Home of the Celestial Mountains, Kyrgyzstan is an ideal destination for travelers who love nature and outdoor activities. With its giant mountains, its virgin landscape and its incredible animals (including the very rare snow leopard), Kyrgyzstan is an incredible place to visit. More than 90 percent of its territory is covered by high mountains, so as you can imagine, there are many, many hikes to do in Kyrgyzstan. Its summits and steppes are still very wild, inhabited only by several nomads and their herds. If you are traveling with your family or have little time, no worries: you’ll still be able to enjoy this unique nature thanks to one-day hikes. Alternating between canyons and deep forests, you’ll be able to completely change landscapes from one valley to the other without excessive efforts. Here’s our guide to the best one-day hikes to do near Bishkek while traveling in Kyrgyzstan:
Even if you only have a few days in Kyrgyzstan and your hotel nights are all booked in its capital Bishkek, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the splendid nature of this Central Asian country. One day will be enough to give you a whole lot of emotions. Bishkek is only a few kilometers north of the Ala Too Mountain Range, which beautifully culminates at almost 5000m altitude.
This is the biggest national park near the Kyrgyz capital. Ala Archa is an immense natural reserve located less than half-an-hour away from Bishkek, and its stunning summits are visible from the city.
In Ala Archa National Park, there are several possibilities for a one-day hike. The three largest valleys of the park allow to follow the river, walk up to a memorial for alpinists and a nice viewpoint, climb up to a waterfall or, for the most ambitious hikers, continue up to a glacier. This last hike is not easy, since the Ak Sai Glacier is located at 3300m altitude, 1200m higher than the starting point. Whichever trail you choose, you will be amazed by the park’s many rivers, endless forests, eternal snow and rugged peaks. In fact, Ala Archa is a beloved playground for alpinists around the world, whether they are beginners or experts, because it shelters very technical and difficult summits.
This other valley located very close to Kyrgyzstan’s capital offers easy hikes, less steep and more accessible for families. In Alamedin Gorge, the main hike leads to a pretty waterfall in a few hours of gentle walking, in a colorful and flowery valley. This hike, by the way, is accessible in wintertime, when the waterfall freezes and becomes a true winter wonderland.
Not far from Alamedin, the Chunkurchak Valley is a summer pasture for many shepherds and their herds of animals. Here, the nature is dryer, winter and summer alike. A short one-day hike brings you to a superb panorama on Bishkek city. And right under this viewpoint, a few petroglyphs allow to travel back in time.
Belogorka or the « white mountain » is probably one of the prettiest valleys in Kyrgyzstan. It’s much less visited than the others mentioned above because it’s less accessible due to its dirt and rock road. But it’s definitely worth the efforts. Here, the landscape looks like no other in Kyrgyzstan. Dark, rugged towers and summits stand one by the other, almost threatening. You can let your imagination work and see in them forms of dinosaurs and monsters. With their snowy peaks, these fantastic, charming giants will astonish you. The Belogorka valley is also home to one of the tallest waterfalls in Kyrgyzstan (around 80m high), and the hike to the waterfall takes only one hour on a rather flat trail.
Are you on your way to Naryn or the Issyk Kul regions? Take the time to visit one of these valleys and appreciate the diversity of Kyrgyz landscapes:
Preserved from touristic tours, the Ak Tuz Valley shelters a beautiful pine forest and a huge natural fountain. In winter, the forest becomes a snow paradise, and the fountain freezes and transforms into a huge ice pyramid. The village of Ak-Tuz has almost become a ghost town since the mine was closed, but a new ski station was recently opened in this valley allowing for a pleasant and calm family trip.
Approximately one and half hour away from Bishkek, the Kegeti Valley and its ideal alpine landscape is a perfect place for a one-day hike. There are two valleys with this name which offer different levels of hikes. The one on the right leads to two splendid waterfalls without much effort, while the one on the left leads to the magnificent Kel Tor Lake at 2700m altitude. Known for its incredible green color, the lake is a great destination for a hike but requires some strength and perseverance to get up.
The Chon Kemin National Park is located approximately 2h30 from Kyrgyzstan’s capital, on the road between Bishkek and the Issyk Kul Lake. This huge forest, cut in half by a river (which is, by the way, a great place for rafting) and surrounded by high summits and glaciers, is perfect for hikes. You can go mushroom picking, explore the calm forest of Chon Kemin or observe wild animals in a very calm atmosphere great for relaxing.
If you want to discover landscape similar to the Far West, go explore the Konorchek Canyon. Located in the Boom Gorge on this same road that the east and west of the country, the Konorchek Canyon is one of Kyrgyzstan’s most impressive. Huge red rock towers overlook an almost deserted valley and leave room for your imagination…
Another great canyon to visit is Kok-Moinok, located near the city of Kochkor and the Issyk Kul Lake. You’ll have to hike through narrow passages between the red and orange rocks like an explorer to discover the canyon and its multicolored shapes.