This is an adventurous two week camping trail to the heart of the majestic Pamir Mountains of Kyrgyzstan.
The majestic Pamir range has a series of 9 plateaux, from the first in Kyrgyzstan, through eastern Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. On this trip we ride in the remote valleys and passes of the first plateau which is very green. In the summer shepherds drive their flocks in the mountains to take advantage of the lush grazing. We encounter these local herders and visit with them.
Each trip is different and depends on the weather and local conditions, but generally speaking we head west from Sari Moghul, into the mountains, descending after some time to cross the floor of the great valley and ending at the base camp of Lenin Peak. Overnight we camp near shepherds' yurts, which, on occasion, we may be invited to stay in.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from ID of Lüneburg on 08/06/2018
Day 1 – International Travel
Fly to Osh Airport and land in the early hours of the morning on Day 2 (06:35am in 2017).
Day 2 – Osh – Gulcho
You will head to a guesthouse in Osh with an opportunity to shower, have breakfast and sleep for a few hours. At around noon you will have lunch in Osh before being driven to Gulcho (1.5hrs). You will stop at hot springs located about 15km before reaching Gulcho. Overnight guesthouse.
Day 3 – Gulcho – Sary-Mogol
If anyone needs to purchase anything the hosts can stop at the bazaar in the morning before setting off in the 4x4 for the drive to Sary-Mogol (170kim, 4 hours). Overnight with the family of your guide in Sary-Moghol.
Day 4-11 – Horse Trek
On the 4th evening of the trek a car will being you back to Sary-Mogol for an overnight stay. You can change some of your luggage.
Day 12 – Sary-Mogol to Osh
Approximately 5 hour drive. Overnight in the centre of Osh in a nice guesthouse with a small garden. 2 nights will be spent here.
Day 13 – Free day in Osh
Many people like to visit the Bazaar in Osh. This is the largest bazaar in central Asia, a cross roads with truly everything to be seen. Many cultures come here to trade; Uzbel, Tajik, Kyrgyz… There is a religious mountain many make pilgrimage to with a nice view from the top. The visit takes 2-3 hours. It is also possible to arrange massages in Osh. There are many possible activities.
Departure in the early hours of the morning.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses used for the tour are owned by the Kyrgyz clans and carefully selected by the organisers. They are usually local breeds such as Donskaya or Kyrgyz or crosses of the two, they vary in height from 14.1-15.3hh and are very surefooted, extremely fit and adapted to the altitude and mountainous terrain. The saddles are usually traditional Kyrgyz or Russian saddles and are covered with a large and deep sheep skin cloth. They are very comfortable for all day rides. Saddle bags are available on request. Packhorses will carry the food and tents and they may take a different route. The horses are all male, either stallions or geldings. The mares are used for breeding.
There aren't riding hats available to borrow.
- Fit and adventurous nature.
- Comfortable spending up to six to seven hours a day in the saddle.
- Experience of camping is an advantage
- Technical riding abilities are not as important as being fit and confident.
- The group can be split and there will several opportunities to trot and canter for good riders.
The weight limit for this ride is 210 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
In Osh we stay in a small hotel with en-suite bedrooms and hot showers. On the trail accommodation is in two person dome tents. For a single supplement you can have a tent to yourself. You need to bring a sleeping mat (thermarest recommended) and sleeping bag, although sleeping bags can be rented on site for around €1.50 per day. As we usually camp near local shepherds it is often possible to pay a small supplement locally to sleep in the yurt of the shepherds. This is arranged through your guide and costs in the region of $5/night. Your luggage is carried on your horse and hence you are asked to pack a maximum of 10-12 kg. There are pack horses for the communal gear and food supplies. The group size can vary between two and seven people on each trail although the usual number is four or five. You are accompanied by an English speaking translator as well as local horse guides and a cook. Riders are asked to help with grooming, saddling their own horses and helping with erecting their own tents. Breakfast items: porridge, pancakes, bread, eggs, tea, coffee Lunch: this is usually substantial but not cooked: bread, cheese, rice salads. Dinner: this is two courses and usually begins with various soups followed by pasta dishes, rice or potatoes with meat and local vegetables.
