Hiking

Ala-Kul Lake Trek

From Karakol Valley to Lake Ala-Kul and on to Arashan Valley (or vice versa).

Our most popular hike is the one to Ala-Kul lake, a rock-dammed lake in the Terskey Alatau mountain range. The turquoise colors of the lake with a backdrop of glaciers and snowcapped mountains will mesmerize you and for many travelers this hike is the highlight of their trekking experience in Kyrgyzstan.

Do not underestimate this hike, elevation gain/loss is approximately 1500 meters and parts are very steep and slippery but you are rewarded with the most amazing views.

To reach the lake you have many options and your preference will depend upon the time you have available and your hiking experience and abilities.

Many people opt for a three day hike, starting in Karakol Valley and ending in Arashan Valley (or vice versa) either organized by a trekking agency or undertaken independently. We find that many people enjoy the comfort of hiring porters because hauling a heavy backpack up the very steep slopes is quite a challenge.

It is definitely possible to do the entire trek on your own if you are a strong and experienced hiker. The trail is very clear. The trails are marked on the maps.me phone app (make sure you download the maps for offline use). Camping spots are very limited in the high season and it may take some effort to find a free spot, particularly close to the lake. If you don’t bring your own tent it is essential to make reservations for a yurt or tent as they often sell out in high season.

If you only have time for a day hike, one option is to organize a taxi and a four wheel drive from Karakol to the second bridge very early in the morning (for example 7am) and then hike from there to the lake. Very strong and experienced hikers can make it from the second bridge to the lake and back in one day. But even if you don’t make it all the way to the lake and have to turn around earlier (as most people do), it is still a worthwhile hike. In this scenario, you must reserve a taxi and a four wheel drive to pick you up at the end of your hike and return you to Karakol at a pre-arranged time. Make sure you return on time, as there is no cell phone coverage in the area.

Please see the map above with distances, times, and elevation gains and losses, and discuss with Memo the option that suits you best.

The “road” from the first bridge to the second bridge:

You can take a truck or jeep from the first bridge to the second bridge:

The second bridge (end of the road):

There are some good spots to put up a tent near the second bridge:

Sirota yurt camp, about 1.5 hours from the second bridge:

Hiking up the increasingly steep trail towards the lake, about 4 hours:

Reaching the edge of the lake. There are about 8 spots here to put up your own tent:

About 30 minutes more after the edge of the lake, you reach a tent camp where you can rent tents:

Another 30 minutes beyond there are only one or two good spots for putting up your own tent at the edge of the lake, but they are difficult to reach:

After about 2 hours hiking up an increasingly steep trail, you reach the Ala-Kul pass with breathtaking views:

Beyond the pass there is a steep section down:

Here is a look back towards the pass from the bottom of the steep section. If you look carefully you see a line of people carefully making their way up and down:

A yurt camp just beyond the pass (not marked on the map because I think it is only for Korean tour groups):

The trek along the relatively gentle valley down towards Altyn Arashan:

Finally, you reach Altyn Arashan where there are many yurts, tents, and even a few simple guest houses:

From here it is possible to get a truck or jeep back to Karakol if you arrange it in advance of if you are lucky to catch one:

Other treks

The trekking possibilities in the area are virtually limitless. There are many other day or multi-day hikes. For example, you can extend the Ala-Kul trek to 5 or 6 days. Or, you can even do a once-in-a-lifetime epic 14 day trek to the remote Inylchek glacier. Memo has a trekking map available for sale and can discuss the options with you.

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