Outdoor Activities in Jalal-Abad
The best of Jalal-Abad treks, horseback riding, mountain biking and skiing.
For some of the best trekking and outdoor activities in Kyrgyzstan, Jalal-Abad region has it all. Travelers interested in outdoor activities like trekking, horseback riding, mountain biking and freeride skiing will have no shortage of options and adventures. From alpine lakes to mountain peaks, virgin walnut and juniper forests, deep gorges and mountain rivers, it’s hard to beat the diversity of landscapes and nature of Jalal-Abad region located in the western Tian-Shan Mountains in western Kyrgyzstan.
Over 70% of Jalal-Abad region is mountainous and you'll find the blend of colors and textures here in the Fergana, Talas and Chatkal mountain ranges different than in other parts of Kyrgyzstan. This is due to micro-climates in this area. Higher temperatures and more arid, high-desert conditions provide a stunning and dramatic backdrop. However, this contrasts with the lush, green forests that make up many of the region's nature reserves and their companion turquoise alpine lakes (Sary-Chelek and Toktogul Lakes) for which the region is noted.
Despite all this natural beauty, the region is still relatively unknown and off-the-beaten-path. You’ll likely have many of the trails and vistas all to yourself. Or, perhaps you’ll come across a local shepherd in the hills with his animals and you’ll share the moment with him and his family, enjoying a cup of tea and a bit of local hospitality as part of the adventure.
Below is an overview of the main outdoor activities in Jalal-Abad region, including trekking, horseback riding (horse treks), mountain biking, and freeride skiing. Some of the difficult trails will take you up over 3,000 meters, while a number of day treks and multi-day treks (and horse treks!) suit all types of adventurers and schedules. Many of the trekking routes below can also be done on horseback if you prefer. For fully supported treks check out our trekking tours and horse trek tours.
No matter which type of outdoor activity you choose, the route will offer you pristine nature, authentic local hospitality as you meet nomadic shepherds in the high jailoo (summer pastures) or walnut collectors in the forest, and a chance to experience turquoise alpine lakes as you hike in the western Tian-Shan Mountains.
Skip ahead for the outdoor activity that interests you most!
With so many trekking options in Jalal-Abad region of varying difficulties, lengths and altitudes it’s important to choose the right trek and trail for your level of experience, fitness, and comfort. Although Jalal-Abad region may not feature the extreme altitudes as in other regions of Kyrgyzstan, some of the trails and peaks can be quite steep and difficult. Be sure to review the technical and physical characteristics of each route, including the distance and altitude gains and losses each day, to be sure you choose a trek or trail that matches your fitness level and interests. We always recommend that you choose a trek that is a bit challenging, but at the same time allows space to enjoy the beautiful landscapes that you’ll surely find along the way.
We recommend taking a local guide for the longer and more difficult trekking routes. These treks often go through more challenging terrain and higher altitudes, and the trails are not always well-marked. Destination Jalal-Abad or a local CBT office can help you find a local trekking guide. Or, you can opt to book one of our trekking tours where everything – guide, food, camping gear, transport and more -- is provided.
However, experienced trekkers who are accustomed to alpine navigation and using GPS tracks or topographical maps may trek difficult routes independently.
If you are unsure which trek to choose or you wish to buy a trekking map, visit the Destination Jalal-Abad office.
Note: No special trekking permits are required for treks in the Jalal-Abad region.
May to October is the best time for trekking and outdoor activities in Jalal-Abad region. However, some of the routes that are at relatively low altitude can be trekked before May or after October, if the weather conditions allow. The weather in the mountains can change quickly. Be sure to check weather conditions and temperature before you go so that your trek is as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.
Trekking gear such as sleeping bags, tents, kitchenware and backpacks can be rented from CBT Arslanbob (+996 777 342 476), CBT Sary-Chelek (+996 772 799 049) and Destination Jalal-Abad Tourist Information Center in Sary-Chelek (Arkit village, May - October) in Jalal-Abad region. In the summer months trekking supplies might be limited so be sure to get in touch in advance. Note: When you book a trekking or horse trek tour, it will be a fully-serviced trek. That means that your tour will include a local guide, trekking and camping gear, food, accommodation and transport.
