Accessible and comprehensive topographic maps for Kyrgyzstan are either of out-dated but elaborate survey maps produced by the Soviet Army between 1950s-80s or OpenTopoMaps based on modern elevation data collected by space shuttle radar. While the latter is more precise with regard to the land configuration, the type of projection used for online maps (Web Mercator) are prone to yield discrepancy in distance; the former is thus more appropriate for practical navigation. Despite its obsoleteness, since soviet maps are generally more informative in terms of place names and other geographical objects, it is recommened to take advantage of both resources.
Soviet Military Topographic Map (SMTM)
Soviet Military Topographic Map (SMTM), also simply known as Soviet map or other names alike, is a once classified collection of topographic maps of the world that the Soviet Army manufactured during the postwar periods, which after the collapse of USSR came to public and now freely circulates on the earth. With the contemporary scientific knowledge and technology, the rather sophisticated maps, based on Gauss–Krüger (transverse Mercator) coordinate system, are presumablly originally planned to cover the entire world at smaller scales (1:1M, 1:500,000, 1:200,000) and the territory of the former USSR at larger scales (1:100,000, 1:50,000, 1:25,000 etc.). There are a few websites that offer array of the map data, but none seems to hold the complete set of all items.
Sample images of SMTM
As for Kyrgyzstan, while sheets of 1: 100,000 scale made in 1970s cover most of its territory, 1: 50,000 sheets are only available sporadically, and 1: 25,000 sheets are limited to certain strategic regions along the border. Each sheet of maps is allocated identification code (such as “K44-XV-65-3”) in accrodance with the logical system of dividing the world surface. Kyrgyzstan, as indicated in the chart below, falls into the major divisions of K42-44, J42-43. For detailed information on the symbology of the SMTM, refer to a careful report by the US Army: Soviet Topographic Map Symbols, 1959.
|Division||Number||Scale||Range||Note||Latitudinal sphere||A-V (22) |
|–||4º lat. height||A and XA at the equator and V and XV by the poles|
|Standard division||For each sphere: ||1: |
|4º lat. height × 6º lon. width*|
[12º lon width above 60º lat.]
|West longitude 180-0º|
East longitude 0-180º
|Major division||1-4 ||1: |
|2º lat. × 3º lon.||Former USSR||Medium division||I-XXXVI ||1: |
|74.08km × 1º lon.||Eurasia, Africa, South America|
|Minor division||1-144 ||1: |
|37.04km × 0.5º lon.||Europe, Former USSR ||Major subdivision||1-144: ||1: |
|18.52km × 0.25º lon.||Eastern Europe, Western USSR|
Each map is provided with grid lines whose unit length equals to 2cm in the north-south direction on the original material, whereas in the west-east direction, the value is not constant by nature.
The distance of one degree of longitude varies according to the correlating latitude. Along the 39.3ºN latitude where Lenin peak rises, for instance, a degree of longitude amounts to 86.14km, whereas along 42.8ºN where Bishkek lies, the same unit of longitude amounts to 81.68km
Attributes of SMTM
Since the Soviet agency engaged in the cartography no longer exists, the SMTM is apparently expected to be copyright free, altought some claim it belongs to the Russian goverment, being the legitimate successor of the preceding regime. On the other hand, Ordnance Survey of UK, warns the commercial use of the SMTM for the Britain on the ground that corresponding maps themselves were plagiarized from their workpieces. In any case, no international agreement or affirmation seems to have made so far, and it is conventionally considered that there should be no critical issue in private or non-profit use of the maps such as mountaineering.
Image data (either in JPG or GIF) of STMT for Kyrgyzstan are available through following websites or the map image of Kyrgyzstan with the major division grids porvided in the following sections:
- Maps for the world: Maps of up to 1:100,000 scale mainly of the former USSR and also small scale maps of the US army
- Топографическая карта Украины, России, Беларуси: Able to download some 1:100,000 and 1:50,000 scale maps of Kyrgyzstan, besides intensive collection of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.
- Mapstor: an online map dealer that offers variety of maps of the world inlcluding SMTM of 1:25,000 scale
- University of Texas Libraries: 1:1M scale maps of the world
1:200,000 and 1:100,000 scale SMTM for Kyrgyzstan
Download: Click one of grids in the map in order to download a set of five SMTM map images [one 1:200,000 sheet and four 1:100,000 sheets of the same medium division in GIF format] packed in a single ZIP file. Allocated number of 1:100,000 maps increments from north-west to south-east.
