Photos by
Alexander Petrov and Vladimir Serbenko