Videos of the Ala-Kul Trek

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Difficulty

Moderate - Difficult | Level 1

Duration

6 Days

Highest Altitude

12,750 ft

Age

13 to 55 years

Duration

6 Days

Age

13 to 55 years

Difficulty

Moderate - Difficult | Level 1

Highest Altitude

12,750 ft

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Trek fee

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Ala-Kul Trek - Kyrgyzstan

Trek to Kyrgyzstan’s Pristine Glacial Lake

The Ala-Kul or the Ala-Kol trek in Kyrgyzstan is a grand crossover trek that takes you close to the most beautiful glacial lake we have seen outside India, the Ala-Kul. Kul or Kol in Kyrgyz means a ‘lake’, hence the name means the ‘Ala Lake’ trek.

The milky-blue Ala-Kul lies at approximately 11,580 ft in the Tien Shan mountain ranges of Central Asia. You’ll have to cross the thrilling Ala-Kul Pass at 12,750 ft to get to this lake.

This challenging trek takes you through the most beautiful coniferous forests and grasslands of the Altyn Arashan and Karakol Valleys, where the landscape is dotted with wildflowers of varying colours and gushing rivers.

As you gain altitude, the lush green valley opens up to alpine meadows sprinkled with juniper shrubs, moraine and scree. This combination of scenery is rarely seen elsewhere. It’s like a combination of our treks from Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand, where you get to walk on the green carpet of meadows lined with coniferous trees, and see snow-capped mountains, witness a glacier, and camp next to a glacier-fed lake.

Kyrgyzstan also has a striking resemblance to India. So much so that when our founders and the rest of the team landed in Bishkek, they felt like they were in a city which is much like Srinagar in India. They felt welcomed in a land that is so far away from home.

Not just the city, it has a rich culture and tradition, and the people are very approachable. Just like shared taxis here in India, Kyrgyzstan has ‘marshrutkas’ (maxi-van type shared taxis) and buses that keep you well connected across cities. Whether it stays, food or travel, everything is pocket-friendly.

The Ala-Kul trek is suitable for trekkers who have experienced high-altitude treks before. And if you are a beginner, you’ll have to be in the best of fitness to do this ‘moderate-difficult’ level trek.

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Quick Itinerary

A route map of the Ala-Kul trek

Day 1

Reach Karakol

Drive Distance: 403 km | Duration: 6.5 hours

Take a Marshrutka (shared taxi) from Bishkek and reach Karakol on your first day.

Day 2

Drive from Karakol to Ak-Suu. Trek from Ak-Suu to Altyn Arashan

Trek Distance: 13.50 km | Duration: 6-7 hours | Altitude Gain: 6,410 ft to 8,275 ft

Moderate. Gradually ascending, a few small sections of long switchback climbs.

Day 3

Trek from Altyn Arashan to Ala-Kul Base Camp

Trek Distance: 8.50 km | Duration: 6-7 hours | Altitude Gain: 8,275 ft to 11,840 ft

Moderate - Difficult. Gentle ascending walk in the beginning, until the first stream, followed by a steep ascent through coniferous forest. After the forest it is a continuous gradual ascent until the base camp.

Day 4

Trek from Ala-Kul Base Camp to Ala-Kul via Ala-Kul Pass

Trek Distance: 3.20 km | Duration: 4 hours | Altitude Gain and Loss: 11,840 ft to 11,675 ft via 12,750 ft

Difficult. Steep climb to the Pass over loose scree followed by descent over scree and boulders.

Day 5

Trek from Ala-Kul to Karakol Base Camp

Trek Distance: 6 km | Duration: 5-6 hours | Altitude Loss: 11,675 ft to  ft 8,370 ft

Moderate - Difficult. Loose stone, scree, and gravely steep descending trail followed by a trail through thick undergrowth for a large part, towards the end of the coniferous trees.

Day 6

Trek from Karakol Base Camp to Karakol Village

Trek Distance: 12.50 km | Duration: 5-6 hours | Altitude Loss: 8,370 ft to 6,600 ft

Easy. Very gradually descending trail down the Karakol river.

