Horseback riding in Kyrgyzstan

All you need to know before going on a horse ride and our recommendations for finding a local guide

In this article, we give you some tips on how to organise your horse riding trip in Kyrgyzstan: where to find horses? At what price? The best treks in the country and our selection of local guides!

road book and travel guide book about Kyrgyzstan

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 organise excursions on horseback. 

How do I find horses?

Going with a local Kyrgyz agency

If you have organised 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.

Basic rules when horse riding in Kyrgyzstan

If you are a beginner, never set out without an escort

Although it is possible to rent horses without a guide, we strongly advise you to always go riding with a guide or a “horseman”. The Kyrgyz people start riding from a very early age, so they know the terrain and their horses extremely well. It is vital to be accompanied by at least one person who knows horses, especially if you are a beginner.

Equipment and safety

Agencies rarely provide protective equipment, such as riding helmets, as it is expensive and is not used by the locals. If you plan on spending more than 3 days out riding, it might be a good idea to invest in a pair of riding trousers. In any case, you should expect your bottom to be sore! Wear closed toed, high-cut shoes. If it rains, you may want to wear a raincoat. Be careful though, because some horses are bothered by the rubbing sound that raincoat material makes. To prevent your horse from breaking into a gallop while you are on its back, we recommend that you dismount to put on and take off your raincoat.

“If you want to go horse riding and help out a local guide, you can buy a riding helmet before your trip (about $17) and offer to give it to your guide at the end of the trek. This way, you can protect yourself and help your guide and any travellers who come after you. “

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Well-being of the animals

Equestrian tourism is very lucrative in Kyrgyzstan. In fact, almost every family has horses that they can make available to agencies or rent directly to tourists. Some horses are overexploited, and as a result their health is compromised. So as to not encourage these sorts of practices, we recommend that you discuss this with your guide. Tell them what your requirements are. The horse shouldn’t have been ridden by multiple groups of tourists in succession: it should be able to rest and eat properly between groups. Check to make sure that the horse is not injured near the saddle, its tail, or its hooves. Some horses are not shod, which may be painful for them if you go trekking on rocky terrain. If your horse is limping or seems to be suffering during a trek, dismount and continue on foot or ask your guide if you can switch horses.

Get insurance against accidents

Do not go horse trekking in Kyrgyzstan if you do not have insurance. Horses are unpredictable, as is the terrain (marmot holes, slippery roads, etc.). As a result, you are at risk of having an accident. It is best to be insured if you need to be hospitalised on site or if repatriation becomes necessary.

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

Our advice when riding a horse

If you have never been horse riding, don’t be afraid. Kyrgyz horses are very calm and relatively small. If a horse is nervous, its owner will not let you ride off with it unless they trust you.

Never let go of the reins. Pull gently on the right to turn right, or gently on the left to turn left. To stop, pull down on the reins sharply and yell “tak tak”, which means “easy does it”. If you pull up, the horse is likely to rear up and kick (standing up on its two back legs!).

Do not put your feet fully inside the stirrups. Keep only the tip of your feet in the stirrups so that the rest is free. The reason for this is simple: if you fall, your foot may stay stuck in one of the stirrups, and that can be very dangerous.

If you want to break into a trot or a gallop, you can give your horse a sharp little kick with your heel on its side and yell, “shoot shoot”, which means “faster”. If the horse doesn’t listen, give it a little slap on its behind. Go ahead and make your voice as authoritative as possible!

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!

We have dedicated an entire article to Lake Song-Kul, which you can read here.

Here are some other ideas for places to go horse riding:

  • Chong-Kemin: wild and relatively untouched by tourists, Chong-Kemin National Park offers several 1 to 3-day routes for horse riding.
  • Besh-Tash: in just one day, you can reach Lake Besh-Tash on horseback and wander around the surrounding area.For experienced riders, it is possible to take on a 9-day trek to Lake Sary-Chelek.
  • Sary-Chelek: very well known among the Kyrgyz people, this turquoise lake surrounded by forest is ideal for a multi-day trek.
  • Köl-Suu: a magnificent one-day ride to the lake from the yurt campsite and back again.
  • Jirgalan: there are many possible 1 to 5-day excursions around this little village. We did, however, notice that the prices were higher than in other places.
  • Tash-Rabat and Chatyr Kul: it is possible to do a 3-day horse trek starting from the village of Kuzul-Yuu, not far from Naryn. This trek passes by Lake Chatyr Kul and ends at the Tash-Rabat caravanserai. This little known route is worth going out of your way for!

