With limited time and limited budget it makes sense to go on a guided horse ride. A bit more time and money would allow you to go with a local guide that will help you find a horse to rent, negotiate prices and help with communications along the way.
Adventurous travelers willing to take the risk and with plenty of time, can try to buy a horse and sell it when they are done traveling. Buying a horse has its challenges. Where to buy, how much to pay, how to define a good horse, what routes to take, how to find water on the way, how to avoid horse theft, what to do when your horse fails, how to pack your belongings and how to sell at the end of your adventure are all questions that require serious attention.
Horse riding tours in Kyrgyzstan
The following horse riding tours are available in Kyrgyzstan. Some are small-scale, others last for weeks. If you are not sure which tour, trip length or itinerary to pick, you can send your inquiry here. You can also request joining the group, then the price will be cheaper.
Short horse riding tours / Budget price:
- 4 day horseback ride to Song Kol Lake
- 3 day horse riding to Sary Moghol (Pamir Alay valley)
- Horseback riding from Karakol to Jeti-Oguz (3 days)
- Horseback riding from Issyk-Kul to Kogur lake in Chong Kemin (3 days)
Long scenic horse riding tours for experienced riders:
Horse riding regions and routes
When it comes to riding a horse in Kyrgyzstan, basically anywhere is great outside of Bishkek and Osh. Still, some places are better than others, and the following are some beautiful spots where horse rides and yurt stays are easy to organise. If you are in the neighbourhood in July, do not miss the At Chabysh horse festival at Peak Lenin.
- Sarychelek national reserve has jaw-dropping lakes on high mountains surrounded by dense forests and nuts forests. Main entrance is in Arkyt village. It is possible to arrive there by foot or on horse it’s from the neighboring Kara-Suu valley or from Talas valley.
- Song Kol (3013 m. alt) is a lake surrounded by mountains with jailoos in summer. From Kyzyl Art to Song Kol lake takes 1 to 3 days. There are many horseback riding routes joining the region. It’s also easy to find yurts to for overnight stays.
- Alay, in the south of Kyrgyzstan offers horse riding around glaciers, high rocky mountains covered with the slopes of gorges covered in pine trees and a river thundering down below. On the south side you may discover a large pasture along the foot of Lenin peak (7134 m. alt.)
- Karakol region, close to the east shore of the Issyk Kul lake. It is also known as Terskey Ala-Too mountain range (up to 5100 m. altitude). The area offers fascinating journey on horseback. It is possible to cross passes over 3800 meters there, but you have to be well fit and prepared for serious adventure.
- Chong Kemin is part of a national park located north of Issyk Kul lake. The north side is covered with pine forests, while the south is more dry, offering vast green pastures and snowfields. High altitude horse riding available there.
- Arslanbob has the biggest walnut forest in the world. Nice scenery, lakes, mountains. However, you cannot experience Kyrgyz nomadic life here. Because most shepherds live in the huts down in the village. They also have good 3-4 day horse riding tours around the village, and some longer routes that reach Toktogul region and Kazerman city.
- Tashkurgan. You can talk to locals if you want to ride horses. You can see Tajik villages, shepherds, rivers and so on.
Renting a horse in Kyrgyzstan
The basic price for renting a horse is around 500-600 som per day. Horseback guides cost around 1000-1300 som per day. We have heard that, due to the increasing numbers of tourists in places like Karakol, guides do not want to take tourists there on longer, more demanding treks, instead catering to less-demanding tourists who choose more profitable (for the guides) 2-3 day wanderings into the valley.
Buying a horse in Kyrgyzstan
Where should you buy a horse in Kyrgyzstan? Karakol, on the south-eastern tip of Issyk-Kul, has many helpful and knowledgeable horsemen. It has the best animal market in Kyrgyzstan on Sundays, and many nice routes start from there. The spring horse sales start from May, but horses can still be weak after a long winter in this time. Also, since it is one of the main tourist areas of Kyrgyzstan, prices could be higher there than in more remote areas. Ecotrek is a horsemen cooperative that could help, as well as several other guides and tour companies.
Price of a horse in Kyrgyzstan
The price for a decent riding stallion (mares are highly valued and not used for riding) revolves around 2000 US$ nowadays. You used to be able to buy a horse for 500$, but the price for livestock has gone up considerably in the last years. Anything under 1500$ is a bargain.
Extra: more general information about horse riding in Central Asia.