IMPORTANT POINTS

- It is mandatory for trekkers to carry a copy of their photo ID for entry at forest check posts on the trek.

- On the trek, you will be staying 3 in a tent

A route map of the Ala-Kul trek

PRO-TIPS

Onward Travel

If you're planning to travel to Bishkek, opt to fly via Tashkent in Uzbekistan. If you have a couple of days to spare, Uzbekistan has a lot of places of interest like Samarkand, Madrasa etc., that cannot be missed if you are travelling all the way to Kyrgyzstan.

Return Travel

While returning, you will reach Karakol by late afternoon. Plan your travel by keeping a couple of spare days in hand. Visit Issyk Kul lake, Osh Bazaar and many other tourist attractions in Kyrgyzstan.

Day 1

Reach Karakol

Drive Distance: 403 km | Duration: 6.5 hours

Take a Marshrutka (shared taxi) from Bishkek and reach Karakol on your first day.

Day 2

Drive from Karakol to Ak-Suu. Trek from Ak-Suu to Altyn Arashan

Trek Distance: 13.50 km | Duration: 6-7 hours | Altitude Gain: 6,410 ft to 8,275 ft

Moderate. Gradually ascending, a few small sections of long switchback climbs.

Day 3

Trek from Altyn Arashan to Ala-Kul Base Camp

Trek Distance: 8.50 km | Duration: 6-7 hours | Altitude Gain: 8,275 ft to 11,840 ft

Moderate - Difficult. Gentle ascending walk in the beginning, until the first stream, followed by a steep ascent through coniferous forest. After the forest it is a continuous gradual ascent until the base camp.

Day 4

Trek from Ala-Kul Base Camp to Ala-Kul via Ala-Kul Pass

Trek Distance: 3.20 km | Duration: 4 hours | Altitude Gain and Loss: 11,840 ft to 11,675 ft via 12,750 ft

Difficult. Steep climb to the Pass over loose scree followed by descent over scree and boulders.

Day 5

Trek from Ala-Kul to Karakol Base Camp

Trek Distance: 6 km | Duration: 5-6 hours | Altitude Loss: 11,675 ft to  ft 8,370 ft

Moderate - Difficult. Loose stone, scree, and gravely steep descending trail followed by a trail through thick undergrowth for a large part, towards the end of the coniferous trees.

Day 6

Trek from Karakol Base Camp to Karakol Village

Trek Distance: 12.50 km | Duration: 5-6 hours | Altitude Loss: 8,370 ft to 6,600 ft

Easy. Very gradually descending trail down the Karakol river.

IMPORTANT POINTS

- It is mandatory for trekkers to carry a copy of their photo ID for entry at forest check posts on the trek.

- On the trek, you will be staying 3 in a tent

PRO-TIPS

Onward Travel

If you're planning to travel to Bishkek, opt to fly via Tashkent in Uzbekistan. If you have a couple of days to spare, Uzbekistan has a lot of places of interest like Samarkand, Madrasa etc., that cannot be missed if you are travelling all the way to Kyrgyzstan.

Return Travel

While returning, you will reach Karakol by late afternoon. Plan your travel by keeping a couple of spare days in hand. Visit Issyk Kul lake, Osh Bazaar and many other tourist attractions in Kyrgyzstan.

Why I Believe Everyone Must Trek: A Note from the Founder

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Trekking transforms lives. It has changed my life totally. When I see my colleagues at Indiahikes, all of them have been impacted greatly. The transformations have been profound and irreversible. 

I see it in our trekkers too. I have seen them change professions, careers or start a new life. I have seen them get in and out of relationships, start new projects. These are life-changing experiences. 

I have seen children building resilience. I have seen families come together. When I see those above 55, I see them rediscover passion and a sense of purpose. These are not small gains.

In the mountains new professions, new economies and new businesses have opened up. Our staff no longer go to cities to earn their living. Their income has increased. Above all, they are happiest working in this world. Trekking has been truly transformative.  

