Our complete guide to horseback riding in Kyrgyzstan in 2024

All you need to know before horse riding in Kyrgyzstan and our recommendations for finding a local guide

If you’re an adventure enthusiast with a love for horseback riding, then Kyrgyzstan is the ultimate destination for you. With its breathtaking landscapes, diverse terrains, and rich nomadic culture, Kyrgyzstan offers some of the best horse riding experiences in the world. But before you saddle up and embark on your equestrian adventure, here are a few tips to help you organise your trip and make the most of your horse riding experience in Kyrgyzstan. And to ensure you have the best experience possible, we highly recommend enlisting the help of a local guide who can navigate the rugged terrain and introduce you to the fascinating nomadic way of life. Additionally, we’ll provide you with some basic rules to keep in mind when horse riding in Kyrgyzstan, ensuring both your safety and respect for the local customs.

Travel guidebook about Kyrgyzstan, central Asia : 24 of the best off-road routes

Horseback riding in Kyrgyzstan

To go horse riding in Kyrgyzstan is to immerse yourself in the thousand-year-old lifestyle of Kyrgyz nomads. This authentic experience allows you to take advantage of the wide open spaces and breathtaking landscapes that the country abounds with! This activity is geared towards both beginners and experienced riders. Kyrgyz horses have a very calm temperament, and you will generally have someone there with you. Depending on what you want to do, it is possible to go out riding for half a day, or take on the mountains for several days at a time.

If you are planning to go horse trekking, you can either go through a travel agency or rent horses privately. There are many local agencies that arrange excursions on horseback. 

How to organise your horse riding trip in Kyrgyzstan?

Going with a local Kyrgyz agency

If you have arranged a tour with an agency, you will usually be accompanied by an English-speaking guide and a “horseman”, which is someone who deals exclusively with the horses (this is generally the horses’ owner). The price you pay covers the horse rental, the two guides, and your overnight lodging and food for the duration of your trek. They can be found in bigger cities, such as Kochkor, Naryn, and Karakol, and in places that are close to tourist attractions.

Going with a CBT

The CBT or “Community Based Tourism Association” was created in the 2000s, with the support of Switzerland, to meet the demand for tourism while promoting responsible tourism that benefits local stakeholders. Even if the intention of these associations is absolutely praiseworthy, today the CBTs have become their own small businesses, since they are extremely lucrative. There are CBTs in all the tourist areas of the country, offering all kinds of services: excursions on foot, on horseback, car rental, stays with local people, etc. We have seen a lot of abusing the system (excessive prices, overbooking, underpaid families…) and a service that is not always up to standard. This is why we encourage you to go directly through nomads or small local agencies.

Directly with nomadic people

The other option is to rent directly from individuals, nomadic or otherwise, on the ground. The first advantage of doing it this way is that you are paying local people directly for their services, without an intermediary. In addition, they will very probably invite you to eat a meal with them or follow them around as they go about their daily lives. It’s a guaranteed authentic experience! The main disadvantage is that these horses are not necessarily used to being mounted by beginners, so this may be a fairly challenging experience. Moreover, you will not get the benefit of having a guide explain certain aspects of the landscape or the animals to you. Get our English-Kyrgyz phrase book here.

Our selection of local guides

Later in this article, we highlight different local actors that we have met during our trips in Kyrgyzstan. We put you in contact with Kyrgyz guides or families whose service deemed to be excellent, primarily based on their knowledge, benevolence and listening skills. All these people have read and signed our ethical charter, which includes themes such as animal welfare and respect for the environment.

piste vers la mine d'or de Kumtor au coeur des monts célestes
randonnée à cheval au lac song-kul
face à la mine d'or de Kumtor, au coeur des Tian Shan

Top 10 horse riding tours in Kyrgyzstan

1- Song Kul Lake

This is THE most popular horse trek in the country! And for a good reason: the scenery around this lake, perched at an altitude of 3,000m, is magnificent. The mountains and high meadows surrounding the lake are covered with yurt camps and livestock herds. Between the hordes of horses and the thick smoke escaping from the yurts, it’s a complete change of scenery. Horse rides around the lake are generally organized over 2 or 3 days, with overnight stays in yurts. A once-in-a-lifetime experience! In the following paragraph, we’ll give you all our tips for discovering this mythical lake.

2- Chong-Kemin Park

Wild and relatively untouched by tourists, Chong-Kemin National Park offers several itineraries ranging from 1 to 3 days for horseback excursions. Between pine forests, high-altitude meadows and glacial lakes, the scenery is varied and sumptuous. You’ll find our recommendations for visiting this valley and finding nomads to rent horses in our Explore Kyrgyzstan guide (see routes 3 and 4).

