Route: Almaty – Shymbulak – Ak-Bulak – Trans-Ili Alatau – Charyn canyon – Bishkek – Chon-Oruktu – Karakol – Turgen-Aksuu gorge – Jyrgalan valley – Aksuu village – Fairy Tale canyon – Bishkek - Almaty
Season: December - March
Complexity: intermediate/advanced. For fit and well-trained skiers and snowboarders with confident level of riding off-piste. *It is required to have set of avalanche equipment.
Heights difference: the maximum height is 2800-3700 m.a.s. Daily elevation gain during backcountry is approx. 1000-1500 meters. Length of descents is from 3 up to 6 kilometers. Steepness of the slopes is from 15 up to 45 degrees.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
Day 1. Almaty city
Meeting at the airport with a guide. Transfer to 4* hotel. Discussing the program, money exchange, If needed, short information about city and features. Hotel check-in. Free time.
Day 2. Almaty – Shymbulak ski resort – Almaty
Meeting the guide and hotel pickup at 08:30. Transfer to Medeo Gorge (1690 meters above sea level) by comfortable tourist vehicle. Getting to Shymbulak ski resort area by cable car. Having ridden about 20-25 minutes above magnificent fur-trees up to the altitude of 2260 meters above sea level, you will get to the 1st level of ski resort, occupied by fancy restaurants, ski & snowboarding school and mountain hotel. Skiing from the lifts and trying local freeride and backcountry spots – “Schoolkid”, “Dry Log”, “Cone”. Lunch will be arranged in a stylish café at the highest point of ski resort on Talgar pass. There you can relax sitting on the soft sofa, take sunbath and listen to the lounge music. If you tired from the sun you can sit inside and enjoy thematic movie, communicate with local skiers and drink special herb tea or sweet punch. After fantastic day spent at Shymbulak, coming back to Medeo station by cable car. Transfer to Almaty. Approximate arrival time - 19:00.
Meals included: B, L
Day 3. Almaty – Ak Bulak ski resort - Almaty
Departure from Almaty at 08:00. Transfer to Ak-Bulak ski resort, which is located near by Talgar town. (45 km). Arrival on the territory of ski resort at approx. 09:30. Preparation of the equipment and instructions from the guide. At 10:00 ascent by gondola cable car (length is 2351 m), which delivers to the slope with altitude 2006 m a.s.l. Then ascent by chairlift to the highest point of resort with "black slopes" only at an altitude 2664 meters. Steepness angle of freeride slopes in this zone is from 22 to 55 degrees. Parts of descent pass both in open spaces and in the forest, among the Tien-Shan firs with lots of drops. A huge mass of white fluffy snow and amazing panorama of surrounding high mountains will leave the brightest impression. Skiing on the "black slopes" of the resort with a guide until 13:30. The guide knows the resort "like his five fingers" and will show you the most "tasty", interesting places, hidden from the majority of riders. Riding will be fun, intense and full of adventures - you will not even notice how fast time is running. Picnic-lunch will be arranged on benches at the observation ground until 14:30. You will have a rest, sunbathe and admire views of the big mountains located very near, and perhaps, even see a huge and beautiful prey bird - bearded vulture. After lunch you will continue riding off-piste until 16:00, and then will ski down to the parking zone. Packing stuff and departure to Almaty. Arrival to Almaty at about 19:00.
Meals included: B, L
Day 4. Almaty – Trans-Ili-Alatau mountains – Almaty
This day we will have an adventurous backcountry in the mountains near Almaty city. Departure from your hotel at 7.30 a.m. Transfer to one of the gorges of Trans-Ili Alatau. We will take in consideration different locations and depending on snow and weather conditions decide where to go best.
Kimasar gorge and Panorama ridge. Maximum altitude 3260 meters. Elevation gain: 1300 meters, descend length ~ 6 km, duration: 6-7 hours.
Kok Zhailyau valley and Three Brothers peak. Maximum altitude 2850 meters. Elevation gain: 1250 meters, descend length ~ 6 km, duration: 5-6 hours. Slope gradient: 15 – 35 degrees.
Kotyrbulak gorge and Bukreev peak. Maximum altitude 3010 meters. Slope gradient: 15 – 40 degrees. Elevation gain: 1200 meters, descend length ~ 5 km, duration: 5-6 hours.