Everyone must absolutely trek. It transforms lives far more than you imagine.

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What We Like About the Ala-Kul Trek

What We Like About the Ala-Kul Trek

1. The Ala-Kul

The icing on the cake, this cloudy blue Ala lake is the main highlight of the Ala-Kul trek.

Starting from Kashmir Great Lakes in 2013 to Ghepan Lake in 2021, we have seen a number of alpine and glacial lakes, but Ala-Kul has captured a very special place in our hearts. We had not expected to be blown away by the lake at such a grand scale!

After a very long ascent to the Ala-Kul Pass through moraine and scree, this striking blue lake appears from the top, almost abruptly, and takes you by surprise. All the difficulty and trouble you’ve gone through to climb the Pass is well worth it for the views you get of the lake.

Not just the views, you will get to camp right on the shores of Ala-Kul. There are a couple of tents set up by the locals where you can choose to camp for about 1,400 Kyrgyz Som per day (approx. Rs.1,230), including breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, we didn’t prefer it because we had our own camping and cooking gear.

Picture by Arjun Majumdar

2. The Ala-Kul Pass

This formidable-looking wall of loose rocks and scree is the most thrilling section of the entire trek.

Starting from the base, there is a 700-foot ascent for a distance that is less than half a kilometer. That is like climbing a 70-degree wall with your backpack, while your shoes struggle to grip on loose rocks that constantly slip under your foot. You’ll have a hard time finding balance as you make your way up to the Pass.

The Ala-Kul Pass at 12,750 ft is the gateway to another world. From the Pass you’ll witness a spectacular scenery of Pik Palatka (Tent Peak) on your left that resembles Mt Chaukhamba – which is prominently seen on the Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek – with the Palatka glacier feeding the Ala lake with its sediments that gives the lake its unique milky-blue colour.

Picture by Arjun Majumdar

3. Lush green meadows and coniferous forests

For the most part of the trek you’ll be walking along this lush green Altyn Arashan and Karakol Valleys that have coniferous trees lined up, and rivers flowing right next to you. Wild horses graze and gallop along the streams while you hop and skip your way through the wildflowers that grow everywhere around you.

The valleys have Yurt huts set up by the locals that cater to trekkers by offering them food and accommodation. They also have settlements near the Altyn Arashan hot springs offering a dip in the natural hot water.

Picture by Arjun Majumdar

A different hue of the Ala-Kul from the top of Ala-Kul Pass.

Picture by: Sandhya UC

Ala-Kul Lake

Know Your Trek

We have always wanted trekkers to be well-informed before they go on a high altitude trek. Knowledge is the difference between a safe trek and a dangerous one. It’s also the difference between a wholesome experience and a superficial experience.

Use this section to learn about the Ala-Kul trek. It has in-depth information about each day of the trek, what to expect, and how you need to prepare for it. Many years of expertise have gone into this content. Trekkers find that extremely useful.

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Trek Trivia

Things Nobody Tells You About Ala-Kul

Did you know how old Russian military trucks can make for the best roller-coasters?

On the first and the last day of this trek, you get a chance to spot old Russian military trucks here. Russia and Kyrgyzstan’s military relations go back to the first world war. What is special about these vehicles though, is their unimaginable ability to traverse difficult terrains. What most other vehicles cannot do, these can. No road is too uneven or too rough for them and that makes these vehicles an incredible sight.

If by chance you can get a lift in one of these, it’s an experience in itself. It is like a free roller coaster ride for you! Even through the roughest roads, it will take you to your destination. The ride is a ‘try not to laugh’ challenge but the thrill of sitting in one of the toughest military vehicles makes it worth it!

Leaving Mountains Better

Green Trails is our promise to leave the mountains better. We have removed over 1 lakh kilos of waste left behind by others on trekking trails. Yet this is a small percentage of what we do. Green Trails dives into reducing use of resources, reducing our carbon footprint and bringing about a change in the daily practices of our trekkers too.