Our selection of local guides

In this article, we would like to 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.

Adis, a young guide full of promise!

5
Rated 5 out of 5

 

Adis is a certified Kyrgyz guide. Despite his young age, Adis was wise and very flexible. His priority was the safety of his guests and he has a first-aid qualification. But above all, as he says himself “the most important thing for me is to make our guests happy”. He speaks fluent English, Kyrgyz, Russian, and a few words of French which he tries to learn from French-speaking tourists. A real pleasure to travel with him!

  • Day 1: Kyzart – Kilemche

Departure is from the village of Kyzart, which you can reach by public transport or taxi (Adis can arrange transport for you). Lunch in the village of Kyzart. After lunch, horseback riding at Kilemche yurt camp. Along the way you will enjoy the impressive landscape of our beautiful mountains. On arrival you will have free time to walk around, explore the area and see the life of the local nomads. Kilemche is situated at 2500 m above sea level. Dinner and overnight stay in yurts.

  • Day 2: Kilemche – Zhalgiz Karagay Pass – Son Kol (Tuz Ashuu)

This day will be the highlight of the visit. The trail passes through the difficult Zhalgyz Karagay Pass at 3400 m above sea level and opens up to a beautiful panoramic view of Song-Kol and the surrounding mountains. After about an hour’s ride, lunch will be served in Jaman Zhaman Echki’s yurts. After lunch, the trail follows the shore of the Song-Kol lake. The beauty of this lake is breathtaking. At night the stars reflect on its surface and the lake becomes even more mysterious. Dinner and overnight stay in the yurts at the yurt camp.

  • Day 3: Son Kol – Kara-Kiya Pass – Kyzart

After breakfast, we climb to the Kara-Kyya Pass, offering another amazing panoramic view (altitude 3400 m). After descending to the village of Kyzart, lunch and dinner in a guesthouse.

Prices for three days (full service)

Number of people12345678910
Price for the group (soms)11600166002160033200382004320054800598006480069800
  • The price includes :

Accommodation and meals in the yurt
English-speaking guide
Horses

  • The price does not include :

Transportation costs to Kyzart
Alcoholic beverage

 

Although Lake Song Kul is one of the most popular destinations in Kyrgyzstan, Adis can offer you other tours, less touristic and wilder!
OunTravela has not referenced all these tours because the possibilities are endless! Do not hesitate to ask him via our form.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the services offered:

  • Organization of horse trekking between 2 and 21 days
  • Organization of trekking in Yak
  • Winter tours on Lake Song-Kul
  • Reservation of guesthouse in Kilemche and transport Bishkek-Kilemche-Kyzart-Kochtor and all other places in Kyrgyzstan
Review

Rated 5 out of 5
18 January 2020

Great organization, great food and great people. our horseman was very helpful and gentle. the accomodations during the horse riding trek were perfect in the yurts.

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Stefane
Rated 5 out of 5
18 January 2020

Everything was perfect! Great accommodation, great food, perfect guide, we had the best time on our trek to Song-Kol. Highly recommended.

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Alice

Contact Adis for a tour !

    Sending this form does not commit you to anything. It allows you to contact the guide (availability, reservation, questions, etc.).


    nonoui


    Timur, an experienced and very interesting guide!

    Timur is an experienced guide. He speaks very good English and will be happy to answer all your questions about Kyrgyz customs and traditions. He is specialised in 2 or 3 day horse treks around Song-Kul Lake.

    • 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.

    Number of people123456789
    Price for the group (soms)119001720022500344003970045000569006220067500 
    • Price includes :


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

    • Price doesn’t include :

    Transfer to Kyzart village
    Transfer after tour
    Alcoholic beverages 

     

    • 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.

    Number of people123456789
    Price for the group (soms)78001150014600208002450028200344003810041800

    • Price includes

    Helmets
    Mineral waters
    English-speaking guide
    Food and accomodation in a yurt camp.

    • Price doesn’t include

    Transfer to Kyzart village
    Transfer after tour
    Alcoholic beverages

    Review

    Il n'y a pas encore de note !


    Contact Timur for a tour !

      Sending this form does not commit you to anything. It allows you to contact the guide (availability, reservation, questions, etc.).


      nonoui


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