Kyrgyzstan cycling guide by Jan de Groot
*All the information below was once contained on the CBT website, which is where we saved it from. We found out recently that this page has disappeared from the CBT site, or at least we can’t find any trace of it. We tried to contact Jan but without success. We don’t want this valuable information to disappear so we are posting it here. If the author is out there and objects to this page being here, or if anyone can provide us with an updated link, please get in touch.*
|1. General information|
|2. On the road|
1 General information
Odyssey : Kyrgyzstan, Rowan Stewart (isbn 962-217-675-5)
Lonely planet : Central Asia
Elmar : Reishandboek Uzbekistan en Kyrgyzstan (isbn 9-0389-068-11)
H. Barker : Russia and Central Asia by road (isbn 1-898323-61-5)
Cadogan Guides : Central Asia, The practical Handbook
Nelles Maps : Central Asia
Freytag & Berndt : Central Asia 1:1.750.000
Kyrgyz Cartographic Agency :
- 1:200.000 area maps of the whole country, best maps for cycling
- Bishkek city map
- Kyrgyzstan 1:1.000.000
Address:Kieveskaya 107, Bishkek ph: 0312-212296.
|Novi Nomad||Ap.10, 28 T.Moldo, Bishkek 720001. ph: 0312-622381|
email: [email protected] , www.novinomad.com
|Main office. 58 Gorkiy str,. ph: 0312-559331,540069|
email: [email protected] , www.cbtkyrgyzstan.kg
|Kyrgyz concept||126 Chuy, Bishkek,720001 ph: 0312-666006|
email: [email protected] , eng.concept.kg
|Horizon travel||27 Umetalieva, Bishkek 720017, ph: 0312-645147|
email: [email protected] , www.horizon.elcat.kg
Visas are necessary. You can obtain a one month visa from the embassies ( Brussels ) or upon arrival at Manas airport. Extensions are easily to get at the OVIR in every big city. It is no longer compulsory to register within 3 days at the OVIR for nationals of most Western countries. If you doubt whether you need registration, just pass by at OVIR (Bishkek: Kievskaya 58). When entering the country overland ask for an entry stamp. If they do not have any, go in the next big town to the OVIR and ask one there. It will save you from a lot of hassle leaving the country.
The 72 hour transit visa for Central Asian countries (have a Kyrgyz visa and you could transit Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan without a visa) does not exist any more.
A special border permit is necessary if you want to cycle off road, near the Chinese and Tajik border. You can get this permit at OVIR (Bishkek-Osh) or sometimes at a special border detachment (Karakol). Ask a travel agency for latest information and even better ask them to do this for you. If you are planning to cross the border to China via Irkeshtam your Chinese visa is sufficient and an additional border permit is not necessary.
Trekking permits can be bought on the spot at the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, 17 Togolok Moldo 220657/212843. Trekking permits are necessary for Engilchek and Pik Lenin.
|Uzbekistan||Usually no problem, but insist on an entry stamp entering Kyrgyzstan . Entering in Uzbekistan insists on filling in a custom declaration form.|
|Tajikistan||The border crossing from Chong Alai to the Gharm valley is closed for foreigners, others then Tajik and Kyrgyz. People were turned back here. Other border crossings, Kyzyl Art Pass and Isfana are open.|
|China||For Torugart a lot of hassle and money. On the Kyrgyz side you need a special border permit. On the Chinese side you should have already arranged in Kyrgyzstan a guide and transport to Kashkar. Better to cycle via Osh – Sary Tash – Irkeshtam to Kashgar. Here no border permits, no hassle, only a valid Chinese visa.|
|C||Accommodation with private people. CBT information office.|
|L||Accommodation with private people (ask taxi drivers, at the bazaar or shop)|
|H||Anything from private hotel to old Intourist style hotel|
|St||Canteen or place with basic food.|
|Sh||Shop or road side stalls|
Take into account that in Kyrgyzstan restaurants and accommodation are mushrooming. On the other hand, others close. The distances and altitudes when mentioned are always plus/minus but mostly accurate.
Connecting the different itineraries, you can make the following round trips.
Many high passes, desolate at places and need to be self supporting, 60% rough road.
Mountain and high altitude plains, canyons and jailoo. Fergana valley with nice bazaars, cotton fields and Uzbek communities.
Desolate at places, need to be self supporting, 40% rough road.