Note in some plots, one or two 1:100,000 items may be missing or are of older versions due to their absence. For printing, set the resolution to 198-200px/inch so as to achieve the original size of the material [37.04cm width]. Refer to the ▲chart above for more details about scaling.
SMTM 1:20,000 of KyrgyzstanCheck divisions with a larger map (temporarily in Japanese)
1:50,000 scale SMTM for Kygyzstan
- ▽Ala-archa National Nature Park [GIFx4>ZIP: 14.7MB] : Around the core area of Kygyzs Ala-too in Northern Tianshan, looming to the south of Bishkek
- ▽Western Kungoy Ala-too [JPGx4>ZIP: 14.7MB] : Around western Kungoy Ala-too to the north of Cholpon-ata along the north coast of Issyk-kol
- ▽Khan-Tengri and Pobed peak [JPGx4>ZIP: 11.2MB] : Around Tengri-tag in Central Tianshan
- ▽Engilchek [JPGx4>ZIP: 10.4MB] : Along the Engilchek valley-glacier to the west of Tengri-tag in Central Tianshan
- ▽Sarychat-Ertash [JPGx4>ZIP: 12.7MB] : Arouond the wildlife reserve alloted between the Eastern Terskey and Ak-shıyrak ranges on the south coast of Issyk-kol
- ▽Lenin peak [JPGx4>ZIP: 14.8MB] : Around Lenin peak of the Zaalay range in Pamir
For other maps with contour lines, refer also to the section of ▼regional map images.
OpenTopoMap is an open-source online map put together by a voluntary team supported by the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) in Germany, which consists of invaluable contour lines based on SRTM (Shuttle RADAR Topography Mission) DEM (Degital Elevation Model) published by NASA and supplemented with regularly updated geographic information by OpenStreetMap (OSM). Refer to the section of ▼maps for GPS below for OpenTopoMap Garmin.
Download: Open a flexible pop-up window map by clicking the top-right icon on the map or earth-like icon () ubiquitously provided in this site; adjust the contents and configuration of the full-width map fit in the window, and right-click on the map to download the snapshot in PNG format.
More serviceable systems to enable download of images in variable sizes regardless of the window width is in progress.
Commercial toporaphic maps
Topographic maps of any kind focused on Kyrgyzstan are very scarce compared to the situation in Europe or North America, and trekking or climbing maps with trails and routes are virtually nonexistent except for those in few Russian guidebooks. Following maps nevertheless encompass some popular regions of the country and may be worthwhile to possess:
- Tian Shan Trekking Map [Khan Tengri, Pobeda peak, Lenin peak 1: 100,000, Kirghizistan] (TerraQuest, 2014)
A foldable, water-proof sheet of maps made in France, covering areas around Ala-archa, Karakol (Ara-kol), Lenin peak, Khan-Tengri, and Pobed peak with contour lines and approximate routes [English denotation] ▶︎Amazon.fr
- Garth Willis, Kyrgyzstan: A Climber’s Map & Guide [Ala Archa National Park 1: 50,000, Western Kokshaal-Too 1: 150,000, Karavshin 1: 20,000] (Alpine Mapping Guide, 2005)
A sheet of maps with contour lines and some background descriptions for mountaineering of three regions: Ala-archa, Western Kakshaal, and Karavshin and adjacent valleys [English and Latin alphabet denotation] ▶︎Amazon.com
- Карта, Кыргызстан| Kyrgyzstan Trekking Map [1: 100,000] (Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan, Den Norske Turistforening, 2006):
Кыргызский хребет, хребет Кунгей Ала-Тоо| Kyrgyz renge, Kungey Ala-Too;
Северное Прииссыккулье| Northern Issyk-Kul area;
Восточное, Приисыккулье| Around Karakol, Enylchek Glacier;
Центральный Тянь-Шань| Central Tianshan
A series of locally made maps based on the 1:100,000 scale SMTM in the form of a large paper [64x80cm] printed on both sides, altogether showing seven regions (in four versions) with few rough trekking routes. Although it has no remarkable features to distinguish itself from SMTM, it is relatively easy to find within the Kyrgyzs Republic, and may be useful for acquiring the overview of the each quarter. [Russian denotation: KGS 400 ($5.84)]
Refer to the section of ▼map stores and relevant facilities to find these maps in Kyrgyzstan
The Orographic map represents detailed depiction of topographic reliefs or, especially in mountaineering, rather conceptual sketch that illustrates the relative disposition of mountain ridges and valleys, effectively used to describe the scene of the field adorned with some symbols to indicate prominent landmarks and routes. In orographic maps prepared by Kyrgyz Alpine Club based on research through a wide range of sources including documents of Soviet era, climbed peaks (▲) are distinguished from those with no record of acsent (△), and may be used for plotting a virgin peak expedition in Kyrgyzstan.