4- Sary-Chelek Lake

Famous among Kyrgyz, Sary-Chelek Lake, at an altitude of 1873 m, is a true haven of peace. From the village of Arkyt, a well-maintained dirt track, some 20 km long leads to the lake’s southern shore. The reserve contains a total of seven lakes with numerous hiking trails of varying degrees of maintenance. This turquoise lake surrounded by forests is ideal for a multi-day trek on horseback.

5- Lake Köl-Suu

Lake Kol-Suu is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lakes in Kyrgyzstan. Intense blue in color, the lake meanders for some 16 km between high granite cliffs. Situated along the Chinese border, Lake Kol-Suu is particularly isolated and requires a border permit. Allow 5 hours’ driving on a stony track, and a 4×4 is recommended (see route 19 in the Explore Kyrgyzstan guide). Once you’ve arrived at the yurt camp, allow a day on horseback to enjoy Lake Kol-Suu and the surrounding area.

6- Jirgalan

There are many possibilities for 1 to 5-day excursions on foot or horseback around this small village. However, we noticed that prices were higher than elsewhere.

7- Tash-Rabat and Chatyr Kul

The area around the Tash-Rabat caravanserai is perfect for hiking and horse-riding. There are 1-5 day itineraries across the At-Bashi mountain range to Lake Chatyr-Kul. The surroundings are magnificent, especially the crossing of the Tash-Rabat pass at 3,964 m, with superb views over the great Chatyr-Kul lake. A border permit is required to use the hiking trails leading down to the lake. Don’t hesitate to ask at the various yurt camps about possible routes. It’s also possible to take a 3-day horseback ride from the village of Kuzul-Yuu, not far from Naryn. This trek takes in Lake Chatyr Kul and ends at the Tash-Rabat caravanserai. This little-known itinerary is well worth a visit!

8- Saimaluu Tash

Accessible in half a day on foot or horseback from the new Chaek-Kazarman road, the famous Saimaluu Tash archaeological site is home to over 10,000 perfectly preserved rock engravings. From depictions of domestic and wild animals to scenes of life, hunting and ritual dances, these petroglyphs, over 3,000 years old, represent an archaeological treasure trove of worldwide scientific significance. This open-air petroglyph field is the largest collection in Central Asia.

9- Suusamyr Valley

If you’re looking for a hike off the beaten track, then the Suusamyr Valley is the destination for you. Located near Bishkek, this valley, perched at an altitude of 2,200 m, is home to many shepherd families who take advantage of its lush green meadows in summer to graze their cattle. This is an opportunity to discover nomadic traditions (equestrian games such as Kok-Boru, traditional songs, etc.) with the super guide Temirkhan.

10- Lake Kol Ukok

This small mountain lake with its turquoise waters can be reached in a day on foot or horseback from Kochkor. The trail is very easy to follow, but if you prefer, it’s possible to organize the trek with a guide from Kochkor.

The mythical horse trek to Lake Song-Kul

Lake Song-Kul, which sits at an elevation of 3100 m, is one of Kyrgyzstan’s signature destinations for horse riding. Surrounded by green pastures and snow-capped summits, this sky-blue lake is breathtakingly beautiful. Many agencies offer equestrian excursions to Lake Song-Kul, which generally last three full days, with two nights spent staying in yurts. This is an unforgettable experience!

Timur, amazing local guide from Song-Kul

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Timur is a young Kyrgyz guide from Song-Kul. Since he was a little boy, he has spent the summer with his family in a yurt camp on the northwestern shore of Lake Song-Kul. He has learned English from the tourists he loves to guide through the mountains surrounding the lake.

He will answer all your questions about Kyrgyz customs and traditions. He can organise a horseback ride to Song-Kul lake of 2 to 3 days.

We promote Timur’s horseback trip since 4 years and what a success ! We strongly think that Timur is the best english speaking guide of Song-Kul. Check out his reviews, they speak for themselves!

Don’t miss its new tour with the Kok-Boru equestrian game: Book online here. To book a tour without Kok-Boru, use the form below.

  • Day 1 : Son-Kul-Kilemche.

Transfer to the village of Kyzart. You can arrive by Public transport or taxi. We will meet you in the village of Kyzart.

You will have lunch at a small local house with your guide. After lunch, we will start the tour to the Kilemche pasture (you can leave some things in Kyzart and take only the essentials for 3 days).

The ride will last approximately 4.5 hours. On the road you can enjoy beautiful small rivers, mountains, flowers, and local houses where shepherds live in winter. After 4.5 hours of horse riding you will arrive in a family yurt camp to spend the night. You will meet the shepherd and his family. If you like, you can drink hot tea and kumyz (horse milk), enjoy the last lights of the day to walk around the pastures or just get to know the locals. Dinner and night in the yurt.

  • Day 2 Kilemche-Son-Kul.