Mountain and high altitude plains, canyons, jailoo.
Mainly flat, good beaches, can stay at hotels, or private homes in most villages. All asphalt.
Semi desert, plains, beaches, valleys, agriculture.
Two high passes, 30% rough road, need to be self supporting
Agriculture, high altitude plains, jailoo, valley and gorges.
A nice, broad, flat road brings you in 30km to the centre of Bishkek.
- From Bishkek you can follow the northern road along the Kazak border to a point some 10km past Tokmok or the southern more direct road. The northern road is broad and quiet but longer and cars drive faster. The southern road has much more traffic, goes through villages with plenty of places to eat and, in Tokmok, accommodation. 8Km past Kemin you can take another parallel road for some 40km (on your left) before it joins the main road again in the gorge. This road, which is compulsory for trucks, is a bit quieter.
- Some 25km before Balykchy there is a short cut to Kochkor. The road to Kochkor(40km) crosses a pass (2170m) after which you join the Balykchy-Kochkor road near the “OrtoTokoy” reservoir.
- The Northern part of the lake gets more water and is greener. The southern road goes through dry country and follows at places the shore line. Plenty of places to swim. In all villages at least shops with basic items.
- In July and August many Bishkek inhabitants go to Issyk Kul for the weekend. Lot of too fast driving cars on the road on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
- All asphalt
|dist||km||on the road to ….||landmarks||alt||food and lodging in the landmarks |
|80||80||Busy. Road stalls and restaurants in many places. In summer, plenty of fruit and vegetable stalls.||Tokmok||980||B,H,St,Sh|
|72||152||Just before the gorge at Dzil Aruk and at Kemin, restaurants. In the gorge narrow road.||Turn off Kochkor||1570||R,St|
|23||175||Beautiful but narrow, road through the gorge before you come to the semi desert around Balykchy.||Balykchy||1615||H,St,Sh,B|
|84||259||In summer in every village around the lake accommodation at private people’s homes. In Tamchy (221km) CBT. All villages have small shops. Many ‘pensionats’ for beach lovers. Usually they are booked. Flat road along the lake.||Cholpon Ata||1630||H,St,Sh,L,B,I|
|53||312||Flat road along the lake. Sh||Ananeva||1650||Sh,St,B,L|
|86||398||Some up and downs. Sh||Karakol||C,Sh,St,H,R,B,I|
|80||478||Road close to the lake, dry landscape. Sh, St. From Barskoon good dirt road into the mountains to the Kumtor mines. See ‘Off Road’.||Barskoon||St,Sh,B,L|
|53||531||Some up and downs.||Bokonbaev||1780||St,Sh,B|
|74||605||5km past Ottyk||Turnoff Kochkor||1650|
|45||650||Centre from where people visit the jailoos and main access to Son Kul Lake . CBT info-centre.||Kochkor||1810||C,Sh,St,R,B,H,I|
Son Kul is a high mountain lake (3000m). From June to September herdsman live in yurts around the lake. Horses, sheep, cows are happily running around. It is a small paradise but at this altitude climate changes rapidly and at night it is always cold. Take in mind that it is a big climb over passes of around 3100m and there is really not a lot of air up there. There is a dirt road around the lake. All roads to the lake are rough but no problem with a bike. No accommodation or food on the roads to the lake. At the lake CBT , ‘Shepherd life’ and other agencies offer accommodation in yurts. It is a terrific place for cycling but …. the weather! You can get food in the yurts, but there are no shops! It is becoming popular amongst tourists, which is reflected in the prices. At the CBT office in Kochkor you can get tariff lists for everything (food, accommodation, guides, horse riding etc.)
There are four roads going up to the lake, all over high passes above 3100m.
From the east:
- Turn off at Sari Bulak at the Kochkor-Naryn road. This is the most commonly used road. After a small pas you come into a beautiful valley, leading to the second pass.
- Turn off at the Kumys stalls at the Kochkor-Naryn road. This point is past the Dolon pass. A beautiful road with lots of up and down and jailoo life, ending in a fantastic climb. Better to go down! As this is the driest side, the fishermen can use this road even in winter.
From the south:
- Via Yangy Talap off the Naryn-Baetov road. Good road, first through some forest patches, with again a nice climb at the end.
From the north:
- There is a road connecting the lake with the Kochkor-Chaek road. It is the least traveled. I did not ride here.
