Hiking in Kyrgyzstan:
There are moments when I want to hike for days on end, climbing a new mountain pass every morning and exploring a new valley each afternoon. There are also moments when I want to get out of the city for a day and take a leisurely walk somewhere beautiful. Perhaps one of the best things about living in Kyrgyzstan is that there is, in fact, an endless number of places to do either!
On another recent trip with the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan, this time to the Chunkurchak Valley in the mountains near the Tatyr Ski Base, I was reminded not only how many options there are for hiking even just near Bishkek but also how beautiful the country can be and how much it changes visually throughout the year.
The last time I went hiking with the Trekking Union was to the Alpinada Festival in early May, which was a great walk in its own right but very much a greyscale sort of affair as we hiked higher and higher towards the snowy Komsomolets peak.
As far as appearance goes, hiking Chunkurchak was an extremely different experience. Surrounded by verdant green pine forests and multi-colored flower-flecked fields, it was an impressive reminder that spring has arrived long since and that the very best season for hiking in Kyrgyzstan is upon us.
Hardly a matter of simple appearances, however, the very feeling of the hike itself was radically different. Whereas the Alpinada was was intense group push to conquer a mountain together, Chunkurchak is more of a leisurely walk up a lush valley to a hilltop overlooking the peaks of the Tian Shan mountain range. From the perfect little picnic spot, 5 or 6 still-snow-covered mountains make a stunning backdrop to a hike that was actually fairly low-effort.
Like many of the Trekking Union’s trips, you don’t *really* need a guide to hike up Chunkurchak. What you *do* need, however, is transportation. If you have your own set of wheels, the forty-five kilometers from Bishkek to the reserve would be no serious problem. Without them, though, a trip with the TUK is going to be hands down one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get out here. Don’t worry, they’re generally friendly and talkative and not too hard to keep up with! This trip with the Trekking Union cost 380 Kyrgyz Som per person, about $7 USD. The cost of the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan trips vary, but are always pretty reasonable. Check out their website for information on upcoming excursions, if you’ll be in Bishkek. For those days you just need to get out town for a walk, their day trips to places like Chunkurchak can’t be beat.
If you’re in Bishkek as a tourist, the Hostel Inn is probably the closest cheap accommodation to the TUK office. Check them out – they’re also one of the cheapest city center accommodation options I know of. Slightly further away is the Bishkek Guesthouse, though one friend I sent there wasn’t crazy about the older of their two locations. If you’re looking more upmarket, the Hyatt is a bit further on Sovietskaya. Also be sure to check out my Bishkek Travel Guide for thoughts on other things to do in town while you’re not hiking!