Trekking maps for the Jalal-Abad region are available at the Destination Jalal-Abad office, where you can also arrange a local trekking guide and receive assistance in finding the right trek that best fits your interests and schedule. You can also book fully-serviced treks here where all the planning details, transportation to the trailhead, route, and food along the way are handled for you so that you can simply enjoy the experience. Destination Jalal-Abad or local CBT offices can book fully-guided treks for you or help you organize a trekking guide, horse, food, camping gear, transport and accommodation.
There are local trails almost everywhere in the mountains in the Jalal-Abad region. There is definitely no shortage of trekking routes for you to choose from here. We list some of the best day treks in the region for their stunning and diverse landscapes, varied routes, and varied levels of difficulty and length. You can also book one of our popular trekking tours or horse trek tours where we take care of all the guiding, gear and logistics so you can just enjoy the experience.
Note: All the treks listed below can be done on foot or on horseback.
How to organize a trek in Jalal-Abad region: You can contact Destination Jalal-Abad to help you arrange any of the treks mentioned below, one of our trekking tours, or for any other trek you'd like to do in the region. Local CBT offices around the region can also organize treks for you, from day treks to multi-day adventures.
The day hike to Arslanbob Big Waterfall is one of the most popular hikes in the region. Located around 7-8 kilometers from Arslanbob village, this waterfall is around 80 meters high. It's a spectacular sight. It looks like a long tongue that comes out from the crack of the rock; the narrow stream of water comes down with a stunning roar. Although the route to the big waterfall is marked, please note that it is not so easy to get there as it can be quite slippery along the route and among its slopes. It is impossible to see the waterfall close-up, as it flows down to a deep abyss, but you can still enjoy its beauty and power from afar. You can ask the route to the big waterfall from your guest house in Arslanbob or get in touch with CBT Arslanbob for more details.
Arslanbob Small Waterfall
Located only 1.5 kilometers from the village of Arslanbob this is an easy, quick walk and is best combined with the day hike out to the big waterfall (see above). The small waterfall is rather wide and stands 25 meters in height. The water flows gently and is quite relaxing. You can enjoy a panoramic view of the waterfall from the viewpoint located just in front. There are also stairs down closer to the base of the waterfall. Along the side of the waterfall are several small praying caves where local pilgrims and people come to pray. One is called the Cave of 40 Angels, noting their role as guardians of the local beauty. You can ask the route to the big waterfall from your guest house in Arslanbob or get in touch with CBT Arslanbob for more details.
The Sary-Chelek Seven Lakes day hike features a "best of" sampling of Sary-Chelek Nature Reserve's alpine lakes. The trail begins at Kyla-Kel Lake and continues past six other alpine lakes of different sizes and character, each surrounded by beautiful mountain vistas, until you reach Sary-Chelek Lake, the biggest and most famous lake of them all. To get to the trailhead you will need to arrange transport from your guest house in Arkyt (around 2,000 KGS for dropoff at the trailhead and pickup at Sary-Chelek Lake). Alternatively, you can make a loop that begins and ends at Sary-Chelek lake (around 11 km). Get in touch with Destination Jalal-Abad's Sary-Chelek TIC or CBT Sary-Chelek (actually located in Kara Suu village) for more information about this hike and if you want to hire a trekking guide.
Most people only see Toktogul Reservoir from the M41 highway, but if you really want to appreciate the beauty of this massive lake and its surrounding nature then the Kyzyl-Too Panoramic View day hike is for you. It begins at the edge of Toktogul town and takes you up to Kyzyl-Too rim so that you have a vast panoramic view of everything below. Contact CBT Toktogul for more information about the route or if you want to hire a local trekking guide.
