Wild and Exotic sample itinerary for the Sary Chelek ride in Kyrgyzstan
This ride is scheduled to take place in the Sary Chelek region of Kyrgyzstan, which literally interpreted means ‘yellow bucket’, though is usually translated as ‘golden hollow’. Covering the southern side of the Chatkal mountain range, Sary Chelek is considered a charmed land, and a destination that many Kyrgyz can only dream of visiting. The area owes its popularity to its physical beauty – turbulent rivers rushing from glaciers and snow fields; and aquamarine lakes shimmering beneath jagged mountain ridges, which give way to gentle slopes rich in ancient fruit and nut forests, as well as rare alpine flowers.
Lake Sary Chelek itself, known as the ‘jewel’ of Kyrgyzstan, stretches for 7.5 kilometres into the mountains at an altitude of 1,940 metres. The lake is surrounded by towering yellow boulders, with spruce and fir trees clinging precariously to the steep slopes, their branches home to cormorant and merganser nests, as well as exquisite orchids and rare ferns. Founded in 1959, Sary Chelek Reserve provides habitat for more than a third of Kyrgyzstan’s species of flora and fauna, including many of the world’s rarest and most endangered animals and plants, such as the elusive snow leopard, which finds sanctuary and solitude in the highest reaches of the surrounding mountains.
Duration: 9 days/8 nights
Best time: August, September
Day 1: Arrive Bishkek
You will be met at Bishkek Manas airport to Asia Mountains hotel. Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and the biggest city in the country. It’s a distinctive administrative unit and is a town of the Republican Submission. The city has been called Bishkek since 1991, originally Pishpek, and is located on the north of Kyrgyzstan in Chu valley at the foot of Tian-Shan. Its population is about 1 million people. Bishkek is proud of its history and has many fascinating places for you to see. After lunch you might like go to the hills located on the southern outskirts of Bishkek.Overnight Asia Mountains hotel. (-/L/D)
Day 2: Bishkek – Kara-Suu
After breakfast you will be collected from your hotel and go to Suusamyr valley by vehicle. You will drive through up the Too-Ashuu pass and out into a wide green valley where many nomads will have brought their yurts for the summer. Overnight camping on the riverbank. (B/L/D)
Day 3: Kizel Kel’ area
After breakfast you will meet your horses and start the ride from covering approximately 15km through a stunning landscape of wooded mountains, jagged rocky peaks, and meadows beneath. After enjoying a picnic lunch we continue our way to Sary-Chelek nature reserve, where camp will have been set up in a picturesque Kizel Kel’ area. Overnight camping Sary-Chelek nature reserve. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Bakali Lake
Today you enter Sary Chelek national park, passing through orchards and meadows surrounded by woodland including magnificent wild mulberry and walnut trees. You will ride to Bakali Lake, first following a track that twists steeply uphill through woodland, and then cantering through wild flower meadows to a hidden lake at the base of tall cliffs. You will enjoy a rest and picnic lunch at the lake. Overnight camping at Bakali Lake. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Lake Iri-Kel
After breakfast, you will continue for a further 15km, cantering along the shores of Kili Kel’ and Chacha Kel’ lakes before reaching your stunningly beautiful campsite beside the turquoise waters of Iri Kul Lake: the surrounding mountains tower high above you and a clear cold spring, rich in minerals bubbles up just by you. Overnight camping at Lake Iri-Kel. (B/L/D)
Day 6: Kara-Suu lake
Today you ride over the beautiful Kuturma pass (2446m) to Kara-Suu Lake, a distance of 15km. The route up to the pass is very steep and narrow, and you will be astonished by the ability of the local Kyrgyz horses to negotiate such a formidable and rocky passage through the mountains. On reaching the high point of the pass riders can take in the magnificent view before their horses begin to pick their way downhill before reaching the camp set up for the night. Overnight camping at Kara-Suu Lake. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Kizil-Kel’ area
Today you descend from the Lake, following the Kara-Suu River down a series of breath-taking waterfalls and cascades before the river broadens briefly into a wide alluvial plain, only to narrow again where the flow quickens through a stark and rocky landscape. You will enjoy a picnic lunch on the riverbank, with the choice of a refreshing dip or an afternoon siesta afterwards. After lunch we complete our riding adventure by riding back to the comparative civilization of Kizil-Kel’. Overnight camping at Kizil-Kel’. (B/L/D)
Day 8: Sary-Chelek – Bishkek
Today you will drive back to Bishkek (500km) You will stop for lunch en route before arriving in the capital. Overnight Bishkek in a hotel. (B/L/D)
After breakfast you will be met at your hotel to be transferred to Manas airport for your homeward flight.(B/-/-)
The cost of this itinerary is based on twin or double accommodation throughout the itinerary. The cost includes accommodation in Bishkek, tented accommodation whilst on the ride, food, vodka and beer on the trek, English speaking guide, sightseeing costs, transfers, horses, support staff including drivers, cooks, horsemen and camp assistants. The cost excludes international flights, travel insurance, visas, gratuities and alcoholic drinks other than those specified above. A 50% deposit is required to reserve your place on this ride. The balance 50% is due 8 weeks prior to departure.
The single supplement is waived if guests are prepared to share accommodation.
Please note that it is the responsibility of the client to ensure they obtain the correct visa prior to travel. UK visitors to Kyrgyzstan do not currently require a visa. Visitors from other nationalities should check with the Kyrgyzstan embassy in their home country.
Neither Wild and Exotic nor the operators or suppliers can accept any responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or unforeseen circumstances such as changes, disruptions or delays to airline flights for whatever reason. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which is available on this website under the general info tab.
