Using the tools at Momondo, I booked round-trip flights from Estonia to Kyrgyzstan. During a four-hour layover in Istanbul, I was able to stop in the city and enjoy some local cuisine.
Using the amazing services of AdventureLab, I didn’t have to worry about any aspects of organization. Our amazing guides, Gatis and Andis, were prepared at every step of the trip. Included in the cost was ground transportation, entrance to national parks and other attractions, lodging, food, and rafting.
The most expensive cost of the trip by far was all the equipment necessary to hike safely. Equipment: 3 pairs of trail socks, Super lightweight sleeping pad, Ultralite towel, Set of dishes (fork, spoon, dish, mug), Sunglasses, Swiss pocket knife, 70L backpack, Waterproof mountain shoes, Sleeping bag, Head lamp with extra battery, Power bank (16000 mAh), Sandals, 4 t-shirts, Waterproof and windproof, jacket, Thermo clothes, All-in-one pants/shorts, Cap, Gloves, Medical: Patch, Gel for joints and muscles, Sun cream, Premanganic acid, Toothbrush and toothpaste, Activated charcoal, Wet wipes, Vitamins, Amino acid
Ground travel from Riga to the airport in Tallinn was included in the AdventureLab price. It gave group members an opportunity to meet each other at the beginning of a long experience together.
Our layover in Istanbul ended up being a great opportunity to take some photos, walk around the city, and enjoy a good Turkish kebab.
We arrived in Bishkek and spent the night in the USSR Hostel - designed in the style of Soviet apartment buildings. The hostel was clean, in a good location, with friendly staff. AdventureLab covered the cost of the lodging. Street vendors nearby sold Kymyz mare’s milk.
It took about 30 minutes to register for a local SIM card for mobile service. It was required to register with passport.
Our first lunch in Bishkek was a great deal. Lagman, brizzole, salads, and a dry fruit compote for just 340 som.
An even better deal was the wild apricots being sold on the street - just 100 som!
For dinner, we ate at Kemel Ata. 780 som altogether for manti, lamb ribs, and some nice red wine.
AdventureLab arranged for a private bus to take us to the Ala Archa park trail. We would spend three days there, getting acclimated and then exploring this beautiful national park.
Once we arrived in Ala Archa, we started our journey with an incredible six-hour hike. What a first impression!
Ala Archa gave us the chance to see tons of local wildlife including horses, sheep, and wild mountain goats. We recovered in cold springs found around the park. The temperatures vary wildly in this area - cold at night and in the mornings but hot throughout the day.
We visited the Ak-Sai glacier without backpacks and took in an incredible landscape of snow-capped mountains. We came back down to the valley near the entrance of the park and spent the night in tents. Sun cream was no match for the hot rays in Kyrgyzstan!
Rafting on the Chu River was included in the AdventureLab price. We took a private bus for then 125km journey from Bishkek to the river and spent a couple hours on the rafts. The guides were great and had an excellent sense of humor.
After we finished rafting, we stayed in traditional Yurts at the Bailanysh Hostel in Karakol. The staff was great, including an old man that told us traditional Kyrgyz stories.
We took a day to rest in Karakol and visited a local market. I tried fresh fruit, shashliks, sweets, traditional food, and mountain flower honey. We also checked out the Old Russian Church in town. Altogether, I spent 1200 som in Karakol.
We spent 10 som to get from Marshrutka to Yssyk-Kol Lake. The car was packed full and we were more than happy to escape and swim in the amazing water.
We got up early in the morning, enjoyed a great breakfast, and then transitioned to the Teleti Pass. We saw the red rocks at Jeti Oguz and then went through a grueling hike at 3759 meters. We spent the night in tents by the river.
This was one of the most amazing days of the trip, as we hiked to the hidden pearl of the Terksey Ala-Too mountains: Ala-Kul Lake. Located at a height of 3532 meters, the lake changes in color to reflect changes in lighting - from emerald green with white clouds to dark grey or turquoise blue. The reflection in the early morning was absolutely amazing - 1:1 quality.
On one of the toughest hikes, we overcame the Ala Kol mountain pass at 3860 meters. We slid down an unconsolidated rock trail to reach the Keldike valley, a picturesque landscape dotted with herds of cattle and sheep. We reached the Altyn Arashan valley which is known for its sources of medical sulfur. Our guide was a local boy who led us on the grueling expedition - it was almost impossible to find time to recover throughout the hike! We rewarded him with some sweets we picked up at the market - I’ve never seen a happier boy!
We spent 800 som for a camping spot, dinner, and bath. The sulfur bath was great for relaxing our exhausted legs. We enjoyed the local tradition of going back and forth between ice cold water and the camp’s hot baths. The night ended in the mountain bar - a unique atmosphere!
Another full day of hiking took us to Altyn Arashan where we were surrounded on either side by mountain ranges with peaks exceeding 4000 meters. This was even more beautiful than the valleys we saw before - tons of wildflowers and sunlit meadows. We ended up in the village of Teploklyuchenka and then headed back for Karakol. Accommodations were again at the Bailanysh hostel.
Our lunch in a road cafe cost just 360 som. A note about Kyrgyzstan: 90% of WCs here don’t have a toilet - just a gap in the ground!
The Burana Tower Museum has an interesting collection of carved headstones. Entrance was less than 1 Euro at 60 som.
We were almost delayed visiting the Skazka Canyon as our bus got stuck in sand before we arrived. However, it didn’t affect our trip and we got to experience this beautiful landscape.
We ended our amazing journey back in Bishkek with a Goodbye Party for 860 som. The party included traditional snacks and drinks as we shared our experiences. We headed to the airport without sleeping and traveled over 14 hours to return home to Riga. While it was sad to leave Kyrgyzstan behind, every member of our AdventureLab group now has an unbelievable collection of memories that we will never forget. AdventureLab took us off the beaten path to some of the world’s most jaw-dropping locations, and we pushed ourselves to our physical limits exploring heights of almost 4000 meters.