This trek can be done on foot or on horseback and takes you from Kara-Alma village into the wild walnut forest on the edge of the Kok-Art Valley. While most of the route is covered in forest you'll also have an opportunity to enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains and ridges. The end of the route is the sacred Emchek-Unkur cave where you might see visiting families coming to pray and pay respects. If you do this trek in the autumn months you'll find families in the forest harvesting walnuts and collecting different fruits and nuts.
Horses play an important role in Kyrgyz culture. The focus on horses throughout Jalal-Abad region is no different. For travelers, horse treks offer one of the best ways to explore the mountains, lakes, gorges and forests of Jalal-Abad region. Traveling on horseback allows you to cover more ground during the day and allows you to take in the panoramic views of the mountains and other stunning landscapes. However, since the mountain passes here are not so high or steep, this makes Jalal-Abad region a perfect place for beginners to try horseback riding. With so many beautiful natural attractions, there is a horse trek to suit every skill level, interest, and schedule. When you book a horse trek tour here this includes the horse, guide, food and any other gear you might need.
The list above of day treks in Sary-Chelek, Arslanbob, Toktogul, and Kara-Alma can all be done on horseback. However, there are endless trails suitable for horses in these and other parts of Jalal-Abad region and you can find some epic multi-day horse trek tours around Sary-Chelek and Arslanbob.
How to organize a horse trek in Jalal-Abad region: You can contact Destination Jalal-Abad to help you arrange any of the horse treks mentioned above, one of our popular horse trek tours, or for any other horseback riding you'd like to do in the region. Local CBT offices around the region can also organize horse treks for you, from one day to multi-day journeys.
Arslanbob offers several different mountain bike trails through its walnut forest, most suitable to beginners hoping for a fun day trip. There are also longer and more difficult trails into the mountains, which are suited for experienced, advanced mountain bikers who are able to handle rough, rugged terrain.
How to organize a mountain biking trip in the Jalal-Abad region: You can contact Destination Jalal-Abad or CBT Arslanbob to organize a mountain biking trip and arrange mountain bike rental. Current mountain bike rental fees are 1,500 KGS/day when the bike is returned to Arslanbob. A one-way rental (when the bike is returned to another destination) runs 2,000 KGS/day bike since the bike must be transported back to its original location. Mountain bike guide fees are 2,000 KGS/day for tours around Arslanbob and 3,500 KGS/day for the mountain bike tour to Jalal-Abad city.
Arslanbob - Jalal-Abad City Mountain Biking Trip
One of the favorite mountain biking routes in this area runs from Arslanbob village to Jalal-Abad city. You'll have the opportunity to go through pristine forest, through the hills, and along mountain streams. This route is mostly downhill so you can enjoy a bit of adrenaline and speed along the way. If you rent your mountain bike from CBT Arslanbob they will arrange return of your bike rental to the village.
The hills behind Arslanbob village provide the perfect setting each winter for freeride skiing and snowboarding. There's no shortage of fresh powder and pristine mountain settings. Snowshoeing is also possible through the Arslanbob walnut forest or through the nearby mountains.
How to organize a ski trip in Jalal-Abad region: You can contact Destination Jalal-Abad or CBT Arslanbob to help you organize a skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing trip. Ski rental (including boots) is 600 KGS/day and snowshoe rental is 500 KGS/day in Arslanbob. You can also hire local ski guides for 2,500 KGS/day for local trips around Arslanbob or 3,000 KGS/day for one-way trips which conclude in another destination.
With clear, turquoise waters it's hard to resist jumping into mountain lakes to cool off from the summer heat. Although it is forbidden to swim in official nature reserves (e.g., Sary-Chelek Lake) there are other popular swimming areas throughout the region. Many of these are popular with local people so you will find local families having picnics and relaxing along the shore of the lake.
Where to go swimming in Jalal-Abad region:
- Toktogul Reservoir: This is a popular swimming spot for locals in the summer months as the water can get as warm as 28 degrees Celsius. Enjoy swimming in the vast lake, with its sweeping views of the surrounding cliffs.