This is a journey for nature enthusiasts, for those who are interested to see the diversity of ecosystems and biodiversity in all their manifestations. We will drive along mountain roads and visit places with rich biological diversity, as well as get familiar with the cultural traditions of the Kyrgyz people, who move to high mountain pastures in summer. We will have the opportunity to look at the plains and human settlements adjacent to foothills from the height of mountain passes, see the turbulent streams running down narrow gorges from snow peaks, enjoy the splendor and variety of colorful alpine meadows with marvelous butterflies fluttering over them, walk along the paths in the lush forest belt, hear the singing of numerous birds and the whistle of marmots warning their neighbors about the appearance of unexpected guests in their habitats… We will be able to dive into the clear waters of Lake Issyk-Kul, surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks on the hottest days of summer. And also we will be able to explore the colorful and noisy Asian bazaars and immerse ourselves in the oriental flavor, where history and modernity perfectly complement each other.
The link to the travel logistics includes a description of the accommodation details, conditions of the trip, and other useful information.
Day 1: June 11, Sunday. Early morning arrival at the airport of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan with a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul – accommodation at the Asia Mountains *** hotel, breakfast. Early registration. We’ll have time for rest and an introduction. After accommodation, you can take a dip in the pool with refreshing clear water, or you can immediately go to the lakes and ponds of the fishing farms (30 km) to observe waterfowl and near-water birds that inhabit water reservoirs in the foothills for birdwatching. We expect to see many waders, gulls, and terns, as well as long-tailed shrike (Lanius schach) and shikra (Accipiter badius). Return to Bishkek in the afternoon. It will be possible to visit one of the colorful oriental bazaars and get familiar with the city. The evening program will include a walk around the evening city after dinner or rest if desired.
Overnight at Asia Mountains Hotel *** (B/Lunch-Pack/A).
Day 2: June 12, Monday. Full-day excursion to the famous Central Asia Ala-Archa National Park (2,200 – 2,400 m above sea level; 40 km), rich flora is presented in the park; many species of birds and mammals also inhabit its area. The park has amazingly beautiful landscapes and a huge variety of plants in mountain meadows, which change seasonally, but all are remarkably beautiful. Here we will walk through a mountain forest, in which many trees have an unusual shapes and create a unique mountain landscape – with sharp crowns of Tien Shan spruce, spherical trunks of Turkestan juniper or “archa” trees, and delicate fluffy foliage of Tien Shan birch. There are also many insects here and in summer we will have the opportunity to see the carpenter bee and many different kinds of butterflies. In some places, we can see wild ibexes and even snow leopards, but it all depends on a lot of luck. But bird watching allows us to hope for success and during the excursion, we will be able to observe many mountain bird species: common dipper, blue whistling thrush, rufous-napped tit, coal tit, red-mantled rosefinch, Himalayan rubythroat, Himalayan or snow vultures, bearded vulture or lammergeier and many other species.
Return to Bishkek in the evening. Overnight at Asia Mountains Hotel *** (B/Lunch-Pack/A).
Day 3: June 13, Tuesday. Full-day excursion to Alamedin Gorge (2,100 m; 30 km).
This forested gorge with a rather mild sloping landscape is part of the northern slopes of the Kirghiz Range, the highest peak of which – Western Alamedin – reaches a height of 4,875 m above sea level. On the slopes up to a height of 2,500 meters, there are main areas of mountain steppe and forests with Tien Shan spruce and juniper trees. Above this, there are subalpine and alpine meadows, which at an altitude of 3,700 meters turn into snowfields and glaciers. There we will get acquainted with the nature of the mountain forest and steppe. Also, we will be able to watch the birds, which we can attract using the application with the songs of typical species inhabiting mountain forests. During this trip, we hope to see white-capped bunting, red-headed bunting, common or pied rock thrush, and other mountain bird species. Return to Bishkek.
Overnight at Asia Mountains Hotel *** (B/Lunch-Pack/A).
