Kyrgyzstan is home to the magnificent Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai mountain ranges, which constitute 90 percent of the territory of this beautiful, pristine and rugged land in the heart of Central Asia. With 29 peks over 4000 metres and 45 over 3000 metres, its dramatic scenery lives up to its pledge as the land of Celestial Mountains.
Kyrgyzstan offers more than 200 trail for avid hikers and lovers of riding horseback. For climbers, the country boasts some of the highest points in the world – the famous Pobeda and Khan Tengri Peaks – both towering more that 7000 metres. More that 50 national parks and forests preserves nature in its myriad forms. Tours by foot, bicycle, or horseback can be arranged easily. In fact, for mountainside travel, most Kyrgyz still use horses as the most effective mode of transportation.
There are more than 2000 high altitude lakes nestled in Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan mountain range. Since antiquity, people have passed on many legends about the origins of these spectacular lakes. Lake Son-Kol, at more than 3000 metres above sea level, draws visitors from around the world. Several yurt camps along its shores offer a unique glimpse into the mountain traditions of Kyrgyz nomadic culture.
The resorts and guest houses surrounding lake Issyk Kul – second largest mountain lake in the world – offer visitors a touch of beach experience at the center of the great Asian land mass. Fed by hundreds of underground springs, its name means “hot lake”, because the mildly lake never freezes.
Lake Issyk-Kul offers a breathtaking view of its dozens of encircling mountain peaks. This ring of mountains protects Issyk-Kul from cold air invading from norht and hot air rising from the south, granting travellers a pleasant and comfortable microclimate that offers every opportunity for rest and relaxation. Mountain-sea breezes, low humidity, clean air, abundant solar heat, water infused with therapeutic minerals, hot springs and mud treatments will revive the health and spirits of all visitors. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy sailing on Lake Issyk-Kul.
From the majestic ice citadels to their sweeping verdant valleys, the mountains are the very soul of Kyrgyzstan. Fearless mountaineers pit their skills against peaks of over 7000 metres while ,far bellow, day-trippers stroll in flower-strewn alpine valleys. Crystal clear lakes reflect the ever-changing sky and families set up summer yurt camps on the jailoo, high mountain pastures.
The arms of two great mountain ranges embrace over 90 per cent of the country: the Tien Shan (‘Heavenly Mountains’) stretch for 2500km from east to west, while the magnificent melee of snowbound peaks which make up the Tajik Pamir spills its dramatic, arid slopes into southern Kyrgyzstan. Over 30 per cent of the country is blanked in permanent snow and ice.
Kyrgyzstan’s mountains are a playground for climbers. Peak -baggers head for the three giants over 7000 metres.
Straddling the Kazakh border in the east, Khan Tengri is the favouirte pin-up – rising to 7010 metres, its perfect pyramid summit of marble and fluted ridges burns in the sunset with the colours of hot coal, earning itself the nickname Kan Too, ‘blood mountain’.
Vast and bulky Jengish Chokosu, known by its Soviet name, Peak Pobeda, is Kyrgyzstan’s highest mountain at 7439 metres. In the Pamir, Kuh-i-Garmo (Lenin Peak) soars to 7134 metres and is famous among mountaineers as the easiest ‘seven-thousender’ in the world. Off-limits in Sovit times, nearby ranges boasts scores of unclimbed peaks, many of which do not require technical skills or much experience.
The mountains encompass a huge variety of beautiful landscapes: alpine vallyes of heart-stopping green plummet from glistening glaciers to noisy rivers which leap over massive bouldres; wide, silent valles are home for yaks, birds of prey and rare Marco Polo sheep; and forests of ancient walnut, fragrant juniper and elegant Tien Shan fir cloak the slopes.
You come away with a heart full of stunning panoramas but also more that that. Maybe it’s the thin clear air or the long hours of sunlight, maybe the Silk Road relics and ancient petroglyphs you stumble upon, maybe the bewitching beliefs in life-enhancing rivers; but you take away a feeling of wellbeing, as though revived by the magic and mystique of the mountains.