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For the adventure traveller who isn’t afraid of snow or altitude sickness, mountainous Kyrgyzstan has a lot to offer. It ranks as the fourth country with the highest average land elevation in the world. Covered by mountains with 80%, Kyrgyzstan is home to grandiose peaks, crystalline alpine lakes and eternal glaciers. Whether you are in a quest for breath-taking views or opportunities for extreme sports, you can find them in the dizzying heights of the Tian-Shian and Pamir Alai mountains. The thrill of being on top of the world is waiting for you in following spectacular five high-altitude destinations in Kyrgyzstan.
The Ala Archa National Park is located 40 km south of Bishkek, the capital city, on the Tian Shan mountains. It is a perfect destination if you have only one day at your disposal, but would like to have a taste of the Kyrgyz mountains. It takes around one hour by marshrutka (local public transportation) to get to the gates of the park, and you will be amazed by the difference of landscapes that a short ride can expose you to. There are two trails of different difficulty levels available for hiking. The easy trail will lead you to a mesmerizing river and a rocky gorge. But the less marked trail will lead you to a waterfall and a glacier.
Are you a professional mountain climber or a challenge enthusiast willing to test boundaries of your physical ability and will power? Then Jenish Chokusu (Victory Peak) is waiting for you. Raising to an altitude of 7,345 meters, Jenish Chokusu is the highest point of Kyrgyzstan, making it an exhilarating place to reach. It lies on the Tian Shian mountain, in the Issyk Kul region on the border with China. It is considered to be one of the toughest post-Soviet peaks to climb because it is the highest peak located so far on the north. Compared to Himalaya, which lays hundreds of kilometres to the south, Jenish Chokusu has much more severe climate conditions. But don’t worry, there are professional teams that can help you. You can join organized expeditions to Jenish. The best time to climb is from mid-June to mid-August, the hottest time of the year. One can hardly find expeditions outside this season.
However, if climbing one of the toughest peaks in the world is not challenging enough, you can always try to climb one of the 14 peaks that weren’t conquered yet. If the spirit of competition fuels you, and if you want to be a pioneer, then you are welcome to discover places where the feet of the climber have never stepped. Many climbers are ambitious to climb higher peaks like Jenish Chokusu or Khan Tengri, while other climbers prefer to live a mountaineer’s true dream and summit an unclimbed peak. These peaks are found in almost every mountain range. Caution: hurry up because the number of undiscovered peaks is quickly decreasing!
No matter when you arrive in Bishkek, you can always see the white-capped mountains throughout all year long. Altogether, Kyrgyzstan’s glaciers contain about 580 billion cubic meters of ice, making drinking water the most precious resource of the country. The water supply is so massive that the neighboring countries electricity depends on the hydro-electric plantations of Kyrgyzstan. The never-melting peaks of the Kyrgyz mountains can make quite a memorable trip. Have you ever wondered how Frozen Elsa’s kingdom might look like in real life? Then come to visit Inylchek, which is one of the biggest non-polar glaciers in the world and is visible from space.
The Merzbacher Lake, which is also referred to as “disappearing lake” for its annual drainage, is located in between the north and south wings of the Inylchek glacier. When the spring begins, the ice melts forming a lake in a valley, that’s closed by an ice dam. But in August, when the temperature is the hottest, the dam melts, and the lake drains into the river Inylchek, like a bottle of champagne. It is quite hard to get to Merzbacher. The easiest way is by a helicopter. But it is worth to reach one of the few places in the world, where nature still is the Lord, and you can feel how small a human is compared to majestic nature.
Whether it be wandering the picturesque national park, climbing the peaks that give you access to the breath-taking views, or exploring legendary nature wonders that will make your chin drop, Kyrgyzstan has everything to make an adventurous traveller feel on top of the world! These five high-altitude destinations will help you understand what Gaspar David Friedrich felt when he drew the romanticism painting “The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog”.
Cover Photo © credits to iStockphotos.com/LUKASZ-NOWAK1
Each month. Our best stories. Zero effort.