There is intermittent phone signal; even in the mountains sometimes!
Sleeping bags and mats can be bought in - please enquire.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
Since 2012 British and most European nationals don’t need a visa to enter and stay for up to 60 days. If you stay in Kyrgyzstan for over 60 days without a valid visa, you’ll be liable for a fine. It’s not possible to get a visa in Kyrgyzstan if you originally entered the country without a visa. If you think you may spend more than 60 days in Kyrgyzstan, you should get a visa from a Kyrgyz Embassy before you travel or on arrival at the airport in Bishkek. The visa can be extended at a Kyrgyz Government office at 66, Razzakova Street in Bishkek.
The Kyrgyz Embassy in London is at:
119 Crawford Street
London W1U 6BJ
Telephone: (020) 7935 1462
British interests in Kyrgyzstan are represented by the British Embassy in Almaty, Kazakhstan. For consular advice or emergency assistance, please contact the British Honorary Consul in Bishkek: Osoo Fatboys, Prospekt Chyi 104, Bishkek. Tel: (996) 312 680815 or Mobile tel:(996 312) 584245
The most comfortable season for riding in the Pamir-Alai is July-September/October. Deep snow prevents the crossing of even the lowest mountain passes until late June, while after October serious winter equipment is needed and Kyrgyz shepherds, a glimpse into whose rugged lives is one of the highlights of any trip, have started to retreat from the high pastures. In these summer months, diurnal temperature ranges can be dramatic with daytime temperatures of over 30 degrees, and frost registered every night above 4,000 m. The mountains, always barren beyond the irrigated fields of the villages, can appear at their most desolate; yet in the upper valleys, beyond the final village and road-head, you will come across dazzling Alpine pastures, small niches for wild flowers, bees and butterflies. It is to these pastures that the shepherds head with their flocks of sheep and goats and herds of cattle and yak, the shepherds' camps consisting of yurts in the case of the Kyrgyz.
Autumn, running from mid September to October, affords the most picturesque landscapes as the skies are clearer, the rivers are running lower and turquoise blue, while the fields and orchards of the villages are a blaze of colour and harvest activity. Lower night-time temperatures must be contended with and the shepherds are leaving by the end, but on the other hand the high passes are even freer of snow. Lower altitude trekking, village to village in the Pamir Alai, is truly sublime at this time of year.
You should look into vaccinations for Hepatitis A & E, diphtheria. Tuberculosis is endemic. Altitude sickness can occur at higher levels. Play it safe and don't drink the water even if locals say it's OK to drink. You should consult with your G.P.
The reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Kyrgyzstan terminated on 1 January 2016.
Medical facilities in Kyrgyzstan are not as developed as those in the UK. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 103 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org. In addition country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website. Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz and you should be able to use appliances with suitable adaptors which are widely available for purchase at most airports.
There is no electricity en route on the camping portion of the trip - please ensure you have enough film and batteries for your camera/video equipment.
Pack the same clothes as you would for an outdoor camping trip. Layers are essential; temperatures can change quickly and dramatically in mountain regions and range between +24°C and -10°C. Please note that the maximum weight for luggage to be taken in the saddlebags is 12kg per person. Your travel bag will stay with your hosts in the village, safely, with your unnecessary
belongings for trekking. You will be able to prepare an extra small bag with a few items that the food supply Jeep can bring you in the middle of the hike (which will allow you to exchange some clothes or other things).Be sure to include:
Wind/waterproof outer layer coat
Warm sweater or fleece/down jacket
Riding helmet with wide brim (none available to hire)
Trekking or hiking shoes with a heel for riding in
Water bottle, one suitable for taking HOT water
Water purification tablets are advised
Flashlight or headlight
Sleeping bag suitable for temperatures as low as - 5C (can be bought in for you)
Light inflatable sleeping mat for under the sleeping bag (can be bought in for you)
Thermal underwear/long sleeved shirts
A duffel bag for your luggage (soft and water resistant)
Bin bags in case of wet weather
High factor sun cream
Protein bars for snacks
A personal medical kit with some immodium/possibly antibiotics, oral rehydration sachets and some pain killers eg ibuprofen
Saddle bags are provided for your equipment, please do not take more than 10-12kg of luggage.
