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Map of Mountain Ranges of Central Asia


Mountains of Central Asia

The main mountain ranges in Central Asia are the Pamir, the Tien-Shan, the Kunlun-Shan, the Hindu-Kush, the Karakoram (the last two being parts of the Himalayas). All of them branch out from the roof of the world, the Pamir Knot in Tajikistan. Of these mountains, Tien-Shan are in Western China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan; Pamir and Pamir-Alai in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kirgizia; Kunlun in Western China; Himalayas including Karakoram in Northern India, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan; and Hindu-Kush in Pakistan and Afghanistan. All the eight-thousanders of the world are in the Himalayas, and all the seven-thousanders of the world are in the wider Central Asian region. Of the six or seven mountain ranges that merit the title 'great' mountains (and attract the greatest amount of mountaineering activity), only the Andes (where the highest mountain Aconcagua is 38 metres less than seven thousand) are located outside this region. The rest of them are here. This is why this region is the best in the world for trekking and hiking.

Celestial Mountains / Tien-Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Tien-Shan is divided into Eastern and Western Tien-Shan for convenience. The Eastern part is in China, and the rest in Kirgizia and Tajikistan. Western Tien-Shan consists of 88 ranges and mega-ridges and is sub-divided for convenience into the Middle or Central Tien-Shan, which consists mainly of the Kokshal-Too (including Sary-Djaz), Meridionalniy (meridional) and Ak-Shirak ranges. This area is mostly frequented by the toughest mountaineers. Then there is Northern Tien-Shan in the Semirechiy ares of Kazakhstan and Northern Kirgizia, which consists mainly of Zailiyskiy Alatau, Kungei Ala-Too (pronounced as Ala-Toh) or Kyungei Ala-Too, Terskei Ala-Too, Kyrgyz Ala-Too ranges. This area is good for tough and not so tough trekking and hiking, and climbing of all levels of difficulty. Southern Tien-Shan, mostly in Tajikistan, consists of Zaravshan, Gissar, Karategin and Alai range, and is not visited often by foreigners after the independence of Tajikistan. The fourth sub-division of these mountains is, confusingly, again called Western (or South-Western) Tien-Shan, which consists mainly of Chatkal, Talaskiy Ala-Too, Ferghana, Borkoldoi, Turkestan, and Alai ranges. Some of these areas are snowless or rocky and arid mountains, reminiscent of Patagonia. Geographers describe the region around the Suusamyr range as Inner Tien-Shan for reasons of geological classification, but mountaineers do not have any such sub-division in their nomenclature system.

Lake Issyk-Kul lies between Terskei (southern) and Kungei (northern) Alatau. Bishkek is located to the north of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too, Karakol is located in the region where Terskei and Kungei Ala-Too meet. Sary-Chelek biospehere reserve is in the Chatkal range. Most of these mountains were home to nomadic people, long before explorers like Pyotr Semyonov Tien-Shanskii (who is acknowledged as one of two great Russian explorers alond with Przhevalski) and Gottfried Merzbacher (after whom Lake Merzbacher at the mouth of Inylchek Glacier is named) set foot in them. These are the mountains through which the ancient Silk Route or Silk Road used to pass. These mountains offer a great variety of adventure travel options for trekkers and explorers. For our trekking, hiking, adventure and mountaineering packages, email us on

Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan and Kirgizia

The Pamir mountains are mostly in Gorno-Badakhshan -a part of Tajikistan- with some parts in Afghanistan, China and Kyrgyzstan. It is divided into Eastern and Western Pamir, located on either side of Akademia Nauk range, which is also sometimes called meridionalniy, but is not to be confused with the Meridionalniy of the Central Tien-Shan. The height of this range is more than 5750 metres high on average, with the lowest pass at a height of 4350 metres. This puts it in the category of highest ranges in the world, like Himadri, Karakoram, Sary-Djaz, Meridionalniy. The northernmost range of Pamir is called Zaalaiskiy range, which is not to be confused with Zailiyskiy range of Tien-Shan. These are very high mountains of more than seven thousand metres. Along with the fact that this region is the node from which various great ranges fan out, this is the reason why this area (the Pamir Knot) is called the Roof of the World. Peak Communism (7495 metres), Peak Lenin (7134 metres) and Peak Korzhenevsky (7105 metres) are the three seven-thousanders in Northern Pamir region. Kashgar range in eastern Pamir is home to the highest peak, Peak Kongur, which is higher than 7700 metres. There are more than 7500 square kilometres of glaciers in the Pamir, including Fedchenko (largest in the world outside polar regions), and Grumm-Grazhimailo glacier. Western Pamir has deep river gorges and steppe between mountains. Eastern pamir has smoother relief with high altitude desert valleys at 3500 - 4000 metres and ridges higher than 5000 to 6500 metres. Altai, visited more by explorers than by mountaineers because of their remote location, are home to unique types of fauna. This uniqueness is visible in their flora too, according to some experts.

Hindukush and Karakoram Mountains of Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan

Hindukush means the killer of the Hindus. There mountains are in Afghanistan and on the border with Pakistan. The Khunjerab pass is an important pass, as is the Khyber pass. The Karakoram mountains occupy major areas of the Kashmir region of India and the northern territories and Baltistan of Pakistan. The Karakoram Highway passes through these mountains, going from Pakistan to China via Baltistan. The world's second highest mountain, K2 or Mt. Godwin Austen is in the Karakoram Range. This is an area very close to many other mountain ranges, and is centrally located in the mountains of Central Asia. It is also a strategically important area near the Wakhan Corridor and the Panjshir Range.


the tien-shan, pamir, kunlun and himalayas are some of the ranges here Ski tours

The Altai Mountains of Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia

Altai mountains are mostly in Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia, with some parts in North-Western China. The main sub-divisions of these mountains are Altai, Gobi Altai, and Mongol Altai. The highest ranges include the Katyun, and the Northern Chui and the Southern Chui range. The highest peak is Mt. Belukha, at 4506 metres. The northern steppe known as the Chui Steppe is spread between some ridges of lower Altai. The mountains constitute an important Asian watershed and are a source of some major Siberian rivers such as Ob, Irtysh and Yenisei. It might be mentioned here that there is a Chui valley in Kirgizia also, and that river Yenisei is the location of earliest Kyrgyz peoples. (There are several place names in Central Asia which repeat themselves. For example Aksai is a common place name in Tien-Shan, and Aksai-Chin is a portion of India in Kashmir. There is a Kyzyl in Russia, a Kyzyl Orda in the Kazakh steppe and a Kyzyl Kia too.) There are more than 3500 lakes in the Altai mountains, the big ones being Teletskoe and Marka-kol. There are many peaks higher than 4000 metres here. Minor rivers include Katuns, Chuya, Bukhtarma and Biya. There are some large glaciers in the Altai, but not so large as the ones located in the Tien-Shan.

The Himalayas of India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and China

The Himalayas are found mostly in India and Tibet. Nepal and Bhutan are entirely mountainous countries consisting totally of the Himalayas. Mount Everest on the Nepal China Border at 8848 metres is the highest mountain in the Himalayas. Other High Mountains include Cho Oyu, Kanchenjunga, Nanda Devi, MachhPuchhare, Lhotse, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum, Broad Peak, and Shishapangma. Himalayas are a major water shed of Asia. The major rivers originating from the Himalayas are the Ganga, the Indus, the Tsang Po or the Brahmaputra, the Irrawady, the Sutlej, the Beas, the Damodar, the Ravi, the Yamuna, the Hindon, the Ramganga, the Gomti etc. The Entire subconcontinent of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan owes its entire agricultural sustenance to the Himalayas. If the Himalayas did not exist, then cold siberian winds would have swept down the plains of India and rendered it into a cold desert.


updated on 20th February 2013
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