Apart from the Kyzart pass (2664m) this is a gradually up-down-up ride in a valley along a river. At the end you climb to Suusamyr. In the valley and gorges there will always be wind. Beautiful gorge-landscape with nice rock formations. From Chaek to Suusamyr desolate.
|dist||total||on the road to……. |
|landmarks||alt||food and lodging|
|123||123||In some villages people offer accommodation but count on camping. CBT-Kochkor will have latest information on accommodation. In all villages small shops. On the Kyzart Pass (2650), Kumys and fish.||Chaek||1600||Sh,St|
|90||213||Few villages, sometimes basic supplies. Arriving at the Bishkek-Osh road you will find Kumys and food stalls. Some 10 km south towards the Ala Bel Pass in a truck stop called ‘ Paris ‘, the choice is bigger.||Suusamyr, Bishkek-Osh road||2358||In Paris, St,Sh|
Kochkor-Naryn is apart from a few km close to the pass paved. If you do not want to visit Naryn you can ride via Jergetal, nice quiet short cut. From Naryn an asphalt road (till Baetov) follows first the Naryn River . From Baetov it is climbing on a rough dirt road to the Ak Kya pass. A nice down hill over a partly nice asphalt road brings you to Kazarman. To the Kaldaman pass it is a good dirt road with little traffic. In the Fergana Valley a nice asphalt road to Jalal Abad. The climbs to the passes are long and tiring. You should be self supporting. Same for the northern road to Kazarman which you can take from Ak Talaa. This road is desolater as most cars take the road via Baetov. I found the southern easier and the landscape more beautiful (mountain desert), the southern however is 80km longer.
|total||on the road to…||landmarks||alt||food and lodging|
|34||34||Climbing road along river||Sari Bulak||2272||Sh,St|
|4||38||Turn off Son Kul||2330|
|62||100||Dolon pass 3033, Kumys.|
|130||230||Flat road through broad valley, At Ak Talaa some roadside shops and canteens. From here you can turn right and follow the northern road, take all supplies||Baetov||1900||R,St,B,H,Sh|
|105||335||Through desert landscape climbing to the jailoos around the pass. Do not count on a lot of food in the villages. Kumys however is in season everywhere for sale.||Akkyya Pass||2932|
|61||394||Some 8km before Kazarman is the turn off to Jalal Abad.||Kazarman||1300||C,St,B,Sh|
|64||458||A long climb to this windy pass. No food.||Kaldama Pass||3062|
|94||552||From the pass a 94km down hill in the Fergana valley through patches of walnut-fruit forest. At Urum Bash the first small road stalls. In the Fergana valley plenty of small shops and yurts where you can drink Kumys and eat snacks.||Jalal Abad||780||C,Sh,St,H,R,B|
You can cycle to Tash Rabat on the main Naryn-Torugart road, which is for the main part dirt road. From Ak Beyit you can take the road to Baetov. It is said to be a nice road, but I have not tested it myself.
From Talas over the pass and through Chatkal valley there is hardly any traffic. Chatkal valley is a rough place, rough roads and people, but has a beautiful canyon. The passes are hard on the knees. Chatkal valley is a remote and poor area.
|total||on the road to…||landmarks||alt |
|food and lodging|
|Suusamyr, turn of to Talas||2651||St|
|14||14||Dirt road. No food||Pass Otmek||3324|
|23||37||Dirt road. No food||Tadi Bulak||2000||Sh|
|105||213||From the turn off a dirt road. A lot of birdlife. The pass is very steep in the beginning. No food till Korgon Sai.||Kara Buura||3300|
|135||348||In September there were still snow bridges over some streams in the high mountains. Canteens with very basic food down in the villages in the Chatkal valley. Mostly a stony, rough road.||Janki Bazaar||1500||B,L,St,Sh|
|24||372||No food. Mostly dirt road.||Pass||3450|
|64||436||Nice down hill. Mostly dirt road.||Ala Buka||1329||H,St,Sh,B|
|39||475||New dirt road along the Uzbek boder. Much longer, but without a visa you cannot go through the enclave (and you’d need multi-entry for getting back into Kyrgyzstan )||Kerben||1300||H,St,Sh,B|
|62||537||This road winds along the Uzbek border. From the village of Kyzyl Dzjar , you can follow a small, quiet asphalt road to Tash Komur if you want to head back to Bishkek. It’s 26km winding, slightly up-and-down along hills with scattered pistachio groves before you reach the desolated factories on the outskirts of Tash Komur||Shamaldy Say||530||H,St|
The main connection from north to south Kyrgyzstan . Apart from some parts in the Fergana valley all good asphalt. Beautiful landscape with mountains and gorges. In summer everywhere yurts on the jailoos. Along the whole route stolovayas. Although there is little traffic, most of the (private) cars drive fast. The road is broad but in the gorges small and winding. Kyrgyz drivers tent to use the whole road taking a bend, be aware!
