THE MOUNTAINS OF HEAVEN
Tien Shan, The Mountains of Heaven Tours - Alpine Flowers, Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and Butterflies
The wonderful Tien Shan Mountains of Southern Kazakhstan rise suddenly from the steppes and semi-deserts to their north. Our tour focuses on two very different areas of these biologically diverse mountains, the endemic-rich mountain steppes in the west, and the spruce forests and alpine meadows above the capital itself, Almaty.
We spend a week in the idyllic Aksu-Dzhabagly Reserve including five days in a house at 6,500 feet in this gem of a nature reserve. The snow-capped peaks reach 14,350 feet and they are home to some of the rarest mammals and most beautiful flowers in the world. The floral display is nothing short of magnificent with the rare Primula minkwitziae and a wide range of bulbs including lots of Tulips and Juno Irises. Thanks to Vladimir’s intimate knowledge of the reserve we can show you rare mammals such as Isabelline Brown Bear and Arkhar, as well as many Siberian Ibex. Butterflies include several lovely Apollos as well as False Comma and Yellow‑legged Tortoiseshell. A train journey takes us east to Almaty from where we will explore the magical Northern Tien Shan where pencil-thin Tien Shan Spruce adorn meadows dotted with Violas, Geraniums, Aconitums, Dracocephalums and Jacob’s Ladders, amongst which graze Red Pikas and Grey Marmots. This marvellous alpine paradise is ablaze with Primulas, Tulips, Androsaces and some of the world’s most beautiful alpine flowers including gorgeous Paraquilegias and the breath-taking ice-plant, Trollius lilacinus. Strawberry-hued Severtzov’s Tit-Warblers and Himalayan Rubythroats pose on junipers framed by snowy peaks while down by turquoise Big Almaty Lake the enigmatic Ibisbill will be rearing its young. Come and be bewitched by the Tien Shan’s magic!
Fantastic Alpine and Meadow Flowers, Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and Butterflies. Also Mountain Wilderness.
Moderate. Walks of up to four or five miles on some days but much less on others. Some walks on steep slopes. To get the most out of the Aksu-Dzhabagly Reserve we use horses – we ride uphill and walk downhill! Even if you have never ridden before (most people in each group haven’t) we would really recommend it. The horses are very easy to handle and surprisingly comfortable. If you don’t want to use a horse you can walk as long as you are reasonably fit.
Included in the Price
All flights. Accommodation and all meals, including very good picnic lunches. All transport, and horses if required. Services of the leaders. Please note: Alcoholic drinks, tips, visas and items of a personal nature such as travel insurance, are not included.
The minimum group size is 5 and the maximum is 12.
We start in Almaty where we’ve two nights at the start and two nights at the end (really one and a half nights at each end of the tour) in the very comfortable modern Kazhol Hotel. We have two nights aboard comfortable first class sleeper accommodation on trains. In Dzhabagly we stay at Yevgeny’s guesthouse for two nights. This lovely place has a very friendly atmosphere, comfortable rooms, and we can guarantee you will be looked after superbly. The garden is a delightful and shadey place to enjoy before dinner. In the Aksu-Dzhabgaly National Park (4 nights) our base is a very simple house and two large yourtas. These are ten-foot high traditional Kazakh tents and they come complete with beds! There will also be a hot shower here. Kazakh food is very good, wholesome, and non-spicy. All our meals in Dzhabagly will be cooked by Yevgeny’s family and assistants from the reserve, and they provide excellent four course evening meals complete with wine and compote. The packed lunches include a proper meal as well as bread and preserves – there’s even hot tea and cold compote – every day! There are en-suite facilities throughout except for the tour night in the Aksu-Dzhabgaly National Park.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow, Edinburgh, Birmingham or Manchester to Almaty via Istanbul. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Warm and sunny. Showers and more prolonged rain are possible in the mountains and then it can be quite cool.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information.
Flower, Butterfly, bird and mammal checklists are available.