Category: Horseback or trekking
Duration: 3 days
Level of Difficulty: Moderate (3passes above 3000 m, the highest at 3400 m)
Best season: mid June – mid September
The jailoos are the pastures where Kyrgyz shepherds tend their flocks in the summer, and Song-Kol is the jewel of the jailoos, a stunning 270 km2 of sparkling water at 3016 m, surrounded by 3700 m mountains on all sides. For the fullest jailoo experience, approach the lake via the mountains enclosing the western end of Kochkor Valley, moving from jailoo to jailoo and staying with shepherd families in remote meadows far off the beaten path. Enjoy homemade jam, fresh cream, bread still warm from the oven, and the best kymyz (fermented mare’s milk) around. The route traverses remote Jumgal rayon, and reaches Song-Kol via Jalgyz-Karagai (Lonely Fir) Pass on the north shore.
Day 1: Kochkor village — Kilemche jailoo via Kyzart pass 2664m
After breakfast at Kochkor home stay head west to the Kochkor — Jumgal road. Follow the road by car to the Kyzart Pass, where your guide team welcome you with ready prepared horses. Start your horseback tour with crossing the Kyzyl-Kiya jailoo, an enormous, relatively flat sea of grass. Continue over the Chaar-Archa Pass (3 061 m) into the Chaar-Archa Valley and eat a tasty lunch by the racing river, with views of holy 4400 m Baba-Ata Mountain. Sated, ford the river and follow the trail over verdant hills to Kilemche Jailoo. The name means “like a carpet,” and this swathe of grass covers whole mountain ranges, with shadings as subtle as any shyrdak (shyrdak is a Kyrgyz felt carpet). Dine and sleep in a yurt, naturally.
Horse time: 4-5 hours
Trek time: 5-6 hours
Day 2: Kilemche jailoo — Tuz-Ashuu valley
After breakfast at Kilemche, spend the morning climbing to Jalgyz Karagai pass (3400 m), over the Song-Kol Mountains and into the lake’s basin. The morning climb affords wonderful views of Kilemche jailoo, and the pass itself is rocky and exciting. From the pass, Song-Kol is still distant, but as you traipse down the slopes, it gets larger and larger; the mountains on the other side get higher and higher, until finally the lake fills most of your field of view and the southern mountains tower above it. After lunch at Jaman Echki, follow the lakeshore west to the yurt at Tuz-Ashuu. Upon arrival meet your host family of Kyrgyz shepherds. Meals and overnight are in a yurt of shepherds.
Horse time: 5 hours.
Trek time: 6 hours
Day 3: Tuz-Ashuu valley — Kyzart village
Last breakfast at Song Kol Jailoo. Leave to Kyzart village via TuzAshuu Pass. The pass opens you the spectacular panoramic view to Jumgal and SongKol valleys. Say “Goodbye SongKol” and ride down to the village where hot lunch is waiting for you in a local family home stay. After lunch transfer to Kochkor or Kyzyl-Oi village. Accommodation and dinner in the home stay. Horse time is 4 hours, trek time 5 hours. Kyzart – Kyzyl-Oi or Kyzart – Kochkor drive is 2 hours.
Accommodation & meals:
- 2 nights in yurts,
- 3 lunches,
- 2 dinners
- 2 breakfasts in a yurt.
- trekking boots,
- weatherproof warm clothes,
- sleeping bag and mat.