The At-Bashi mountain range, located in the southern centre of Kyrgyzstan, is one of the country's lesser-known ranges. Yet many tourists travel the asphalt road connecting Naryn to China and the gravel road from Naryn to Kel-Suu. Parts of these roads are even part of popular bikepacking routes such as the Tien Shan Traverse and 2019's Silk Road Mountain Race. Despite this, there’s still no real route that makes a full loop around the At-Bashi mountain range. Well, we’re here to change that.
The At-Bashi Circuit is a new bikepacking route that’s about 450 km (280 mi) long with 4,500 metres (14,800 ft) of elevation gain. The route starts and ends in the town of Naryn, at the old Khan Tengri hotel. There are also plenty of hostels in town if you don't mind sharing a room.
The northwestern half of this route consists of a good, long tarmac road, while the southeastern half is a challenging gravel road that cuts through a mighty river valley and borders China. Logistically, this route poses quite a challenge as there’s no phone signal or shops along more than 80% of the route, so cyclists have to think strategically about how much food to bring.
Another important detail is that, due to its proximity to the Chinese border, a border permit is required to enter the area. You need to buy the permit before your arrival in Kyrgyzstan, and the best place to do so is with our friends Victor and Olivia: ountravela.com/nl/kyrgyzstan-border-permit.
Drinking water can be found in the form of streams and should always be filtered, but the amount of water you’ll encounter along the way depends a lot on the season you cycle in. Incidentally, the amount of water you encounter at river crossings will also be a challenge. In the early summer months, a lot of snowmelt flows down from the surrounding mountains. Due to the lack of bridges (or passable bridges), riding this route in June or July is best.
To get to and from the route, we recommend you try public transport by taking a marshrutka (local small bus) with your bike stowed in the luggage compartment or even inside (with one or both wheels off). There are regular buses running between Bishkek and Naryn, with an average one way price of SOM 1000-1500 (£10–£16). Alternatively, taxis can transport you and your bike, usually for double the price charged by buses. Finally, there’s always room for negotiation, and you should definitely try that.
Belén and I explored the At-Bashi Circuit in early August 2022, and in the daily GPX files below, you’ll find a detailed account with images and stories to prepare you for this ride. We recommend riding it later in the summer season to avoid high water levels; bring a filter for your drinking water; and make the diversions to the yurt camp in the Kel-Suu Valley, where you can even take a day hike or ride to the famous Kel-Suu glacial lake. If you want to ride this route with a single GPX file, you can download Belén's refined file here: komoot.com/tour/892952118.
And in case you want to see what it's like to ride this route, I made a video of our reconnaissance ride. All the details mentioned above are covered and show you how beautiful this route really is.
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: September 14, 2022
The first day of our At-Bashi Circuit adventure! We started out from by getting some fresh fruit and veg in town, at a nice stall on the main street.
Climbing out of Naryn slowly, the At-Bashi mountain range showed itself as we cycled over the two relatively low peaks in the smooth asphalt road. It was…
The second day of our At-Bashi Circuit adventure! First aim of the day was to get to At-Bashi town for some last groceries, as there wouldn't be any shops for the next week or so. There was less traffic on the gravel road, which made the riding a bit more pleasant. Those dust clouds are just the worst…
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Day three of our At-Bashi Circuit adventure! And what a day it was, cycling only the loooong asphalt main road to China. The lanscape is vast, and views of the At-Bashi mountain range were plenty.
There's no infrastructure of shops or restaurants, so you're completely self-reliant here. We'd brought…
Day four of our At-Bashi Circuit adventure! Clear skies welcomed us, and a nearby stream replenished our water reserves. After the last kilometers on asphalt we entered the long gravel road that connects the border town of Torugart with Kel-Suu, through a mighty river valley which borders China.
Day five of our At-Bashi Circuit adventure! Quite a strong start, crossing the wide river we'd camped next to! Two cyclists we'd met the day before gave us the excellent advice of crossing south of the broken bridge, and it worked! The river is much wider here, and after test-walking each stream we found…
Day six of our At-Bashi Circuit adventure! We weren't too eager to ride the same way back as we came, and asked around the yurt camp for a drive. The Kyrgyz drivers couldn't be bothered unless we paid them more than 500 som, so instead two french guys kindly took us over the pass on their way to Naryn…
Day seven of our At-Bashi Circuit adventure! After a last bit of climbing we crossed the second border permit checkpoint along this road, which was on duty. After a friendly guy checked our passes we descended the mountain pass (steep!) and entered a pretty tedious river valley road (washboard, steep…
Day eight, the last one of our At-Bashi Circuit adventure! Kinda unnecessary since there was only a 10km downhill to Naryn left to do, but we've found this to be a pleasant strategy! After all, we were able to spend a full day at the old Khan Tengri hotel to shower, eat and rest up from the ride.
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