|dist||total||on the road to…. |
|landmarks||alt||food and lodging|
|94||94||At Petrovko take the short cut via Chong Aryk to Sosnovka instead of continuing to Kara Balta. B,R,St,Sh||Barrier||1212||St,Sh|
|50||144||A long tiring climb to the tunnel, with many hairpin bends. Being a bit longer then 3km the narrow, mostly unlit tunnel is a bit of a scary experience. Tunnel guards rather like to put you on a lorry but until now cyclist managed to cycle through the tunnel. Necessary to have lights.||Tunnel||3170|
|13||157||A nice down hill to the first Kumys stalls||Turn off Chaek||2358||St|
|10||167||High altitude plain with yurts, road slowly climbing towards Ala Bel pass||Paris||2266||St|
|44||211||Dirt road to Talas starts here||Turn off to Talas||2651||St|
|12||223||Windy spot||Ala Bel||3174|
|66||289||A long downhill to Toktogul||Toktogul||995||St,Sh,H,B|
|27||316||Up and down||Naryn river||929|
|70||386||Just before climbing to the pass nice swimming in the crystal clear lake. A nice gradual climb||Pass||1400|
|38||424||Nice down hill.||KaraKul||821||St,Sh,H,B|
|60||484||The road follows the dammed river and winds along the mountain site. Beautiful||Tash Komur||596||St,Sh|
|67||551||From the gorge into the Fergana plain. In summer hot, dusty. Mainly cotton and corn in the fields. A small detour near Mayluu Suu, because Uzbekistan owns here a small valley.||Kochkor Ata||493||St,Sh,H,B|
|65||616||More traffic and a last climb to a small pass just before you reach Jalal Abad.||Jalalabad||780||C,Sh,St,H,R,B|
Without an Uzbek visa and multiple enter visa for Kyrgyzstan , it is not possible to ride direct to Osh via Uzbekistan , you have to follow the detour via Usgen.
There is a direct road from Usgen to Gulcha as well as several short cuts. Direct road via Kara Gulcha to Gulcha is partly paved and near the pass (2490m) rough. In Kara Gulcha bazaar, shops and basic hotel.
If you want to skip Osh , go immediately left at the crossing, 2km before you enter Osh . On the road to Sari Tash little traffic. The last pass before Sari Tash is a killer. There are actually two passes: after the first one, the road goes slightly downhill for a few kilometers, to start climbing again to the second pass, slightly lower.
|dist||total||on the road to…….||landmark |
|alt||food and lodging|
|55||55||Asphalt, pass 1110m. S||Usgen||1025||B,St,Sh,R|
|80||190||Asphalt, near the pass (2375m) unpaved.|
Past the big roundabout in Gulcha, after 100m on the left good restaurant.
|104||294||Asphalt, near the pass (3615m) unpaved. St||Sari Tash||3173||L,B,St,Sh|
|79||373||Slowly climbing unpaved road through beautiful jailoo. Border; closed 12.00/14.00 and on Sa+Su. Officially, in the mornings only traffic Kyrgyzstan-China and in the afternoons China-Kyrgyzstan. With bicycles you can manage through.|
In Simhana H,R,St,Sh
Money can be changed in the shops.
|Sari Tash- Border Irkeshtam|
|H,Sh just over the river 8km before the border. At the border a truck stop with very basic accommodation and food.|
Stolovaya just before the climb to the pass.
Kyrgyz border in the valley.
Tadjik border on the pass. No food.
|Sari Tash- Border Tajikistan||4296||Karakul in Tajikistan first place with stolovaya and small home stay.|
Very basic shop.
Stories go that you can ride from Engilchek, along the Chinese border to the Suek pass and on to the Barskoon-Kumtor road or even continue to Chatyr Kul. I met nobody who actually did it. If you want to try, get a border permit.