Travel article: Son Kol Trek

Travel blogger: Christelle & Cedric

Trip story: Sur les routes de la soie

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Son Köl, Kirghizistan

Kyrgyzstan 4 days - September 2019






Let's meet the nomads!

Strangely 70 years of communism did not change and impact the authentic Kyrgyz culture and in particular nomadic culture - or at least semi-nomadic culture.

Every summer, families go to the "Jailoo" pastures with their cattle, set up a yurt camp to live and offer accommodation to the few tourists passing by. The horse becomes a means of locomotion to reach pastures and it is not uncommon to cross on the fast track (for cars not horses!) the shepherds who come down from their long months of exile in the mountains.


The country has more than 2000 lakes and Son Kol is the most popular among tourists (and nomads and nomadic camp for tourists!)

If the majority of the tourists go trekking on horseback over 3 days, we decide to do it alone and on foot over 2 days (I will not mention who is afraid to ride a horse.A clue : have a look to the previous step :))


We trace our itinerary with the help of the CBT (community tourism agency, managed by and for locals), get some names of nomad families who have yurts, prepare our picnics and go!


A car takes us to Kyzart then 10 km further along the river-90 km from Kochkor and a truck kindly offer us to go a bit further.


We are 5 on the front seat and we gain a few kilometers of walk and especially we communicate  with mimes and many animals sounds with the nomads, on their life in the pastures and their cattle.


Cédric is expert in sounds of cow, goat, sheep. It’s good to mention here we have neither learned Russian nor Kyrgyz and menus are not translated so we try our best to understand what we eat. He doesn’t perform the horse though yet!

Then it's time to walk to Tuz Ashuu Pass, 1000m higher. It rises slowly and we are alone again on this trail with horses and sheep. Behind us are the Tian Shan mountains of orange, degraded colors. That's wonderful. The pass at 3400m altitude will be celebrated with a small picnic, a 360 degree view and the lake that is in front of us.


Indeed Son Kol is behind the pass, placed in a bowl of 60 on 30 kilometers and surrounded by mountains with a bit of snow.


We have to walk a few more kilometers to go down to the shore (the lake is 3000m above sea level) and find a yurt where we will spend the night.

The long steppes are revealed, some hills and large spaces in pastel colors.


A few kilometers further, we are now at the shore and we see a charming camp of yurts. We hope to find one further on the shore to shorten tomorrow walking day but 3 km walk further we realize that all nomads have returned to the village already. The sun goes down quickly and we decide to turn back to the first camp of yurts to avoid the risk of sleeping under the stars by 2-3 degrees at night (and without sleeping bags)!

More fear than harm, we find the camp of nomads and are lodged by a charming couple, very young who will get married soon.

The food is great, kind of pizza and soup that warm us well, homemade jam, tea is flowing.

Then they light the stove in our yurt, install mattresses and blankets and at 8.30 pm we are ready for a good night's sleep after 17 kilometers and 1000m of altitude.


A great night and we leave with a full stomach for 8 kilometers along the lake and 16 with a new pass to pass at 3400 meters again (Uzbek Pass) and a long descent.

The silence is impressive, the lake is peaceful, we feel really good. A dog will follow us all along, opening the way. We meet some riders but the season is surely finished already. The desert landscapes leave us pensive and amazed. What a beautiful country!


At Kyzart, a car takes us for a few Soms (the local currency) back to Kochkor.


Again we are talking with locals about the three musketeers, Dumas, Macron and no football or Mbappe! Their French cultural references are so different from those of South Americans and Africans! (Aside: In Uzbekistan we will have long debates with our drivers of taxis and traveling companions about Neymar, Di Maria, Mbappe. Mimed debates, we still do not speak Russian or Uzbek!)

After a hat exchange between Cedric and his neighbor, Ak kalpak, hat made of white felt to evoke the snowy peaks of the country. Beautiful.


End of this second trek in Kyrgyzstan, 41 km in the legs, 1500 m of positive gain in elevation, a first night in a yurt and wonderful memories of large virgin areas. Amazing!


Some recommendations:

# we took a private driver to join in a day Karakol-Canyon from Skazka-Kochkor. 6000 soms for 5. There are also Marushka.

# in Kochkor, we visited 4 hostels before deciding on Malika Guesthouse. Great host and rooms! Room with Shared bathroom for 600 soms per person. 100 soms for breakfast.

# The canteen in front of Malika Guesthouse is very good at a bargain price.

# to reach Kyzart (+10 kilometers away), we booked a private car for 3500 soms.

# trek of 2 days:

Day 1: 10kms from Kyzart (+10 kms) to Tuz Ashuu pass to Son Kol: 14 kms and 1000m of elevation gain.

Day 2: walk along the lake for 8 kilometers. Then pass the Uzbek Pass (500 m elevation) and finally join Kyzart. 24 kilometers.

# night in the yurt + dinner + breakfast: 1500 soms per person. Great home, food and yurt!

# to refuel water: The river and the lake (soiled by cattle, take pills or boil it)



Leave a comment

Oct 11, 2019 - 08:30 AM

Quel courage ! la population est accueillante, votre yourte sympa ! vous vous débrouillez bien en chevaux !


Christelle & Cedric
Oct 17, 2019 - 05:06 PM

Non non on ne monte pas nous ;)