Wild and Exotic fact sheet for riding holidays in Kyrgyzstan (Sary Chelek)
Accommodation: 225 x 365 x125 dome sleeping tents (Red Fox), which are fully water and wind proof. All are equipped with comfortable inflatable mattresses (Thermarests), and hot water bottles are supplied in the evenings if the weather is cold. There is one loo long drop loo tent, and new loos are dug at each campsite. There is also a shower tent with hot water is provided.
Activities: On non-moving days there is the opportunity to walk, swim and fish. We may encounter a local game of ulak, when two teams of men on horseback wrestle over the body of a dead goat, as well as horse races when boys as young as five years old gallop across a valley.
Cash: There are attractive things for sale in Bishkek, which can be bought in dollars, but in the countryside there is nothing to buy so we suggest that guests do not change more than $100 into local currency.
Children: We will accept children on riding holidays but they must be competent riders. There are no discounts for children.
Clothing List: A detailed clothing list is available on request, and will be sent to all participants at the time of booking.
Drinks: Local beers, vodka, fruit juice and bottled water are provided free of charge. We recommend bringing a bottle of your favourite spirits with you.
How to Get There: You can easily get to Turkey from the UK, and there are daily flights to Bishkek. From Bishkek we fly to Osh, in the south of Kyrgyzstan. The internal flights are safe, well maintained and used by tourists. A representative will meet you on arrival. Bishkek is five hours ahead of Greenwich meantime, so there is some adjustment required by the body clock.
Insurance: Adequate travel insurance providing cover for, but not limited to, personal injury, curtailment or cancellation of your holiday, is compulsory for all Wild and Exotic itineraries. The details of our recommended insurers are listed on all booking forms.
Length of Rides: 4 – 6 hours in the saddle. Everyday there are lunch breaks of up to two hours.
Meals: Delicious full breakfasts that comprise fruit, porridge, eggs, tomatoes and fresh bread are served every morning. Lunches are either served en route by support staff operating out of the kitchen lorry, or are simple picnics carried by saddlebag comprising cheese, cold meats and fruit. Dinner is Russian/Kyrgyz and served to us by candlelight under the stars and often besides a roaring campfire. We have two chefs who are extremely good and versatile. Vegetarians can also be catered for.
Medical and safety: A medical kit is on hand in camp. On horseback we are always in radio contact with the back-up trucks, and we have a satellite telephone. Clients should consult their GP at least 8 weeks prior to departure for advice on recommended inoculations. It is essential that clients have insurance which gives them a 24 hour emergency number to contact in case of an accident. We have a satellite phone and can call for medical help in case of an emergency. There is a European medical centre in Bishkek where patients can be flown to by helicopter.
Non-Riders: We will take non-riders but this should be discussed with Wild and Exotic Ltd first. The full set departure trips are not recommended for non-riders.
Riding Ability: You should be comfortable at all paces. We ride in mountainous country and often have to ascend/descend steep and rocky passes. You should be fit enough to ride between 4 and 6 hours a day.
Single Supplement: Is only charged for those who are not prepared to share accommodation.
Size of the Rides: Maximum of 12 guests.
Tack: The saddles are Kyrgyz handmade, which are a hybrid of English and western saddles. All snaffle bridles.
Terrain: The rides are through the Tien Shan mountain range and we ride over the peaks and through the valleys, as well as through forests and orchards. There are many suitable places for cantering and fantastic views can be gained at the top of the mountain passes. Kyrgyzstan is full of lakes, rivers and waterfalls and each campsite is located near water, where it is usually possible to swim. From May to July the country we ride through is covered in rich carpets of flowers
Type of Horses: Indigenous Kyrgyz ponies. They are responsive, tough and fit, as well as extremely agile and sure-footed in the mountains.
Types of Riding Holiday: We operate riding holidays in remote mountain areas, using modern camping equipment. All are supported by three vehicles: 2 Mitsubishi Delicas and another one is a comfortable Mercedes Springer van with which you will be taken to the start point of the ride, and taken back to the town at the end of the ride. One Mitsubishi Delica drives ahead, using a completely different route than that taken by the horses, to prepare lunch (except on certain days when lunch is carried in saddlebags) while the second drives further to prepare the new campsite. We ride 15 miles a day on average and usually ride in a large circle, moving camp each night.
Weather: Kyrgyzstan has long, harsh winters but in April the snows melt and in May/June the spring flowers are at their height. We ride at an average of 6,500ft. The days are warm and sunny but it is cold at night. There is also the possibility of thunderstorms and rain, but they are short-lived. There are very few mosquitoes and other biting insects.
Weight Limit: Maximum weight is 200 lbs for a novice rider and 210 lbs for an advanced rider (15 stone or 95 kg).
Kyrgyzstan general information and map
Getting there: There are regular direct flights from London to Bishkek with BMI. Flying time from London to Bishkek takes 9 hours.
Time: GMT plus 4 hours.
Try not to miss: Founded in 1959, Sary Chelek Reserve provides habitat for more than a third of Kyrgyzstan’s species of flora and fauna, including many of the world’s rarest and most endangered animals and plants, such as the elusive snow leopard, which finds sanctuary and solitude in the highest reaches of the surrounding mountains. Turkistan lynx, brown bear, deer and boar are occasionally spotted, as are the short-toed eagle and greater horseshoe bat. Lake Sary Chelek, known as the ‘jewel’ of Kyrgyzstan, stretches for 7.5 kilometres into the mountains at an altitude of 1,940 metres and is surrounded by towering yellow boulders, with spruce and fir trees clinging precariously to the steep slopes that provide habitat for cormorant and mergansers to nest, as well as many orchids and rare ferns.
Visas: UK passport holders do not require visas for Kyrgyzstan.
Why Kyrgyzstan: Wild and unspoilt landscape.