Spending 3 days on horseback crossing the mountains of Kyrgyzstan to reach Song-kul lake was a great experience.

A boy horse riding
Luca Oliveri – Songkol lake

Have you ever horse ridden?

I didn’t!

Initially, I was hesitant and fearful of making mistakes or not being able to complete the adventure, but as with any adventure, a good dose of adrenaline is necessary to remain undeterred. In late April, the Song-kul lake is still frozen and nestled in a valley in the Kyrgyz mountains at an altitude of just over 3000 meters above sea level. There are three options to reach it: on foot, by car, or on horseback. During this season, due to the climate, horseback riding is the only viable option. The experience is truly epic.

FIRST DAY: The Horsemen

We met our guides and horses in the rural village of Dzhangyaryk, but before embarking on such a lengthy adventure, we needed to fuel up. Zamira was incredibly hospitable and prepared a typical Kyrgyz lunch, complete with jellies, cookies, desserts, bread, candies, and salads. The more hospitable she was to us, the kinder fate would be to her. Zamira served us soup, potato dumplings, a plate of potatoes cut into small pieces with onions and a delicious sauce, and offered us green and black tea to drink.

I had anticipated horseback riding to be more challenging, but the real issue was the discomfort I felt in my buttocks and sacral area. Nevertheless, the beauty of being in close proximity to nature and establishing a bond of communion with the horse more than compensated for the discomfort. After a while, the horse and I began to understand each other, and harmony was achieved. My horse, Karaghel, or “Chupito,” as I called him, was notably slow on flat terrain and downhill, but he quickly made up for lost ground and surpassed all of the other teammates when faced with an incline. Chupito earned a perfect ten and my admiration.

The journey to Song-kul lake took two days, with an additional day required for the return trip. The path initially traverses an agricultural area with fields that slope rapidly towards the actual mountain trail, which gradually ascends in altitude. Riding at a leisurely pace is soothing, and within half an hour, you begin to connect with the animal. It was a three-day experience of mutual learning and discovery.

The shepherd’s house

Luca Oliveri – The shepherd’s house

In the early afternoon, we rode through a sparsely vegetated mountain landscape while experiencing a drizzle that occasionally gave way to a glimmer of sunshine. As the day wore on, the sky cleared up, and we were blessed with a full sun that allowed us to witness a breathtaking sunset. We had just arrived at the shepherd’s house where we would spend the night.

The shepherd’s house was situated at an elevation of 2500 meters, and it was where we spent the first evening and night. As the sun descended behind the mountains, casting a pink and orange glow across the sky, our guides and the two shepherds who hosted us began preparing dinner.

Kyrgyzstan is known for its simple yet genuine cuisine, consisting of staple foods like potatoes, onions, homemade bread, salads, and an abundance of desserts, which, as with Zamira, were offered to us as a symbol of good luck.

As the night descended and the temperature outside plummeted close to zero degrees, we found warmth and relaxation inside the house, thanks to the stove that had been lit earlier.

The second day and the Tzu-Ashuu pass

After breakfast on the second day, we embarked on our climb to the Tuz-Ashuu pass. My trusty horse, Karaghel, had a particular affinity for climbing, and he effortlessly led the way, inspiring his fellow horses to follow his lead and setting the pace for the group. Upon reaching the top, we were greeted with an awe-inspiring panorama. Picture a valley dominated by a frozen lake, the crisp mountain air caressing our cheeks, a vast expanse of snow stretching in every direction, the vivid blue sky, and soft, fluffy white clouds on the horizon, nestled between the peaks of the surrounding mountains that encircled the lake on all four sides.

With just one more hour until we reached our destination, we descended through the snow, wholly immersed in the enchanting beauty of that majestic landscape, all while relying on the strength and agility of our horses.


Luca Oliveri – Songkol lake

Yurts, made of wood and felt, are circular tents that are typically constructed by nomadic populations. They are insulated to maintain a comfortable temperature and protect against the elements. Our yurt, which was quite spacious, was also equipped with a stove for both cooking and heating the space.

We finally reached the yurt camp, where our guides unhitched and set the horses free to graze around the camp and lake after their exertions. As the warm afternoon sun continued to hang high in the infinite blue sky, despite the frigid temperatures, we relaxed and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings. In the evening, we had dinner in the yurt, sipping homemade vodka before turning in for the night.

Luca Oliveri – Yurt Camp


The following day, our return to civilization left me with a tinge of sadness, as the experience had been utterly captivating and unique. As we descended from the mountain’s summit, with Karaghel’s brakes pressing down due to gravity, I began to feel nostalgic for the incredible beauty of that remote and epic corner of the earth.


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