Day 4: June 14, Wednesday. Drive towards Issyk-Kul lake and stop near Balykchi village (1600 m, 180 km). We will stop at several places to see the banks of Issyk-Kul Lake, as well as the rocky desert that stretches around. We will have a chance to see some desert inhabitants: small lizards, insects, arachnids and birds. Observation of bush birds: Excursion along the bank of the Issyk-Kul Lake. We expect to see birds of bush thickets: common rosefinch, Cetti’s warbler, and common redshanks. In the evening we’ll spot the nightjars and long-eared owls. We will also have the opportunity to walk in the evening along a semi-desert area to look at its nocturnal inhabitants in the light of headlamps. If we are lucky, then we have a chance to see nocturnal mammals – jerboas, wild cats, foxes, long-eared hedgehogs, and possibly jackals. Also, we will be able to highlight nocturnal invertebrates such as scorpions, camel spiders or solifuges, and tarantula spiders.
Overnight at the Royal Beach Hotel (B/Lunch-Pack/A) with a beautiful cool pool and access to the Issyk-Kul Lake shores.
Day 5: June 15, Thursday. A trip to the foothills of Semiz-Bel to Tory-Aigyr (50 km). There we explore the foothills with dry valleys and desert plains. In the basin of the Toru-Aigyr River, there are rock paintings [petroglyphs] of ancient nomads on stones and rocks; in addition, there are burial mounds and stone sculptures showing the elements of the ancient Turks culture. Arid plains and dry valleys are overgrown with patchy bushes and scarce semi-shrubs, among which are halophytes (salt-tolerant plants) and psammophytes (plants that grow on sands). Perhaps, we will be able to see wandering Bactrian camels in this place that graze on the foothill plains. Both on the plains and in the foothills we will be able to observe typical representatives of desert landscapes, including such birds as secretive Pallas’s sandgrouse, pied wheatear, greater short-toed lark, crested lark, grey-necked bunting, chukar partridge (mountain partridge), as well as a large long-legged buzzard. In addition, we will be able to spot fast small lizards (Eremias sp.) hiding in the shade of infrequent plants, as well as other well-adapted inhabitants of the semi-desert.
Overnight at the Royal Beach Hotel (B/Lunch-Pack/A) with a beautiful cool pool and access to the Issyk-Kul Lake shores.
Day 6: June 16, Friday. A trip to the Semenovskoye gorge (1,800 m, 70 km). The Semyonovskoye Gorge is one of the most famous and interesting places in the Issyk-Kul region. This beautiful gorge attracts tourists visiting Issyk-Kul Lake. The length of the gorge is about 30 km. Local enterprises are oriented towards the welcome of tourists: we will see local residents luring visitors with birds of prey or the opportunity to ride a horse through the gorge. There are many good places in the gorge for viewing scenic landscapes and the opportunity to see the glacial streams of the Ak-Su mountain river (which means “white water” in the translation named due to the foaming turbulent stream descending from the snowy peaks). In summer, there are many yurts for visitors set up in the Semenov Gorge, where everyone can taste national dishes: beshbarmak, koumiss, ayran, baursaks… We know about the meaning of all these words when we’ll visit this area. Birdwatching: On the excursion in the gorge we can observe birds of the forest belt such as white-winged grosbeak, red-mantled rosefinch, red-fronted serins, isabelline wheatear, booted eagle, kestrels, many other species.
Overnight in Karakol town at Turan guest house (B/Lunch-Pack/A).
Day 7: June 17, Saturday. A trip to the Turgen gorge of the Kyungen-Alatau ridge, to the Chon-Ashuu pass (3,800 m, 160 km). During this trip, we will have the opportunity to see the picturesque landscapes of the gorge, the fauna, and flora of the highlands, and subalpine and alpine meadows with their specific vegetation, including highly specialized and adapted to elevations forms and endemic plant species. We will be able to see wild marmots here, as well as possibly Tien Shan ground squirrels and pikas, small mountain mammals – relatives of hares, which got their name because of the communication system in the colonies when different individuals interconnect with each other by whistling or squeaking. On rocky screes near mountain streams, we can see an amazing large mountain wader – the ibisbill, hidden with its grayish plumage among pebbles on the banks of mountain streams. Among the bushes the white-capped buntings, and rock buntings sing cheerfully, sitting on the tops of bushes and trees. The Himalayan rubythroat – a nightingale with a red throat also inhabits shrubs and bushes at the edges of mountain forests in this area. At a height above the gorges, Himalayan vultures, residing at high altitudes, can soar; sometimes they are accompanied by other scavengers such as bearded vultures, which often glide over the slopes, looking for the bones of dead animals.
