Cycling Bishkek to Issyk-Köl

The new Bishkek–Balykchy highway bypasses Kant, Tokmok and Kemin. Cyclists are advised to take the old road but will still face the heavy traffic and headwinds of the eroded Boom Valley (Boömskoe Ushile, Shoestring Gorge). Hiking away from the main road in the Boom Valley is a series of wind-eroded sandstone towers and pillars sometimes known misleadingly as the Aeolian 'Castles' from the base of the red bridge near the entrance to Boom.

Of several other minor attractions that warrant a short detour, the best known is the Burana Tower. Further south are several attractive canyon-valleys, most notably the Kegeti Valley and the 20m Kegeti Waterfall or turquoise Köl-Tör Lake within, and the beautiful Issyk-Ata Valley's sanatoria and hiking opportunities.

Trekking Chuy Valley

Small mountain valleys branch south off the main Chuy Valley, each more spectacular than the last, but most travellers overlook these in favour of points further afield. Any given valley has something to offer, but the most reliable include the following:

  • Ala-Archa National Park with its three main routes, which graduate from an easy walk up the main valley to the steep climb up the Adygene Valley.
  • Kichi-Kegeti Valley's Köl-Tör Lake as a one-day or overnight or continuing over a pass into Chon-Kegeti before circling back to the highway via Kegeti village. Either way, don't miss the spectacular panorama of peaks at the top of Kichi-Kegeti.
  • Hiking up the Issyk-Ata Valley, camping at the valley junction for day hikes or continuing on a multiday route through to Suusamyr or back down Alamedin Valley to Bishkek.
  • The red-rock canyon at Suluu-Terek is an unusual landscape compared to generally lush Chuy, good for either a day trip or a loop through to Kok Moiniok to the south.

TUK organises inexpensive day trips around the region, the best option for many visitors, but experienced trekkers will want to push deeper than a single day allows.

Trekking Chon-Kemin Valley

The 80km-long Chon-Kemin Valley, one of Kyrgyzstan's national parks, starts about 140km east of Bishkek and runs along the Kazakh border, providing another great opportunity to roll up your sleeping bag and trek into the hills. A six-day trekking route leads up the valley to Jasy-Köl (Green Lake) and the Ak-Suu Pass (4062m), and then onto Grigorievka near Cholpan-Ata on the northern shores of Issyk-Köl.

The valley's best accommodation is the Ashu Guesthouse in little Kalmak-Ashu village, where the owner Stanbek Toichubaev can organise a range of local activities.

Public transport is limited to a couple of marshrutkas serving Kaindi (110som, 2½ hours) from Bishkek’s Eastern Bus Station.

Winter Sports

At least 12 ski resorts are dotted around the Chuy Valley, catering mostly to beginner and intermediate skiers, though facilities range from a single T-bar to modern lifts and services. The two best, also among the closest to Bishkek, are ZiL and Chunkurchak. For backcountry skiiers, almost every valley to the south of Bishkek has something interesting to offer, and Ala-Archa was once a training ground for the USSR's Olympic ski team.