Offbeat Trekking in Kyrgyzstan: Jyrgalan Boz Uchuk Lakes Trek, A Beginner’s Guide

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Last Updated on November 12, 2022 by Audrey Scott

With over 90% of its territory covered in mountains, Kyrgyzstan has no shortage of treks filled with stunning landscapes, alpine lakes, shepherds, yurts and a feeling of being very far out, immersed in nature. It's why we often recommend Kyrgyzstan to travelers interested in trekking with a taste of the offbeat. Our recent trek of the newly developed Boz-Uchuk Lakes Trek in the Tian Shan mountains above Jyrgalan village reminded us again why we make such recommendations.

Kyrgyzstan trekking Boz Uchuk Trek, Jyrgalan
Morning reflections on the Jyrgalan Boz Uchuk Lakes Trek.

Trekking in Kyrgyzstan, you'll find you don't often run into too many other travelers; there's plenty of space and elevation to go around. But if you really want to go offbeat and have the mountains to yourself, consider the newly developed Jyrgalan (Jergalan) to Boz Uchuk Lakes Trek in eastern Kyrgyzstan.

You'll share the peaks and alpine lakes with just a handful of shepherds and their animals grazing on the jailoo (high pastures). It's this sort of trademark experience that makes Kyrgyzstan an unusual trekking destination.

We felt fortunate to be among the first to experience this new trek in Jyrgalan Valley. Its path takes you 55km (33.5 miles) through the Terskei Ala-Too Range of the Tian Shan Mountains of eastern Kyrgyzstan, over mountain passes, across river valleys and up to alpine lakes.

Given our previous visits to Kyrgyzstan, our expectations were high. Yet they were exceeded in terms of landscape and overall trekking experience.

Kyrgyzstan Trekking, Boz Uchuk Trek with Horsemen in Jyrgalan Valley
Horses and their horsemen, to carry our gear across mountain passes.

Here’s why, day by day. Here’s also why you might want to consider putting trekking in Kyrgyzstan — with over 90% of its territory covered in mountains, 40% of which are over 3,000 meters / 9,840 feet — on your travel wish list. We’ve included all you need to know to plan, prepare for and enjoy the Boz Uchuk Lakes trek.

What to Expect on The Boz Uchuk Lakes Trek in Jyrgalan Valley: Day by Day

Originally a coal mining village, Jyrgalan has had a rough time of things since the mines closed a decade ago. The local economy and business declined and half the population left. The setting of Jyrgalan, surrounded by mountains, makes it a prime location for trekking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Within the last year, a few community members have joined together to form a DMO (Destination Management Organization) to promote tourism development in the area with the goal of increasing local economic opportunities. The Boz Uchuk Lakes trek is among its initial experience offerings.

We did the Boz Uchuk Lakes trek with a mountain guide, cook, and horses to carry camping equipment, food, and our gear. We were thankful for the full support. Because we only carried a daypack and camera during the day, we could focus on the experience at hand. Our big backpacks, tent and other supplies were all carried by horses.

Food appeared at lunch stops and our tents and backpacks, complete with clothes for cooler nights, appeared at our campsites at the end of each day, just as we needed them. Not to mention, the local horsemen served as our unofficial cultural ambassadors by sharing videos of Kyrgyz music, sports and family stories from their phones.

With detours to alpine lakes each day, the Jyrgalan trail and surrounding landscape proved more beautiful and varied than we'd expected. Our photos don't fully do justice to the fluctuations of mountain light and color.

Note: The route below represents the three-day Boz Uchuk Lakes trek route we experienced, as tracked by our use of the Endomondo app. You can also find the official GPS tracks here. It is possible to extend the trek to five days, or to shorten it to an overnight experience.