Tersbutak ridge and Young Geologist peak. Maximum altitude 3200 meters. Elevation gain: 1200 meters, distance of descend ~ 10 km, duration: 6-7 hours. Slope gradient: 15 – 40 degrees.
Mynzhylky ridge and Memory peak. Maximum altitude 3700 meters. Elevation gain: 1150 meters, descend length ~ 5 km, duration: 5-6 hours. Slope gradient: 15 – 40 degrees.
All spots described above are reached in combination of hiking and ski-touring, because of steep parts of ascent line. Picnic-lunch during the day. Coming back to the car and transfer to Almaty city. Approx. time of arrival back to the hotel 6 p.m.
Meals included: B, L
Day 5. Almaty – Charyn canyon – Almaty
Unforgettable journey to one of the unique natural monuments of Kazakhstan - Charyn Canyon, located 190 km far away from Almaty. It will leave a lasting impression with its grand splendor and beauty...
Meeting with guide in a lobby of your hotel at 9 a.m. Starting the journey to Charyn Canyon by a comfortable car. It will take about 3,5 hours to reach the canyon. Meanwhile, you will know interesting facts about the history and nature of the region, about Kazakh people, their life and traditions. Upon arrival to Charyn Canyon, you will admire the grand panorama and go down stairs to the bottom of the canyon, then walk around 2 km through the maze of the Castles Valley with its walls of bizarre shapes overhanging you. The bottom of the Canyon has slight descend to the end of the walk, where you will get to the fresh oasis on the bank of icy cold Charyn river, where also located eco-park with several yurts (traditional dwellings) and a small open air café, working in the summer time. After some rest, walking back the same path to the stairs, then car transfer to one of the observation points for another breathtaking panoramic view. After 3 hours spent in the canyon you will have your back ride to Almaty. For a full immersion in the national flavor, you will also have a lunch at the local cafe on the way to Almaty. The average time of arrival to your hotel is between 7:00 and 8:00pm.
Meals included: B, L
Day 6. Almaty – Bishkek
Hotel check-out and meeting your guide at 09:00 a.m. for Almaty sites city-tour (5 hours).
After meeting the guide at your hotel, your will start the tour with a ride to the oldest of Almaty parks - Park of 28 Panfilov Guardsmen, where one of the most beautiful wooden building in the world - Zenkov Cathedral is located. In the park you will also visit the Memorial of Glory and Eternal Flame, listen to the stories of the guide and admire the beauty of the Museum of Musical Instruments. A leisurely walk under the crowns of old trees will take about 40 minutes. Next point of interest is a popular place for townspeople - the Green Bazaar, where it is impossible to refrain from shopping. It is the great chance to experience an atmosphere of the real eastern market, its colors, smells and crowds. There you can obtain famous oriental sweets, dried fruits, buy local products and souvenirs, but don't forget to bargain. In the market they accept cash in tenge (local currency), so it would be good to have some with you or there is an exchange point just nearby to the market area. Light lunch will be arranged on the second floor of bazar in the small coffee shop where you could enjoy meals and watch who the trading is going.
After the bazaar, the tour will continue at the Kok-Tobe hill where the tallest TV tower in the world is located (if to count from the sea level) and where you will get by the picturesque winding mountain road on the park eco-cars. In Kok-Tobe Park you can stroll along the winding paths of the park, admire the magnificent panorama of the city from the special observation deck, throw a coin in the "apple" fountain and visit the shop of national souvenirs. The tour ends with the short ride from the top of the hill to the center of the city by the famous Almaty cableway* and the dropping you off at your hotel.
* On Tuesdays, in the tour departing at 10:00, cableway is not available. Park eco-buses are used instead.
Transfer to Korday - boarder checkpoint between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. On the way we will make stop for trying traditional local snacks (hot fried pastry with potato “pirozhki” and soup made from grains and sour cow milk “kozhe”) in one of the villages. Crossing the boarder and transfer to Bishkek. Accommodation in 4* hotel. Dinner in local restaurant.
Meals included: B, L, D
Day 7. Bishkek – Cholpon-Ata – Chon-Oruktu – Karakol
Hotel check-out, meeting Kyrgyzstan guide and departure to Karakol town. (400 km). Getting to Cholpon-ata town – administrative center of Issyk-Kul region. (260 km).
