Bishkek is not the reason people travel to Kyrgyzstan, and the trails here are not the wildest in the country. But, if for some reason, you are in Bishkek and you don’t have a lot of time to roam, here are some pointers to help you start planning your day out. The landscapes are still really nice and it does not take too long before you leave behind the crowds and have the mountains to yourself.
Ala-Archa, Alamedin and Issyk-Ata can all be enjoyed on a day out. Of course, camping overnight is better.
We know this is just a basic guide without too much in the way of details for now, but we hope it gets you out of town all the same. For more general tips on maps, weather, other destinations, et cetera, see Trekking in Kyrgyzstan.
Ala-Archa is the obvious favorite for trekking near Bishkek. Just south of town and ‘almost’ accessible on public transit, this National Park offers an easy and popular respite from the city. Though picnickers from Bishkek (and the rubbish they leave behind) can crowd the first few kilometers of both the Ala-Archa Valley and Ak Sai Glacier trails, the steeper Adygene Valley Loop tends to be a bit quieter. Accommodation is available at the trailhead Alplager or at the Ratsek Cabin, but there are plenty of places for tents as well.
To take public transit to Kashka-Suu village or to the entrance to the National Park, Minibus 265 leaves from just east of the intersection of Toktogul and Beyshenalieva in Bishkek. From Kashka Suu to the Park gate and beyond, though, you’ll have to hike or hitch the last 12k to the Alplager. Park entrance 80 som.
Alamedin canyon to the east of Bishkek is most famous locally for its hot spring sanatorium. For hikers, though, the sanatoria is a trailhead leading to more than 35 km of hiking track that passes a number of beautiful side valleys and eventually climbs over the Alamedin pass and south to the old road to Song-Kol.
Public transportation runs reliably to the village of Koy Tash from Bishkek’s Alamedin Bazaar. From Koy Tash, it may be necessary to walk or hitch the last 10 km to the trailhead at the hot springs.
Issyk-Ata canyon, just to the east of Alamedin, offers similar opportunities. Though most day hikers don’t make it past the well-known waterfalls less than an hour away from the Issyk-Ata sanatorium, the trail continues to the foot of a mountain about 8 km away. From here 7 km to the south is a large glacier at the end of a really beautiful trail while 8 km to the southeast lies a sparkling lake, a good camp site 11 km from another pass leading to the old Song-Kol road.
Bus 316 leaves from the East Bus Station in Bishkek on a several hour journey to Issyk-Ata. From the bus stop at the entrance to the sanatorium, walk uphill straight through the complex to a path just behind the Lenin statue. From here, the trail follows the canyon.
Kegeti gorge is the site of a number of decent hikes that connect to one another in broad loops. On the road into the gorge a fork goes left to the “Kegety Tour” guesthouse, from which the turquoise Kol-Tor lake is a day hike away. On the right fork a 48 km ‘lollipop’ loop goes into the mountains and returns, or alternatively 38 km plus an additional steep 8km connection leads to Kol-Tor and back down. This gorge sees a lot of elevation change, so while trekking here may be tough for beginners the rewards in beauty and mountain views are worth the effort.
Bus 304 from the East Bus Station goes much of the way to Kegeti. Ask to get off just before crossing the river into Kegeti village. From here, follow the road about 12km until the fork.
Chong-Kemin National Park, on the east edge of the Chuy Valley beyond Tokmok, is situated close to the Kazakh/Kyrgyz border. Established as a national park to protect several important species native to the valley, this valley offers a few hot springs and burial mounds in addition to hiking. Trails from Chong-Kemin extend to the shores of Lake Issyk-Kol, as well.
Bus 352 from the East Bus Station goes to the town of Kemin, with possible connections to villages inside the Chong-Kemin valley.
Any of these same routes, or especially longer connecting routes across several of the ones mentioned here, would be suitable for horseback riding.