Chon Kemin – Kok Archa Guesthouse
The Chon Kemin national park is the biggest natural reserve of Kyrgyzstan, it is therefore worth a visit. The national park is very appreciated both by Kyrgyz and tourists for its rich ecosystem. Indeed, you will find various landscapes such as mountains, green hills and steppes, home to a huge variety of wild animals.
Tar Suu is one of the small villages located in the Chon Kemin national park. It is surrounded by an endless amount of meadows and wild forests. Here, you will witness the beauty of untouched nature.
You will feel welcomed by Urmat and his family. Although they do not speak English, be sure that they will do all that they can to make you feel at home and help you discover their beautiful region.
Urmat and his family live in a big house, with several bedrooms dedicated to hosting guests. By staying with them, you will therefore experience typical Kyrgyz lifestyle as well as benefit from Urmat’s extended knowledge on nature. You will see him, every evening, watch through the window, what wild animals can be found on the hill behind the house.
You will find bedrooms for one, two or more guests. The house is equipped with a kitchen, a bathroom, a washing machine and an internet connection. You may cook yourself or taste typical Kyrgyz food prepared by your hosts. Note that vegetarian options are available on demand.
A nice plus is the quiet garden you will find at the back of the house, with a view on the mountains. It is perfect to relax in on sunny days.
Although impressive landscapes surround the village by all sides, do not miss out on the village itself. By walking in the streets, you will find small houses and shops, fields, as well as the Chon Kemin river. You may also go see some of the monuments there are, such as the war tank or a big representation of the kalpak (traditional Kyrgyz hat).
Once this is done, you may go explore the nearby forests and mountains. You will find endless small paths to lose yourself in nature. However, a nice option would be a hike of a 15 kilometers loop. Beware, however, this hike is far from being flat, with its elevation of over 800 meters. This should take 4 hours on foot, but you will take many breaks on the way to appreciate the beauty and calm of the places you will see.
As the mountains are inhabited by deer, boars, wolves, bears, pheasants and many other wild animals, you will need to keep a careful eye to spot them, so binoculars may help.
As Tar Suu is located 150 kilometers east from Bishkek, it is a perfect stop on your way to Issyk Kul or Karakol. From Bishkek, grab marshrutka #309 from the Western Bus Station, which will drop you off directly in the National Park. The price should be of around 180 soms.
Note that except if you speak Kyrgyz, your only chance to communicate with the family will be by using an online translator, such as Google Translate. Although it may seem as a potential struggle, finding other ways to communicate adds to the charm of the experience.
Full Travel Description
4,000 meters/12,000 feet
Overview: This horse trek begins with a night in Kemin guesthouse on the north shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, and the ride begins on the second day. There are three days of riding for approximately 4-5 hours/day, and two nights spent camping in tents in a mountain pasture (жайлоо) and next to Kel Kogur, a tranquil alpine lake. The descent from the mountains is on the fourth day of the trek, followed by dinner and an overnight in a guesthouse in Chon-Kemin, and a return home on the fifth day.
Arrival to Kemin Guesthouse near Shabdan village. Lunch and dinner at the guesthouse, with trails in nearby hills for hiking.
13.00 arrival to Kemin guesthouse
Time to hike and explore Chon-Kemin
The ride this day journeys through verdant pastures and wooded hills, ascending in altitude to reach a the campsite in-between two lush hills.
9.00 meeting the guides and packing the horses
10.00 start of ride
12.00 lunch break
16.00 arrival to the campsite
The ride today includes both steep ascents and descents, and a rise in elevation. After riding across several hilltops, there is a steep ascent into a flat valley, where tents will be set up along the shore of Kel Kogur – a hidden alpine lake.
9.00 start of ride
2.00 arrival to Kel Kogur lake & lunch
Time to hike, explore, and swim in Kel Kogur
This day features the most intense riding, ascending out of the lake valley and across a mountain pass at 4000 meters. After that, there is slow descent on a rocky trail through the mountain valley, leading out of the mountains through grassy hills. The last stretch of the trek approaches Lake Issyk-Kul across a flat, rocky stretch of desert between the foothills by the mountains and the cliffs near the lake. Upon reaching the cliffs, the group stops one last picnic dinner. After dinner, they are met by a mini-bus, which will take them the rest of the way to Kok-Archa or Boo-Jetpes guesthouses, or one of the rangers’ houses in Chon-Kemin.
9.00 start of ride
16.30 arrival to cliff site for dinner
18.00 minibus ride back to Cholpon-Ata
17.00 arrival to guesthouse in Cholpon-Ata
Breakfast at the guesthouse, then departure for Bishkek.
- Rain poncho
- Warm, water-resistant hiking shoes
- Clothes for 5 days
- Suitable riding pants (jeans)
- Layerable sweatshirts
- Sleeping bags (may be rented at additional cost from Ilbirs)
- Helmets for horseback riding
- Chaps for additional comfort while riding
- Thermos for hot drinks
What kind of food will we be eating?
- Varieties of Kyrgyz dishes, such diim-dama & plov. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are available upon request.
What will the weather be like?
- Within one day we may experience temperatures ranging from 0 C in the mountains, to 30 C closer to the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. We recommend packing layers to accommodate this range of temperature. There is often rain and hail in the mountains, which can feel very cold without suitable clothing.
Do I need to have experience riding horses?
- Though it can help to feel more comfortable on the horse if you have experience, experience isn’t necessary to participate. If you are nervous about guiding a horse on the mountain slopes, you can also be tethered to a guide’s horse for additional safety.
- Bring many layers – weather in the mountains changes quickly and temperatures may be extreme