Overnight in Karakol at Turan guest house (B/Lunch-Pack/A).
Day 8: June 18, Sunday. Trip to Jety-Oguz gorge (50 km). On the way, we will visit the museum of the famous Russian explorer of Asia, Nikolai Przhevalsky, whose grave is located on the shore of Issyk-Kul Lake. In Karakol, we will also be able to see the Orthodox Trinity Cathedral built in 1896, the pagoda-style Dungan mosque (1899), and many preserved houses and buildings of the 19th century. Jety-Oguz gorge, translated from the Kyrgyz language as “seven oxen”, is located on the northern slope of the Terskey-Alatau ridge, enveloping Lake Issyk-Kul from the south. This gorge is situated at a distance of 25 km from Karakol town. The attraction of the gorge is the fold of red rocks “Jety-Oguz”. One of the rocks, called “Broken Heart”, is a place of pilgrimage for lovers. Near the ridge, at an altitude of about 2,200 meters above sea level, there is the Jety-Oguz resort, famous for its healing geothermal springs. The slopes of the gorge are covered with lush vegetation. In the city itself and around, we will be able to observe typical anthropogenic bird species, which include small laughing doves and masked white wagtails. During the trip to the mountains, we will also see rock buntings, an oriental turtledove, ruddy shelducks, mistle thrushes, grey wagtails, brown dippers, and other interesting bird species.
Overnight in the Tamga yurt camp, in the village with the same name – Tamga (40 km) (B/Lunch-Pack/A).
Day 9: June 19, Monday. Drive to the mountain town of Naryn (2,037 m, 300 km) through the Dolon pass (3,030 m). The settlement of Naryn was created as a small fortress on the trade routes that led from Kashgar (East Turkestan) to Central Asia, to protect traders (merchants) from the attack of robbers who raided trade caravans. The city appeared here in the middle of the 19th century, when, after the annexation of Central Asia to the Russian Empire, a Russian garrison was stationed there. We will have the opportunity to get aware of the history, nature, and culture of this interesting settlement. We will stop along the way at the Dolon Pass to observe the birds and mammals that we can spot in these places. It is possible to detect several high-mountain bird species here, which include alpine and red-billed choughs, as well as cinereous vultures, wall-creepers with bright red spots on their wings, brown dipper, water pipits, and other species.
Overnight at the guest house “At Baktygul” (B/Lunch-Pack/A).
Day 10: June 20, Tuesday. Full-day excursion to the Kapchygay gorge on the Small Naryn River (2,100 m; 70 km). Naryn and the adjacent mountain gorges are famous for their picturesque passes, turbulent mountain rivers, deep gorges, colorful lakes, and waterfalls, surrounded by mountain peaks with caps of eternal snow and high-altitude glaciers, replenishing the stormy streams descending from the mountains in summer. The local population preserves the traditional culture and lifestyle that has been represented by nomadic peoples for centuries. Many-day hiking and horseback expeditions through the Tien Shan mountains, as well as seasonal hunting tours for ibexes and Marco Polo sheep, are still going from Naryn. Rafting enthusiasts of different categories of difficulty also come here. However, our one-day tour will cover only a trip to the Small Naryn River with its fabulous abrupt ravine landscapes and the astonishing nature of the highlands. We will have the opportunity to observe mammals and birds that inhabit the slopes of the gorges, banks, and turbulent streams of the Naryn River. We hope to see several species of birds of prey here, including the golden eagle, and the long-legged buzzard, as well as small passerines: bluethroat, pine bunting, red-headed bunting, and 16 other species.
In the evening return to Naryn. Overnight at the guest house “At Baktygul” (B/Lunch-Pack/A).
