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This adventurous trail ride follows part of the ancient silk route. There is a real contrast of landscapes with deep fertile valleys and arid canyons, separated by high mountain passes. Reaching the high grasslands, the route takes you over open pastures with a backdrop of snow capped mountains.
Welcoming travellers is central to Kyrgyz culture. The opportunity to spend some time with the herders who live their life on horseback is part of the enjoyment of this ride.
It’s important to recognise this ride is through a remote area with very limited infrastructure. Severe mountain weather can disrupt the itinerary which also means that the timing can be unpredictable. Either Helene and Yann (your hosts) will be your guide through the mountains, but please do note, the back-up rider will not speak English and their job is to care for the horses rather than to attend to the guests.
You must be a confident rider and in control at all paces. Pace is dictated by the terrain so is generally at walk but with opportunities for long canters in open flat country.
The horses are Kyrgyz mountain horses ranging from 14 hh to 15.2 hh.
The bridles are English style although the horses respond to neck-reining. The saddles are traditional Kyrgyz style. You should be able to tack up your own horses (you will be shown how to do this at the start of the Trek and tack will be checked before each riding day).
There are long hours in the saddle and there will be occasions where you need to dismount and lead your horse for periods of up to 30 minutes, this can be both uphill as well as downhill, so you will need to be fit. There is a strong possibility of 10 hours in the saddle on some days plus some early morning starts and riding late into the evenings and even riding in the dark.
You stay in a combination of local houses, yurts and simple dome tents. Everyone will need to get involved helping to set up and take down tents.
Rural Kyrgyz people do not have much furniture - neither beds nor chairs. Meals are taken sat on the floor around a low table and even in houses you will sleep in your sleeping bag on a mattress or blanket on the floor. Often the whole group will sleep together in one or two rooms.
Single accommodation is not available so you must be prepared to share. At some of the yurts you will be invited to stay with the family, these larger yurts will accommodate the entire group and be very sociable but you can choose to erect a tent and stay outside the yurt if you prefer.
Washing and toilet facilities are limited. The camps are almost always by rivers and the camp cook will boil water over the fire for you if requested, but it will not be possible to wash every night. On a few nights during the ride there is the possibility to have a sauna and a proper wash. At the houses and yurts there will usually be outside long-drop toilets available but whilst camping there will be no toilet facilities provided.
For breakfast there is tea and coffee, bread with jam and honey or porridge. Lunch is usually salads with cold meats and cheese, along with something warm, such as potatoes or buckwheat. Evening meals are based on the Kyrgyz cooking modified for western tastes. Mostly mutton prepared in a stew or boiled and usually accompanied by a naan-type bread, pasta or dumplings.
There is always an English speaking guide, but the other guests may predominantly be French speaking. We are happy to advise on which dates have a higher number of English speaking riders so please do ask.
It is possible to do either the first or second half of The Great Trek. Those doing the first half return directly from Lake Son Koul by vehicle. Those arriving to do the second half transfer from Bishkek to Lake Son Koul by vehicle. All groups will spend time at Lake Son Koul, the cross-over point and all will have the possibility of seeing the horse games which are normally played here.
The itinerary is only a guide. You should be prepared for things not always running to plan. Changes may be due to the weather conditions, the ability of the group or other factors. The guide is very experienced and will always have you and the horses’ best interests in mind.
INCLUDES Accommodation; riding; transfers from Bishkek; camping equipment; meals; drinking water.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT It is not possible to request single accommodation and you must be prepared to share.
PAYABLE LOCALLY Additional drinks (eg. beer or coke); tips.
NEAREST AIRPORT Bishkek.
TRANSFERS Included from Bishkek.
Transfers are included from Bishkek airport. You should choose a flight arriving into Bishkek early in the morning and the guides will transfer you straight to the horse base where you can rest. Flights arriving anytime between 03:00 and 09:00 are fine.
If you prefer a flight arriving in the afternoon, then you will need to arrive the day before and you will need to make your own accommodation arrangements in Bishkek for this night.
Flights can depart at any time on the last day. They do also tend to depart very early in the morning, which is fine. You will be transferred directly to the airport from your hotel in Bishkek where you will have had a few hours rest.
Across the Kyrgyz and Tien Shan mountains and valleys of central Kyrgyzstan.
Temperatures can rise to 25º C in the middle of the day, dropping below freezing at night. There may be summer showers, strong winds and even snow but overall the climate is quite dry and prolonged rain is very unlikely.
Awesome. I had an amazing holiday in Kyrgyzstan. The horses were great as was the guide and the rest of the group. Kyrgyzstan is a really beautiful country with amazing people. I’d recommend this trip to anyone!
Miranda, HerefordshireOverall rating: 4/5