Kyrgyzstan – Trekking to Ala-Kul & Altyn Arashan

From Ala Archa we returned to Bishkek with a fun large group of German and Austrian biology researchers/students traveling around the country in . . . old military buses 😀 . Enjoying the views along the road in slow motion and bonus thrills when the bus has to do a U turn, uphill.

In the main bus station in Bishkek, we’re witnessing an interesting episode. The taxi driver that brought us there starts negotiating for us (from its own will) with the marshrutka drivers a convenient fare for a trip to Karakol. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes and the marshrutka drivers start to argue on who should take us and since we’re the taxi driver’s ‘capture’ he’s the one that needs to be convinced, not us. We’re embarking in one minibus with the line “we leave in 15 minutes”, but as expected we waited around an hour until the car was full enough to be profitable. Strange or not, this moment simply shows the effect tourism and its financial gain has on people.


Thanks to our “detailed and elaborated” travel plan we arrived in Karakol in the middle of the night without a place to sleep, knocking at hotel doors and with a disturbing sound of dogs barking in the background. Tip: If you’re having a long ride and planning to rely on mobile network in the meantime, be aware that you might not get any. After a few dozens of minutes and a grumpy awakened receptionist, we manage to get some rest and wake up to a friendlier Karakol.

karakol lada
windows karakol

Other than an old orthodox church, a zoo and some small museums, Karakol does not have much to offer, but is very popular as the starting point for great hiking, mountaineering and skiing. Therefore we don’t spend a lot of time here and in a few hours we’re already on the trek.


We took a taxi from Karakol to Ala Kul natural reserve. There is the marshrutka alternative as well, but it stops at the natural reserve border, while the taxi goes a few kilometers further. On our way we pass through small villages and yurts.

The first part of the trek we follow uphill the powerful turqoise glacial river. The trek is not demanding and we’re fully enjoying the beauty around us. However, at one point we find ourselves going straight up and holding on tree branches, because in spring the path was destroyed under the force of the river.

Along the Karakol valley we are reaching a quiet meadow where the river flows smoothly and horses graze peacefully. Kyrgyz people are very fond of this place which throughout time inspired painters and writers. Unfortunately we arrived there after the sun went down.

karakol valley

A few hundred meters further from here, there is a waterfall and a usual spot for hikers to camp before starting the more difficult part of the journey to Ala Kul.

The way up to the lake.

ala kul

We’re getting closer.


Aaand we’re just in time for lunch break 🙂 .

ala kul

I notice that Ala Kul has the same taste in color as I do 😛 .

ala kul

We are now at 3,560 m altitude, but it ain’t over yet. It follows a steep, rocky ascent to Ala Kul pass, on our way to Altyn Arashan, the next valley to the East.

ala kul

As a beginner mountaineer, Kyrgyzstan is the country where even though you do difficult and long ascents, at the end of the day you would probably still look upwards for higher peaks.

The descent from the saddle was even steeper than the ascent, with slippery scree along the way. Trekking poles were almost a must here. The day is almost over and any flat terrain would work as a camping spot.

We believe this is how best mornings look like 🙂 .

Hello there!


Altyn-Arashan, in translation the “Golden Spa” is actually a few houses and wooden sheds along the river which contain pools of thermal water.


After a three-day trek this is the best break we could possibly get: a relaxing bath in Altyn Arashan’s hot thermal springs.

hot springs

And a delicious homemade Lagman soup.


Thank you for the visit 😛

We’re back to Karakol and, the same as us, our shoes can’t wait for some rest 🙂 .

[ If you’ve missed the previous Kyrgyzstan journal you can find it >> here << ]


In search for balance and a long term way to enjoy the world around us without getting dragged in the society speed. You'll probably find me in my best element hiking mountains, reading a book in a hammock or exploring off the beaten path sides of the world. Of course, with a backpack.

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