One of the Great Silk Road’s branches passed through this ancient settlement. The name “Cholpon-Ata” is a compound of two Kyrgyz words "Cholpon" (star Venus) and "ata" (father), according to Kyrgyz legends “Cholpon-Ata” is the patron saint of sheep.
Lunch in local café.
Transfer to Chon-Oruktu village (70 km) and swimming in open-air hot-springs Keremet-Suu.
Transfer to Karakol town(70km). Walking sightseeing tour and visiting the most attractive architecture monuments.
Holy Trinity Cathedral. This 1869 Russian Orthodox Church recalls Karakol’s time as a garrison town on the edge of the Russian Empire. Back then, it was a chapel for Cossacks and other troops — those who were a long way from home and perhaps wanted to pray for their families and safe passage on the return journey. During Soviet times, the church building took on many different roles, including as a dance hall for some years. Today, it serves as one of the town’s primary landmarks.
**Women must cover their head to enter the church, but the church provides scarves at the entrance.
Dungan Mosque. You’ve never seen a mosque quite like this one. Built entirely without the use of nails, its intricate wooden sections fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Designed by the Chinese between 1907 and 1910 for the local Dungan community, it features unusual imagery — like a wheel of fire and a pagoda in place of a minaret — evocative of the Dungan’s pre-Islamic, Buddhist roots. Learn more about the Dungan Mosque.
**Women must cover their arms, legs, and head — the mosque provides coats with hoods.
Russian Quarter and Gingerbread Houses. When you think of Central Asia, you probably picture yurts before you conjure images of sweet cottages, but Karakol’s Russian Quarter is full of intricately carved wooden gingerbread houses, and other architecture from the last two centuries. These cottages are remnants of Karakol’s intriguing history as a frontier town on the edges of the Russian empire. Russian merchants built the beautiful, colorful houses — the more successful the merchant, the more elaborate the house.
After dinner in traditional restaurant with a music performance transfer to the hotel. Overnight in the hotel.
Meals included: B
Day 8. Karakol – Turgen-Aksuu gorge – Jyrgalan valley
Hotel check-out and meeting your guide at 8 a.m. in the lobby. Transfer to the Turgen-Aksuu gorge to the foothills of “Austrian Kiss” summit. (60 km)
Turgen-Aksu - a picturesque gorge located on the territory of Issyk-Kul region in Tyup district, 40 km east of Karakol city, is an integral part of the Terskey Ala-Too mountain range. A road with a length of about 25 km is laid into the gorge, which passes through the Chon-Ashu pass to the valley of Sary-Jaz gorge and further to the Inylchek mountain range, which makes the gorge convenient for visiting. This road was built in Soviet times in connection with development Golden Ore plant. Now it can be reached far into the gorge by car. In the upper reaches of the gorge, the most ancient toric rocks of the Precambrian period are widespread: gneiss, granite, quartzite, crystalline schists and marble.
Ski-touring on the top of the summit and descent. Maximum altitude is 3120 meters. Elevation gain: 1060 meters, descend length ~ 6 km, duration: 6-7 hours. Slope gradient: 25 – 45 degrees. Lunch-picnic during backcountry.
Name “Austrian Kiss” was given to the summit after two men homosexuals have kissed after reaching the top in 1980-s. This custom is no longer respected, but people still remember the story and giving hugs to each other on the top to celebrate achievement and exchange positive vibes.
Transfer to Jyrgalan valley (50 km) and accommodation in very comfortable and hospitable Yurt Lodge at an altitude 2250 meters. Dinner and overnight in the yurt.
Meals included: B, D
Day 9. Jyrgalan valley – Tyup gorge
Breakfast in the dinning yurt and departure for backcountry. This day you will have ski-touring to the most interesting spots and have 2-3 ski runs. Maximum altitude is 3150 meters. Elevation gain: 900 meters, descend length ~ 7 km, duration: 6-7 hours. Slope gradient: 15 – 45 degrees. Coming back to the Yurt Lodge for lunch and check-out. Transfer to the Tyup Yurt Lodge (9 km) or Heights Yurt Lodge (11 km), depending on weather and snow conditions by snowmobiles (towing).
Jyrgalan valley is located 60 km far from Karakol, it’s slopes and guesthouses are just far enough off-the-path from the main tourist circuit through the Issyk-Kul region that you’re virtually guaranteed a relaxing and adventure-filled winter vacation. Seven peaks surround the valley and create a unique micro climate with snow abundant winters. It could be that welcoming bite of fresh, cool air on your cheeks as you step straight from your guesthous doorstep and directly into nature — no long car transfers and not a queue in sight.
