The following is an example of the itinerary planned for set departure rides between May and September. Please note that it is only an example and may be changed at your guides’ discretion due to weather or local conditions
Example inbound flight: From London Heathrow with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, overnight to Bishkek.
Example outbound flight: From Bishkek to London Heathrow via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.
Arrive in Bishkek at approximately 9 am. You are met from your flight and transferred by private vehicle to a hotel in Bishkek. After resting in the hotel, enjoy lunch in the ‘Bukhara’ restaurant, followed by time to explore the city with an English-speaking guide.
Founded by the Russians in the 19th century and situated at the foot of the Tien Shan mountains with views of the surrounding glaciers, Bishkek’s famous sights include the enormous Alatau Square and the dramatic statue of Manas, the Kyrgyz epic hero.
After an early breakfast, you are driven south-west from the city in a private vehicle to start your horse riding adventure (the drive is approximately ten hours). The route is beautiful and crosses over dramatic mountain passes and the expansive Suusamyr Valley, full of nomads with their yurts and flocks of animals. Lunch is at a charming local restaurant en-route. In the evening, arrive at camp in time for dinner. Night in camp.
After breakfast, meet the horses and their owners, the local horsemen/guides, who allocate their mounts carefully to suit each rider. Once mounted, set off along a rocky river path, and then through magnificent wooded mountains and wildflower meadows. Enjoy a picnic lunch on a high meadow, then continue through woodland to the picturesque Kizel Kel village, passing charming, vernacular houses and gardens full of flowers and animals. Tonight’s camp is on the bank of a crystal-clear mountain river where you can have a swim before dinner.
This morning’s ride is over mountains covered in wildflowers in spring and offering magnificent views of the valleys below. Lunch is a picnic en-route. After passing over Tas-Bel Pass, descend through a settlement of small farmsteads and enter the national park of Sary Chelek. Camp is in a beautiful and verdant valley, with a river running below.
The ride today is through walnut forests, up a stony track with opportunities to trot. Leaving the track, ride through orchards of wild apple and plum trees before skirting one of the park’s seven beautiful lakes and, after crossing at a ford, stop for a picnic lunch next to the park ranger’s little house. After lunch, more riding through meadows and orchards with chances to canter before reaching the beautiful campsite on the shore of the turquoise waters of Lake Iri-Kel. Surrounded by mountains and meadows of wildflowers, you can swim in the pristine lake. Two nights spent here.
Ride around five of the lakes of Sary Chelek Reserve, surrounded by dramatic alpine scenery. Lunch on the shores of the main lake, at a local chai khana (tea house). In the afternoon, ride back to camp.
Today takes us over the beautiful Kotorma Pass (altitude 2,446 m) to Lake Kara-Suu. The route up is steep and narrow, but ably negotiated by the local Kyrgyz horses. Part of the path is taken on foot to avoid any stones dislodged by the horses’ hooves. On reaching the top, take in the magnificent view – often with griffon eagles circling above – before beginning to pick your way downhill, passing between tall boulders and waist-high eremurus. After lunch and tea in a local yurt, ride over a lunar landscape of rocks to the banks of Lake Kara-Suu, set on a high plateau. Here you can watch a game of ulak (a variation on polo but using the body of a dead goat) and in the evening enjoy a campfire and delicious goat kebabs.
Breakfast in camp and set off riding again, descending from Lake Kara-Suu past a dramatic waterfall back to the village of Kizel Kel. This will be the last evening in camp together.
Final breakfast immersed in nature. Say goodbye to the horses and local team and make your way back to Bishkek by road transfer. Relax in the minibus and watch as the country whizzes by, stopping for lunch in a local dumpling restaurant en route. After arriving back at the hotel in Bishkek, dinner is in a delicious and atmospheric Georgian restaurant.
Breakfast in the hotel and a full day in Bishkek. Visit the vibrant Osh Bazaar and shop for colourful shyr dak felt rugs, spices and handmade leather goods, as well as touring the Museum of Fine Arts with its wonderful collection of historical Kyrgyz art and textiles. Lunch and dinner are in local restaurants.
Breakfast and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Dates and rates 2024
10 nights’ accommodation based on two people sharing a twin/double room and tent (three nights in a hotel, seven nights camping), all riding, guiding services and equipment, all meals within itinerary and tea, coffee and local beer with meals, group transfers within itinerary and airport transfers on first and last day at set times.
Rates do not include:
International flights/travel to Kyrgyzstan, taxes, visa fees, personal medical/travel insurance (which you must have), wine, spirits and additional non-included drinks, personal items at hotels (e.g. telephone calls, laundry, etc) and any tips you may wish to leave.
Please note that if you book alone, you will need to pay the supplement for a single room/tent. This will be charged on all single bookings unless you have arranged a sharer.
Private rides and other dates available on request for groups between May and September.
The meeting point for the Alexandra Tolstoy horse riding holiday is Bishkek airport. Arrival can be at any time on Day 1 and departure at any time on Day 11 as the first and last nights are spent in Bishkek. In most cases, the best option is to fly via Istanbul with Turkish Airways or via Dubai with FlyDubai. Flights from London start from approximately £700 economy return plus taxes depending on time of year and availability. Our booking agent, The Ultimate Travel Company, is happy to advise on flights.
General visa and health information:
Please note that this is a brief outline; further information will be sent to you once your booking has been confirmed.
Visas are not required for British and other European Union member passport holders visiting Kyrgyzstan for a stay of 60 days or less.
No inoculations are legally required to enter Kyrgyzstan if travelling from Europe, but tetanus is recommended for most travellers. You should always consult a health professional for further and more detailed personal medical advice.
Get in touch to find out more or book an Alexandra Tolstoy Travels horse riding trip.
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“Alexandra Tolstoy’s trips offer unrivalled access to this historically, culturally and geographically fascinating region.”
“Kyrgyzstan is breathtakingly beautiful, and with Alexandra, we saw it in the best possible way. She knows the country and culture so well, and her eye for detail is unsurpassed. To be so comfortable in such a wild and remote landscape was amazing. We are dreaming of going back with the children, it’s the trip of a lifetime.”
“Alexandra said she chose Sary Chelek as she felt like she’d landed in paradise on her Silk Road riding adventure. It did indeed feel like paradise, with waist height flowers of purple alliums, yellow fennel, pink lilies and irises. Riding through the walnut forest, plucking ripe mulberries from trees as we rode past, we heard a nightingale sing. With spectacular waterfalls and turquoise lakes, it was truly a paradise.”
“It is very difficult to pinpoint my favourite parts of our Kyrgyzstan adventure because it was all so wonderful. Arriving at our breathtakingly beautiful lakeside camp and plunging into the water. Eating home-cooked pumpkin dumplings under the milky way. Learning new card games with new friends, cocktail in hand. Or watching our brilliant guides play a very competitive game of Kyrgyz goat polo. I loved every minute.”
“Having been on many riding adventures around the world, this was, without doubt, the best. Alexandra Tolstoy’s knowledge of Kyrgyzstan and her fluent Russian ensured that it was a brilliant trip for our group. This was a trip of a lifetime, and it did not disappoint.”
“We were on a scimitar of a ridge, thousands of feet in the air. Snowcapped mountains loomed, but they loomed below us. We could see rivers, in extremely small scale, threads of blue monofilament. Mile-wide turquoise lakes glinted minutely, beads lost in a shag rug. We were at the top of the Chatkal Range of the Tian Shan, above everything.”