General maps of Kyrgyzstan
In the Kyrgyz Republic, there is no substantial tourist information center operated by the government, and handy maps for visitors are mostly offered at travel agencies specialized in organized tours or at some hostels. In general, it can be difficult to find, purchase, or print out actual maps in this country, so it is recommended to prepare them beforehand if possible.
Kyrgyz Alpine Club original map
Provisonal English version will be ready soon
Commercial maps of Kyrygzstan
- Kyrgyzstan/ Кыргызстан 1: 750,000 [Bishkek/ Бишкек 1: 30,000] (Gizi Map Hungary, 2014)
One of the most adequate non-Cyrillic maps of Kyrgyzstan currently available for general purposes, particularly for understanding the distribution of mountain ranges and the network of roads.
Map stores and relevant facilities in Kygyzstan
Some companies and organizations that handle maps are as follows. Note however that the stock of copies tend to be limited and may run out at any time:
- Госкартография/ Goskartografiya: A governmental cartographic agency of the Kyrgyz Republic, where variety of specialized maps in data or print are technically available for purchase. Visit the section in charge (room 301) and ask for advices to request a particular map of interest (in Russian or Kygyz).
There used to be a map store called “GeoID” at the entrance of the same building, but it went out of business in 2016.
- Ralitet [Bookshop]: Tourist maps，Kyrgyzstan 1: 750,000、Kyrgyzstan Trekking Map
- Realcom [GPS device shop]: Sspecialized map data for GPS devices (mainly Garmin)，Kyrgyzstan Trekking Map
- Regional branches of CBT (Community Based Tourism Kyrgyzstan) [Tourism agency]: Local tourist maps、Kyrgyzstan Trekking Map
- Союз Пешеходного Туризма Кыргызстана | Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan (TUK) [NGO]: Kyrgyzstan Trekking Map
Maps for GPS devices
Data formats of digital maps able to utilize with common GPS devices (such as of Garmin) include .img and .kmz: IMG (Garmin.img) file mainly consists of vector data and therefore relatively lightweight and suitable to cover large areas with contour lines, but if rendering from the original source is not appropriately done, the resulting display may not necessarily be useful depneding on the scale. KMZ file, on the other hand, is a zipped package of typical rastor image files and KML file (Keyhole Markup Language), a type of XML (Extensible Markup Language) documents developed for recording geographic information, and while it tends to be of large size, it may be suitable for specific areas. KML and KMZ files can also be conveniently opened on the Google Earth to view the extents or distributions of the geo-infromation with respect to the earth.
Considering respective pros and cons, it is recommended to use both sorts of data and switch the maps according to the situation.
OpenTopoMap Garmin Edition
At the moment, no digital topographic maps for Kyrgyzstan has been released by GPS device makers, but generic maps with contour lines are made available for some contries by the ▲OpenTopoMap Garmin Edition under the license of Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0).
- ▽Kyrgyzstan [IMGx2>ZIP: 220.7MB]
- ▽Tajikistan [IMGx2>ZIP: 184.2MB]
Installation: Unpack the downloaded ZIP file and place the two IMG files of geo-information and contour lines into the “Garmin” folder in the main device, and activate the map through the menu mode.
KAC Original KMZ topographic maps
Kyrgyz Alpine Club has been developing our original maps of Kyrgyzstan and digital topographic maps with contour lines for selected mountain regions in KMZ format.
KMZ topographic maps download
Download: Click one of triangle symbols (▽) below, or select one of the links to open a pop-up window map and click on the map image displayed upon a base map.
KMZ map may take several seconds to show up on the map.
Ala-Archa National Nature Park
Installation: Place the KMZ file without unpacking into the “Garmin/CustomMaps” folder in the main device, and activate the map through the menu mode.
Regional map images
Ala-archa National Nature Park
- ▽Ala-archa and Ak-say valleys [JPGx4>ZIP: 22.6MB]
Природный парк Ала-Арча | Ala-Archa Natural Park [1: 50,000] (Госкартография/ Goskartografiya, 1999) : Images taken from a brochuer for mountaineering with a 1:50,000 map issued by the govermental agency in 1999 [Russian and English denotation]