As the saddles are horses are small the stirrups may equally be of a moderate size. Men with size 8 and above riding boots/walking shoes should bring a pair of light weight plastic stirrups to ensure they are adequately equipped.
Please ensure you keep your passport with you during the ride as you may need it in the border zones.
This is a 14 day/13 night programme with 8 riding available on set dates. Dates can be tailor made for 2 riders onwards subject to availability.
PLEASE NOTE: Day 1 of this itinerary is a travel day to arrive in the early hours of Day 2.
Not running in 2021
2022: Please enquire
None if willing to share
Waters flowing off these vast mountains give rise to flower-filled alpine meadows, lush forests and lowland Turanga. They also feed the great lakes and inland deltas to the north.
Its flora – consisting of over 6,000 species – is superb, and its alpine and bulbous plants are particularly special.
The diversity and range of animals and birds in the Pamir Alai is big. Species typifying the mountain fauna include wolves, red foxes, and ermines. There also are many distinctively Central Asian species, chiefly inhabiting the high mountains; these include snow leopards, mountain goats, Manchurian roe, roe deer, and mountain sheep. The forest-meadow-steppe zone is inhabited by bears, wild boars, badgers and field voles amongst others.
A note on hospitality
Kyrgyz hospitality is legendary, and you will undoubtedly meet with it along the way, whether in villages or shepherds' camps. There are less people around later in the season (Sept time) as many have left the pastures. Interaction with local communities is always one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of a visit to any foreign culture, and you will doubtless be entertained by raw musical performances in the museums that are Kyrgyz yurts. However, it is easy for such hospitality, especially in the economic conditions of Tajikistan, to be abused. You will be offered the same food to eat as that eaten by the poverty-stricken people of the settlements in which you are staying - that means bread, salt-tea, dairy products, meat which unless freshly slaughtered is likely to be somewhat dubious, and, either fresh or dried fruits (apricots, mulberry). If you accept the hospitality, you will be obliged to eat the food. If you produce your own food, you should be prepared to share it around, and it won't go very far in a household of over 10 people. If you are more than 2 people it is in any case unfair to accept the hospitality of food-deficit families. Gifts, preferably cash, will be refused at first but accepted eventually, and you should persevere. The amount is up to you, you soon learn to gauge it, but it would be suggested $5 per night. If you supplement this by taking photographs of the family, and honouring your promise to forward the prints, the host family will be delighted. Remember that you may not be near a settlement at night. Furthermore, the limited space and means of shepherds' camps, and the eye-stinging smoke of the aylaq, may mean you have to (or prefer) to sleep outside anyway.
The modern nation of Kyrgyzstan is based on a civilisation of nomadic tribes who moved across the eastern and northern sections of present-day Central Asia. Following a brief period of independence after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution toppled the Russian empire, the territory of present-day Kyrgyzstan was designated a constituent part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1924 before the region achieved the status of a full republic of the Soviet Union in 1936. Kyrgyzstan became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.
What Kyrgyzstan (or 'Kyrgizstan') lacks in gracious buildings and fancy cakes, it makes up for with nomadic traditions such as laid-back hospitality, a healthy distrust of authority and a fondness for drinking fermented mare's milk. It is perhaps the most accessible and welcoming of the Central Asian republics but Kyrgyzstan has a secular constitution. Most Kyrgyz people are Muslims. Homosexuality was legalised on 1 January 1998. However, homosexuality is not often discussed or recognised publicly. You should take care over public displays of affection.
Kyrgystan is five hours ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.
The international dialling code for Kyrgyzstan is +996.