The Best Mountains in the World

You know the phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt?” Well I’ve lived in Kyrgyzstan a long time and I thought that for sure I’d have gotten tired of the scenery by now.  I mean, mountains are mountains, right?  But you know what – just today I was walking home, looked up at the snowcapped peaks hovering above Bishkek, and still couldn’t believe how beautiful they really are. 

Mountains of Bishkek, by KIRA

The two different ranges that cover most of Kyrgyzstan are the Pamir Alai and the Tien Shan “Celestial” Mountains. The Tien Shan Mountains have been labeled one of the world’s top ten most beautiful ranges in the world, which isn’t surprising. They have the comforting quality of rolling waves while still maintaining a regal air. Their brilliant green mountainsides are topped with crisp white peaks that casually supervise blooming meadows down below. Clouds nonchalantly brush the mountaintops, never in a hurry, but never at a standstill. Add to that wandering herds of sheep and horses and you’ve got something out of a daydream. 

Tian-Shan mountains, by Vladimir Trofimov
Pamir-Alay mountains,  by Vladimir Trofimov

Kyrgyzstan’s mountains are not only beautiful, but hold a lot of potential for outdoor enthusiasts, whether you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation or an adrenaline-packed adventure. Mountain climbers, amateur or experienced, can tackle one of Kyrgyzstan’s 14 virgin peaks, or make their way up some of the “high and mighties:” Pobeda Peak (7,345m), Khan Tengri (7,010m), or Peak Lenin (7,134m).  

Climbing at Tien-Shan, by Korzhonov Daniel

Trekkers can wander around unrestricted wilderness to visit hidden waterfalls, caves, and hot springs. Horseback riders can cross sweeping mountain passes and navigate through stunning gorges atop horses that were made to conquer this terrain. 

Trekking at Tien-Shan, by Fraser Brown
Horse riding at Pamir-Alay, by Marian Reid

Cyclists can work hard tackling the rise and fall of the land and play hard rewarding themselves with a stay at one of Kyrgyzstan’s pristine alpine lakes. Rafters can take on the white water rapids of Kyrgyzstan’s raging rivers. 

Cycling at Pamir-Alay, Jeremy Scott
Rafting at Tien-Shan, by Sergey Azula

Paragliders can take a tour of the country from above. Skiers can push themselves to the limit heli-skiing or freeriding down untouched slopes.

Paragliding at Tien-Shan, by Azret Dan
Ski tour at Tien-Shan, by Roman Skatov

Anglers can take a load off next to a remote alpine river or lake and catch themselves a trout dinner. Swimmers can lounge in the crystal clear waters of Lake Issyk Kul. Off-roaders can face off against Kyrgyzstan’s untamed landscape. 

Issyk-Kul lake, by LeeHua Yeap
Off-Road tour at Tien-Shan, by Sergey Kalachov

No matter what you might choose to do, there’s really no way to go wrong!

Not only are the Pamir and Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan beautiful and offer so much in the way of activities, but they have a certain X factor that just leaves you wanting more. I’ve often tried to put my finger on it. The closest thing I can come up with is that the mountains give off a certain vibe of homecoming. They’re peaceful, unassuming, and unburdened with civilization. The combination of all those things sets Kyrgyzstan’s mountains apart from the rest of the world.