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What to expect from the Tien Shan: KE's Top 10 Highlights

The Tien Shan mountain range stretches across Central Asia and offers some of the most breathtaking trekking and cycling experiences. KE has three phe... Read more
What to expect from the Tien Shan: KE's Top 10 Highlights

The Tien Shan mountain range stretches across Central Asia and offers some of the most breathtaking trekking and cycling experiences. KE has three phenomenal adventures through this iconic range: Cycling in Kazakhstan, Mountains and Deserts of Kazakhstan and Mountains and Lakes of Kyrgyzstan. We've narrowed down our top 10 highlights from these trips so read on to discover the unforgettable experiences that await you...


1. Lake Issyk-Kul

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Lake Issyk-Kul is the second largest mountain lake in the world and is often referred to as the "Pearl of Kyrgyzstan." Its deep blue waters are surrounded by snow-capped peaks, creating a stunning viewpoint and a breathtaking backdrop for trekking. While you're here you'll stop to visit the 'Fairy-tale Canyon' (Skazka Canyon). This aptly named canyon is full of red spires and bizarre rock formations, a stark contrast to the greenery and forest you are soon to explore in the neighbouring mountains!


2. Cholpon Ata Petroglyphs

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Just a short distance from Lake Issyk-Kul lies Cholpon Ata, an open-air museum, featuring the 'Stone Garden' ancient petroglyphs. These rock carvings, dating back to the Bronze Age, depict hunting scenes, animals, and ritual dances and are a fascinating insight into the ancient tribes who carved them.


3. Bishkek

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The capital city of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, is the starting point for one of our trekking adventures in the Tien Shan. Before heading into the mountains, you'll spend time exploring Bishkek’s vibrant market, the Osh Bazaar, and the Soviet-era architecture of Ala-Too Square.


4. Thermal Pools

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The Tien Shan region is dotted with natural thermal pools. In Kyrgyzstan, by the Altyn Arashan Gorge, you'll have the opportunity to relax in the thermal pools with incredible views of the higher peaks around you. Soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters and rejuvenate any sore muscles before the trek ahead!


5. Yurt Camp at Son Kul Lake

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Son Kul Lake is often referred to as the 'Jewel in the Kyrygz Crown'. It is located at an altitude of 3,016m and offers an authentic Kyrgyz experience. Spend two nights staying in a traditional yurt camp, exploring the stunning scenery and sampling traditional cuisine. You'll enjoy a spectacular short acclimatisation walk here too, meeting the local families and learning about the nomadic lifestyle.


6. Charyn Canyon

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This dramatic canyon, located in the Charyn River National Park, is often compared to the Grand Canyon and is known as the 'Valley of the Castles' due to its imposing red pillars and rock formation. Enjoy some time exploring its fascinating geological formations and soak in the breathtaking views. On our cycling adventure you can witness these impressive landscapes at sunset as you set up camp for the night close to the canyon.


7. Singing Sand-Dune

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The Singing Sand-Dune in the Altyn-Emel National Park is another unique natural wonder and stand out highlight. Otherwise known as the Poyushchiy Barchan, this is a big dune, 3km long and 120m high! Wind blowing across the dune can cause the grains of sand to rub together and vibrate, producing a range of fascinating sounds. On both our cycling and trekking adventures in Kazakhstan you have the opportunity to hike to the top of the dune to experience the "singing" and capture panoramic photos from the top.


8. Wildlife Spotting in the Zhenishke Valley

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The Zhenishke Valley is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Enjoy a day of wildlife and flower spotting as you trek beside the Zhenishke River and in and out of the forest, looking out for mountain goats, wild bears, wolves, foxes, hares, wild rams and badgers. You'll camp at an idyllic spot amongst the willow trees at an elevation 1,300m on both of our Kazakhstan adventures.


9. Lake Tuzkol

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Lake Tuzkol in Kazakhstan is a saline lake that offers quite an amazing and unusual experience. The level of saltiness depends on the amount of water influx and outflow so all kinds of odd vegetation grows here. You can expect weird and wonderful colours and some great photo opportunities. If the conditions are clear, the views extend southwards to the central peaks of the Tien Shan, including the striking marble pyramid of Khan Tengri (7,010m). This is another of our spectacular camping spots on our cycling adventure.


10. Interacting and Drinking Tea with Nomads

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One of the most enriching highlights of trekking and cycling in the Tien Shan is, undoubtedly, the opportunity to interact with the nomadic people who call this region home. Taking tea at the yurt encampments with the nomads provides a deep cultural connection and a glimpse into a way of life that has remained largely unchanged for centuries.

Trekking and cycling in the Tien Shan is more than just a physical experience; it’s an exploration of natural wonders, historical sites and cultural richness. From the tranquil shores of Lake Issyk-Kul to the rugged beauty of Charyn Canyon, each highlight offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re soaking in thermal pools, spotting wildlife, or sharing tea with nomads, the Tien Shan promises an adventure like no other.

 Read more about trekking in Kyrgysztan from our operations manager, Tim, who recounts his phenomenal two weeks in the Tien Shan here.


Cycling in Kazakhstan      Mountains and Deserts of Kazakhstan      Mountains and Lakes of Kyrgyzstan


If you would like to know more about any of these KE holidays, speak to our friendly sales team on +44 (0) 17687 73966 or USA/Canada toll-free 1888 630 4415 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.We offer trusted holidays with financial protection and flexible booking conditions

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