Arrival to the upper Yurt Lodge. Relaxing in sauna, having dinner and overnight in the yurt.
Meals included: B, L, D
Day 10-11-12. Jyrgalan Heights Yurt Lodge/Tyup Yurt Lodge
Breakfast and departure for backcountry to the nearby peaks and summits. Maximum altitude is 3600 meters. Elevation gain: 500-800 meters, descend length ~ 5-7 km, duration: 6-7 hours. Slope gradient: 15 – 45 degrees. Coming back to the Yurt Lodge, lunch, sauna, dinner, overnight in the yurt.
Meals included: B, L, D
Day 13. Jyrgalan – Aksuu village – Tosor village – Fairy-Tale canyon – Boomskoe gorge – Bishkek.
After breakfast packing stuff and departure to the lowest Yurt Lodge in Jyrgalan village by snowmobiles (towing). Transfer to Aksuu village by car and visiting hot-springs.
Open-air hot springs Aksuu-Kench is the best place for relaxing and recovery after skiing days. There are three pools with radon and hydrogen sulfide waters, where you can forget about everything and dissolve in the peaceful atmosphere.
After 2-hours spent on the territory of hot-springs you will be delivered to the south shore of Issyk-Kul lake where you can enjoy the view of desert wild beaches, swim (salty water in the lake is not frozen during the winter) and take pictures.
Issyk-Kul is an endorheic lake in the northern Tien-Shan mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan. It is the seventh deepest lake in the world, the tenth largest lake in the world by volume (though not in surface area), and the second largest saline lake after Caspian Sea. Issyk-Kul means "warm lake" in Kyrgyz language; although it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it never freezes.
Transfer to the Fairy-Tale canyon and walking in it’s mysterious labyrinths.
The canyon was named “Fairy-Tale” because of its bizarre rocky landscape, which for many years has been transformed by erosion into amazing sculptures and formations. Some formations look like snakes, dragons, sleeping giants and even whole castles. From the canyon you can see a majestic panorama of Lake Issyk-Kul and snow caped mountains. It’s an excellent destination for hike close to Lake Issyk-Kul.
Buffet lunch in café on the way to Bishkek. Arrival to Bishkek city, accommodation in the 4* hotel. Dinner, overnight in the hotel.
Meals included: B
Day 14. Bishkek - Almaty.
Hotel check-out and meeting the guide at 9 a.m. Short city-tour, exploring local market and souvenir shops.
Bishkek's central bazaar has a certain compulsive interest and is an important city landmark. For traditional Kyrgyz clothes, including white imitation-felt “ak kalpa”k hats and colorful shepherds' chests, find the stalls outside the south tip of the bazaar's Khial building. Mondays are quiet, but on any other day it bustles. Here you also can find plenty dry fruits, nuts and some special oriental desserts for quite small money.
Transfer Korday - boarder checkpoint. Coming back to Almaty. Lunch. Accommodation in the 4* hotel. Free time.
Meals included: B, L
End of the program.
*Depending on weather, temperature and snow conditions, the guide can make adjustments to the skiing part of the program.
Please, notice, that it’s required to have insurance policy for extreme sports for participating in this program!
Required equipment and clothing:
- Avalanche equipment (air bag system, shovel, probe, transceiver)
- Goggles with a spare lens for bright sunlight and cloudy weather
- Backpack with volume 25-35 liters with ski/snowboard fixation
Clothing and accessories
- Comfortable functional clothing for riding and ski-touring (base layer - thermal underwear, gore-tex jacket and pants, additional layers of clothing for insulation, downy sweater or vest, socks)
- Extra set of warm clothes, extra pair of shoes (sneakers or lightweight trekking shoes)
- Sleeping bag with a temperature zero – minus 5 degerees in comfort zone
- Gloves, mittens
- Hat, cap, neck warmer
- Swimsuit, towel and flip-flops for visiting SPA-center
- Personal AID kit
- Thermos for the hot tea, water tank
- Head torch
- Personal hygiene stuf
- Proper ski-touring/snowboard boots
- Skis with ski-touring bindings/splitboard
- Climbing skins
- Ski crampons
- Snacks (protein and muesli bars, energy gels, ISOtonic or other special mount nutrition)