Day 11: June 21, Wednesday. Trip to the alpine Son-Kul Lake (3,016 m, 150 km), the second largest and one of the most beautiful lakes in Kyrgyzstan. Only in summer, nomads (local herdsmen and shepherds with families) spend their time here, because, around the lake on the slopes, there are luxurious and lush pastures with an abundance of grass and wildflowers (edelweiss, gentians, and many others, including amazing sossurea, cousinia, and many other endemic families, genus and species). The entire lake is a nature reserve due to the numerous waterfowl that nest there in the summer. The trail leads through the pass Moldo-Ashuu (3,330 m), from where impressive alpine landscapes open up. Along the way, we will have the chance to observe the colorful bird species that inhabit the steep cliffs and rocks. These species include European roller, European bee-eater, lesser kestrel, eastern rock nuthatch, and other species.
In the evening we will arrive at the high mountain camp, where we will stay overnight in the yurts of the Bayish camp (B/Lunch/A).
Day 12: June 22, Thursday: We will spend a day in the vicinity of the alpine Son-Kul Lake (3,016 m) with its magnificent landscapes of alpine jailoos (high-mountain pastures) and unforgettable colorful sunsets. In summer, high mountain pastures are still dotted with yurts of semi-nomadic herdsmen who bring their livestock here to feed on succulent mountain herbs. Lakes lurk between the mountain peaks; some of them, depending on the glaciers, are seasonal. At an altitude of 3,000 meters, it is not hot even in summer. Therefore, many species of birds live here, which have adapted to inhabit high-altitude meadows and plains. We expect to see many different species, including the Mongolian plover, Eurasian and Himalayan vultures, bearded vultures, rock sparrows and snow finches, accentors, demoiselle cranes, several species of waders, and waterfowl.
Overnight in the yurts of the Bayish camp (B/Lunch/A).
Day 13: June 23, Friday. On this day we will drive from Son-Kul Lake to Chon-Kemin National Park (1,700 m, 300 km) through the Kalmak-Ashuu pass, located at an altitude of 3,446 m above sea level. The park got its name from the Chong-Kemin River, which originates from Dzhasyl-Kel Lake at the junction of the Kungei-Ala-Too and Zailiysky Alatau ridges and flows into the Chu River in the Chui Valley. The right slope of the river gorge is a natural border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. We will stop along the way to admire the breathtaking mountain scenery, and identify interesting species of mountain plants with many endemics blooming at this time. We also expect to see marmot colonies along the way, as well as other mountain mammals and mountain bird species. Here we can see Himalayan rubythroat, mountain twite, common linnet, Egyptian Vulture, hill pigeons, and other bird species.
Overnight at Chon-Kemin guest house (B/Lunch/A).
Day 14, 24 June, Saturday: Morning excursion to Chon-Kemin National Park (50 – 70 km). Chon-Kemin National Park, located in the valley of the same name, is a unique natural complex with diverse flora and fauna and many picturesque landscapes. It covers mountain belts from semi-deserts to glaciers at altitudes from 1,400 to 2,800 meters above sea level. On the territory of the park, there are 6 species of plants and 21 species of animals included in the national red book. Coniferous and mixed forests grow on the slopes of the mountains and in the valleys. We hope to see birds here, which are typical for the steppe and forest belts of the mountains. Among the inhabitants of the park, we expect to observe the tawny pipit, the masked white wagtail, the common rosefinch, the common sandpiper, the rosy starling, the Eurasian penduline tit, and 15 other species.
Return to Bishkek (130 km) in the afternoon with stops along the way to enjoy mountain scenery and birdwatching. Along the way, you can meet European Roller, Black-capped Night-heron, little grebes, terns, Spanish sparrows, and other 10 species of birds. Upon returning to Bishkek, we hope to have time to visit the oriental bazaar to buy small souvenirs, and spices and look at the variety of vegetables and fruits in the summer.
Overnight at Asia Mountains Hotel (B/Lunch/A).
Day 15: June 25, Sunday. Morning transfer to the airport. Flight home. June 25 – flight back to Canada with Turkish Airlines.
For more information and/or to book this tour, please contact the travel agency directly at
YYT Travel Tours: 7851 Dufferin St., Suite 100, Toronto (Thornhill), Ontario L4J 3M4 Tel: 1.877.999.4768 or 905.660.7000 – TICO Reg: #4332359