The Tian Shan is a mountain system located in Central Asia, on the border where Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China meet. The Tian Shan includes more than thirty peaks higher than 6,000 m. The highest point in the system is Victory Peak (7,439 m) and Hantengri Peak (6,995 m). The length of the Tian Shan from the west to the east is 2,500 km.
Mountain Ranges. Orographically, the Tian Shan is divided into the northern, western, central, eastern and inner parts. The northern Tian Shan includes the Kyrgyz, the Kyungey-Ala-Too (Kungey-Alatau), the Ketmen, the Zailiy Alatau and the Chu-Iliy mountain ranges. The western part of the Tian Shan includes the Talas Alatau range with the adjoining Chatkal, Chandalash (Sandalash), Pskem, Maidantal, Ugam ranges and their spurs as well as the Fergana and the Atoinok ranges crisscrossed by the narrow Naryn ravine in the place of their junction. The highest point of the western Tian Shan are Chatkal Peak (4,503 m) in the Chatkal range, Manas Peak (4,482 m) in the Talas Alatau and Mount Baubash-Ata (4,427 m) in the western part of the Fergana mountain range.
The central Tian Shan is the highest and most majestic part of the Tian Shan mountain system. It is the most picturesque area of the Tian Shan, a complex system of overlapping mountain ranges (the Terskey-Ala-Too, the Sary-Jazz, the Kui-Liu, the Tag-Tengri, the Enilchek, the Kakshaal-Too and the Meridional Range), crowned with majestic peaks of the utmost northern mountains - Lenin Peak (7,134 m), the highest in the world, Victory Peak (7,439 m) and the splendid pyramid of Khan-Tengri (7,010 m).
Relief. The relief of most of the Tian Shan region includes highlands, a large number of heavily indented valleys (the northern slopes are much more indented than the southern slopes), with highly developed forms of glaciation. On the slopes, there are a lot of rock-slides with some glaciers, there are also moraine glaciers and there are many debris cones at the foothills.
Rivers. The rivers of the Tian Shan belong to the Syr Darya basin as well as the Ili basin and the Chu basin. The rivers of the Western Tian Shan include the Angren, the Akbulak, the Itokar, the Karaunkur, the Koksu, the Maidantal, the Milei-Suu, the Naryn, the Oigaing, the Padysha-Ata, the Pskem, the Sandalash, the Ugam and the Chatkal.
Lakes. There are many lakes in the Tian Shan, of which the largest and the most beautiful is Issyk-Kul. Lake Issyk-Kul is found in a deep depression between the tectonic ranges Kungei-Alatau and Terskey-Alatau. Its maximum depth is 702 m, its maximum length is 182 km and its maximum width is 58 km. Issyk-Kul has no outlet and that is why the water in it is brackish. Lakes Song-Kel (open) and Chatyr-Kel (closed, undrained) are the most important lakes of the Inner Tian Shan. There are also glacier lakes found mostly in the highlands.
Glaciers. The main glaciation hub of the Northern Tian Shan is located in the central part of the Zailiy Alatau Range, covering the Chilik and Talgar river basins. The largest glaciers in the area are Korzhenevski (11.7 km long, covering an area of 38 km²), Bogatyr (9.1 km long, covering an area of 30.3 km²), Zhangyryk (8.9 km long, covering an area of 17.7 km ²), Dmitriev, Shokalski, Toguzak and Kolesnik.
Reserves. A number of reserves and national parks have been created to protect the natural heritage of the Tian Shan, its flora and fauna:
The Aksu-Zhabagly Reserve, which has 1,400 protected plant species (including 268 rare species), 238 bird species, 42 mammal species and 9 reptile species;
The Almaty Reserve, which contains 112 different tree species.
The Chu valley in Kyrgyzstan is known for its natural, historical and cultural monuments and sights, such as Alamedin, Ala-Archa, Buran, Yssyk-Ata, Shamshy (Shamsy), Jong-Kemin and Aksu;
The Ala-Archa national park, which has unique juniper forests, now almost extinct elsewhere;
The Kemin Park in the Jong-Kemin valley offers excellent opportunities for mountaineering, water and horse tourism;
The spa-preventorium Tyopliye Klyuchi, which has the Alamudun mineral water field on its territory;
Koshoi-Korgon, a fortified ancient settlement;
The Tash-Rabat caravanserai (10th-12th cent.), built in the Kara-Koyun valley, difficult to access, but picturesque;
Saimaluu-Tash or Saimaly-Tash ("patterned stones"), an entire gallery of rock drawings in the Saimaluu-Tash valley (over 107,000 petroglyphs dated 3000-2000 BC), near Kazarman;
Kyr-Dzhol stone sculptures (6th-8th cent.) on the shores of Lake Song-Kyol;
Petroglyphs in the Chumysh cliffs (3000-1000 BC, the Fergana mountain range);
A large number of cave images in the Issyk-Kul, Naryn and Talas areas;
The ancient caravan route through the Torugart Pass (elevation 3752 m). This way (its total length is about 700 km) ran from Central Asia to Kashgar in China (the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region), through cold and narrow ravines and passes, such as Terksey-Ala-Too, Moldo-Too, At-Bashi and Maidantaga, and through incredibly picturesque landscapes and very ancient caravan routes of the Great Silk Road.
Tourism. The following kinds of tourism are popular in the Tian Shan region:
hiking and mountain climbing in the Tag-Tengri Range (peak Khan-Tengri, 7,010 m), the Tomur pass, Peak Victory (7,439 m), the Inylchek glacier, the hollow of the unique lake Mertsbakhera, Peak Semenov-Tian-Shanski (4,875 m), Peak Free Korea (4,740 m), the famous Crown (4,855 m) in the Kyrgyz Range, Peak Communism (7,505 m), the ice walls of the Kakshaal-Tuu (Kokshaal-Tau) Range and the Ak-Shyirak mountain massif;
boating (rafting) in the area of the Naryn River, which begins with the Maly Naryn and Bolshoy Naryn with such tributaries as the Atbashi and the Kekemeren, at the head of the Karadarya, Sarydzhaz, Jong-Kemin, Chilik, Charyn, Chatkal rivers with the tributaries Sandalash and Ters as well as the Pskem, Ugam and the Chu rivers.
Climate. The climate of the Tian Shan is sharply continental – it has warm summers at the foothills and in the valleys and very cool summers in the subnival and the nival zones, unusually severe winters for these latitudes, big daily and annual temperature variations, some cloudy weather and strongly dry air. The mountainous relief of the region causes the worsening of the atmospheric fronts and leads to a lot of rainfall. The average annual rainfall is 600-800 mm. The average temperature on the mountain slopes in July is +20°C to +25°C, while it drops to -5°C at the foot of the glaciers.