After breakfast, we set off to the Son-Kul Lake through the pass Tuz-Ashuu. (3400 m) At the top you will see a beautiful view on the lake. After a short rest, we will go to the yurt camp where you will spend the night. Lunch in the yurt. After lunch, you can take a walk by the lake and enjoy the silence. Or just get to know the locals. You can try milking a cow or helping in the kitchen (this is optional). Dinner. After dinner, you can enjoy a starry sky without light pollution
(if the weather is good). Night in a cozy and warm yurt.

  • Day 3. Son-Kul – Kyzart.

After Breakfast, we return to the Kyzart village by the Uzbek Pass (3,200 m). Lunch at Kyzart. After lunch, you can continue your journey.

  • Day 1 Kyzart-Song-Kul.

The tour will start at the village of Kyzart. You will have lunch in a small local house with your guide (it is possible to start the tour before lunch if you spend the night before in Kyzart). After lunch, the horseback ride to the lake will start through the pass Kara-kyia (3,300m). The ride will last up to 4.5 hours. The pass offers a magnificent panoramic view of the Son Kul mountains. After a short rest on the top, we will go to the yurt camp where my family will welcome you. If you like, you can drink hot tea and kumyz (horse milk) or enjoy the last lights of the day to walk around the pasture. At sunset, the whole family is getting busy. The shepherds prepare to release the herds and cows to feed them at night and the women prepare dinner in the yurt for the guests and family. I really like this moment (sunset, horses by the lake, warm yurt, beautiful views, silence). Dinner and night in the yurt.

  • Day 2 Song-Kul – Kyzart

Breakfast. After breakfast, back to Kyzart village (via Uzbek pass). If you want to spend more time in Son-Kul lake we can return after lunch. Lunch at the village of Kyzart. End of the tour after lunch.

Group from 5 to 12 people.
It’s the same program than the 3 days + Kok-Boru game !
Single price: 12,500 soms / person (15 euros online + 11,000 soms on site).

Online booking only here : Book now!
To book a tour without Kok-Boru, use the form below.

Two dates per month during the summer only, places limited.

Day 1. Transfer to Kyzart. (You can take a bus or taxi. Bus will start to drive at Western busstation in Bishkek. Number of Bus 514 Chaek. 4,5 hours drive. ) We have a lunch at Kyzart village at local house. After lunch i will explain about horse riding and control. We start ride a horse to Kilemche valley. It will take 4 hours. On valley will welcome us a family. We can drink a tea and try a lot of jams batter and creams at yurt. In evening you can take a walk around the valley. Dinner- overnight in a yurt.

Day 2. After breakfast we are starting our journey to Song-Kul lake. It will take 4 hours. And we will cross by Tuz-Ashuu pass. 3400 m altitude. We have a small break on top. We will arrive to yurts around 2 pm. And we have a lunch with my family. After lunch with guide and friends we will show you a game Kok-Boru. (Around 1 hours. ) After that you can take a walk around lake enjoy with a view and silence. Dimner- overnight in a yurt.

Day 3. After breakfast we will start ride to Kyzart villiage.by Kara-Kyia pass. 3500 m. It will take 4 hours. We have a lunch at local home in Kyzart and we finish the tour.

For horse trek you need good shoe and raincoats warm jacket. 

Price

WINTER PRICE : please note that during winter, price is 20% to 30% more expensive (There is no more yourt, so a cooker will accompagned you!)

Price for 3 days :

Number of people123456
Price for the group (soms)165002530036300484005700066000

Price for 2 days :

Number of people123456
Price for the group (soms)123001815024750330004000046200

Price for 2023 TOUR + Kok-Baru game days :

11 000 soms / pers

    • Price includes :

    Helmets
    Mineral waters
    Accomodation and meals in the yurt
    Horses
    English-speaking guide, Timur

    For a group of 4 or more, Timur is accompanied by one horseman. And for 7 people and more, by two horseman

    • Price doesn’t include :

    Transfer to Kyzart village
    Transfer after tour
    Alcoholic beverages 

    See reviews ★★★★★
    Rated 5.0 out of 5
    30 March 2024

    Absolutly wonderfull trip! I will remember for a long time. We went to Son kul in mid-march so we had to crossed the mount in the deep snow, alone, in the pure silence. Simply fantastic.

    Thank you to Timur, Uly, Jeku and his mom. The organization was perfect, food delicious and we laugh a lot. See you again in summer this time!

    Ouh ouh ouh Koko buru!

    Julien
    Rated 5.0 out of 5
    5 January 2024

    I could write a book about how amazing these 3 days with Timur and his friend (who’s in the national Kok Boru team!) were but I would rather have you experience it all for the first time as well!! Will insert some pictures to boost your curiosity ;)) (end of september 2023)