Kazakhstan’s Tien Shan

Experience Kazakhstan through the Majestic Tien Shan Range

A vast land of underdeveloped mineral and oil fields, Kazakhstan is a nation that houses one of Central Asia’s scenic peaks –the Tien Shan Range. This landscape stands out from the barren lands that make up most of Kazakhstan’s territory. As a hiking destination, it offers plenty of exciting trails and a glimpse to one of the region’s most isolated locations.

Hiking the Tien Shan Range

The Tien Shan range boasts several majestic peaks, making it the perfect hiker’s destination. One such majestic peak is Khan Tengri, with a towering height of 6995 to 7010 meters. The hiking route within the Tien Shan range follows the Tekes River. At the first part of the trail, expect lots of wide meadows and regal-looking spruce trees. This area is actually inhabited by Kazakh cowboys (locally known as chaban) and their families living in tents or “yurts” made of felt. As the trail continues, evidences of human habitation gradually decrease.

In order to cross the Tekes river, it’s important to have pack animals on the group such as horses. As the Tekes river is crossed, the hiking route leads to various flat lands and passes that offer picturesque views of the mountain range.

Reaching the height of 12375 feet, Khan Tengri comes into view. This majestic peak was taught to be the highest summit until 1943. At that year, it was discovered that a nearby mountain — Peak Pobeda – is actually taller. Nevertheless, seeing the spectacular Khan Tengri is definitely a highlight of any hiking trip within the area. Nature lovers will surely enjoy a hike up to this height because of the panoramic views encompassing the region’s best features.

The next possible option after reaching such a high pass is to descend to a valley brimming with unique plant species. Human inhabitants start to appear from this point living in traditional yurts.

Hiking Tips

According to the GORP hiking guide, going to this hiking destination requires a special invitation from an official tour group. Moreover, an invitation such as this is a prerequisite before a visa application for Kazakhstan can be processed. The best times to go on a hiking trip is during the months of July and August because the weather during these times is quite stable. Basic Russian-speaking skills can be helpful since this is the official language used in commercial areas of Kazakhstan. Knowing a bit about the Cyrillic alphabet also helps especially when trying to read trail signs. Communication issues may become barriers but since this place can’t be accessed without a proper tour group, it shouldn’t be a big problem.

Accommodation Options in Tien Shan

Because the jump-off point for Tien Shan is Kazakhstan’s city of Almaty, there are various high-quality hotels and similar accommodations to choose from. There are also several local tour operators that offer top-quality services and dining establishments that serve the best of Kazakhstan cuisine. For more information regarding accommodation options in Tien Shan, visit the official website of GORP hiking guide.

Accommodation example: Almaty Hotel (under Hyatt Regency), Akademik Satpaev Avenue 29/6, Almaty, Kazakhstan

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How to go to Tien Shan

Several international airlines regularly fly to Almaty which is the usual staging ground for most hiking groups. Local transport services are usually included in the tour plan. For more information on how to get to and from Kazakhstan’s Almaty City, visit official hiking sites or check out websites that offer updated information regarding Kazakhstan’s public transport services. A useful online portal is the official website of the U.S. Library of Congress. This link also offers information on Kazakhstan’s rich culture and history.

Regency Hyatt Almaty
U.S. Library of Congress

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