Trekking Around South Shore
Immerse yourself in the Tian Shan Mountains on day hikes or multi-day treks.
Along the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, features like alpine waters, wildflowers, and red rock canyons mark the experience. Ringed by snowcapped peaks, the South Shore offers trekkers a unique combination of pre-trek cultural experiences and post-trek relaxation. And during the hike itself? Count on sweeping panoramas on even the shortest half-day routes, along with achingly pretty meadows, mid-mountain forests, and picturesque alpine lakes on full- and multi-day treks.
The South Shore is ideal for all trekkers, regardless their level of experience. Some experiences are perfect for families, while others ideal for advanced trekkers seeking a thrill. All are perfect for those interested in beautiful outdoor adventures! Lake Issyk-Kul sits at 1,607 meters above sea level, and since this is your base, many trails in the region rapidly move into beautiful alpine forests, and high summer pastures, called jailoos.
Trekking along the South Shore is about more than just the trek, however. It’s about creating a fascinating contrast of adventures and activities that you can’t do anywhere else in Kyrgyzstan. Lake Issyk-Kul is the second largest saline lake in the world; the northern Tian Shan Mountains sit at your doorstep. The topography is unique to the area, and offers the opportunity to enjoy beach mornings along the lakeshore or learning a traditional nomadic craft, and then hours later? Hike through fairytale canyons, horseback ride to a glacier, or trek to high-altitude alpine lakes.
On the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, you don’t have to choose one adventure over the other. Instead, it's a destination that offers the combined joy of trekking, culture, food, and history. It’s a destination that invites you to stay another day, venture out to another panorama, and soak up the nature that’s a mere stone’s throw from your guesthouse or yurt camp.
Our trails, some of which were newly marked in 2017 thanks to a USAID mapping project, allow for a range of fitness and skill levels. When choosing a trekking route along the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, it’s crucial that you assess a few key areas before booking a tour, or embarking on a self-guided, independent trek. Consider your overall health, energy, and fitness level, as well as the current weather conditions. Many of the canyon treks become very hot in the middle of our summer trekking season, while some multi-day routes require cold-weather gear (easily rented in town) to comfortably and safely ascend the peaks. All trekking difficulty determinations take into consideration distances covered, altitude changes, and the average number of hours of hiking expected per day.
Many of the half- and full-day treks in particular are along well-marked trails. If you’re up for the challenge, you can venture solo on these by using one of the trekking maps (available at Destination South Shore) or downloading available digital GPS tracks.
Independent trekking in Kyrgyzstan is absolutely possible thanks to a trail-marking project that now provides with accurate GPS data and maps. If you are planning on undertaking one of the longer and more difficult trails, however, we recommene hiring a local trekking guide for safety and enjoyment. Local guides, cooks, porters, and food are available through CBT Bokonbaevo. The standard rate for an experienced CBT trekking guide is 1,600 KGS/day, and their trekking tours usually include all food, gear, support, and transport to/ from the trailhead. Some yurt camps or guesthouses also can provide guides for local treks.
The South Shore trekking season runs from June through September. Lower-altitude routes may open earlier and later in the year, weather permitting. Trekking guidelines and seasonal recommendations are offered so you can avoid inclement weather and harsh temperatures, making your trekking experience as smooth as possible.
Don't worry about bringing all your trekking gear with you, since you can rent the essentials for local treks from CBT Bokonbaevo. Its office is conveniently located in downtown Bokonbaevo (Bolot Mambetov Street #16), so you can easily rent trekking and camping gear, including sleeping bags (200 KGS/day), sleeping mats (60 KGS/day), tents (250 KGS/day), and more. CBT knows these mountains very well, so it rents the right gear for every trek offered in the region. And, if you don't want to carry your own gear they also offer an option of having a porter, either by horse or by human, depending upon the trek.
South Shore Panorama Trek
An easy multi-day trek with ridgeline views overlooking the Kara-Tumshuk and Kyr-Saz jailoos (mountain pastures), both of which are filled with Kyrgyz nomads' yurts and pasturing livestock. The route features two moderate mountain passes, including Tashtar-Ata, before reaching a panoramic viewpoint from which the legendary Kyrgyz hero Manas oversaw an important battle.
An easily accessible morning or half-day experience from Bokonbaevo. Enjoy ranging views of Lake Issyk-Kul and all the surrounding mountain ranges with a one-hour hike from the Boz-Salkyn Valley to the overlook point. Transport is needed from Bokonbaevo to Boz-Salkyn Valley. Or, it's possible to walk from town, but that adds an additional 3 hours/18 km.
One of the more dynamic multi-day treks across the South Shore. Participants experience the scenic high alpine lake of Teshik-Köl (3,517m), traverse the Kashka-Suu Gorge, and have the opportunity to relax in the Jyluu-Suu therapeutic mineral-thermal springs on the descent from the lake.
An offbeat art-meets-trekking visual experience. Set against stunning hilltops, red-rock canyons, and the deep blue of Lake Issyk-Kul, this day hike showcases both a cache of ancient petroglyphs and a collection of modern Soviet-era graffiti. Note: This route is scorching hot in the height of summer, so take plenty of water.
Boz-Salkyn to Barskoon (Tranquility Valley)
The longest marked trek along the South Shore, this five-day route offers remote scenery with the challenge and tranquility that go with it. Meandering mid-alpine trails yield to a demanding ascent up and over the Tosor Pass. The final segment of this trek features a beautiful descent into Barskoon Valley. A perfect experience to disconnect and rejuvenate. Note: Requires arranging a driver for pickup.
Other Recommended Treks in Kyrgyzstan
- Check out the trekking tours offered by CBT Bokonbaevo, from one-day to 7-day treks in the South Shore and nearby regions.
- Nearby Karakol is a jumping off point for a wide selection of treks in the Tian Shan mountains just outside its city limits.
- To explore some of the newest independent trekking routes in Kyrgyzstan, head to Jyrgalan just 60km from Karakol. This village is the starting point for several day and multi-day treks, as well as many options for horse treks.