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Central Asia Explorer


Be entranced by the beauty of Kyrgyzstan and historical wonders of Uzbekistan on this 17-day tour. Traverse landscapes of alpine lakes and mountains interrupted only by dots of yurts, feel the divine artistic power of the detailed mosaics and towering minarets of ancient cities, and be welcomed into homes and family-run businesses by locals. A mix of ancient nomadic cultures, various iterations of both conservative and progressive Islam, Soviet influence and post-independence nationalism mean Central Asia is home to unique traditions. Travels here will leave you raving about the region for years to come and planning your next trip back as soon as you get home.

17 days, from

$3,016

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

3
Trip code: KFSR
Style: Original
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan
Accommodation: Guesthouse/Homestay (2 night), Hotel (11 nights), Tourist Yurt Camps (3 night)
Transportation: Private Bus , Metro , High Speed Train , local train
Included Meals:

  • 16 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 7 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • Wander through the grand square Registan in Samarkand, admiring the imposing architecture from afar and the detailed craftmanship on the tiling up close.

  • Spend time in World Heritage-listed Bukhara, a 6th-century-BC city that's drenched in history and home to the formidable Ark of Bukhara.

  • Get to know the locals as you meet a local eagle trainer (or Berkutchi), learn how to build a yurt in a local workshop, test your taste buds with a dinner of home-cooked plov (Uzbekistan's signature dish) and rub shoulders with the locals in the bustling bazaars

  • Travel along the Chychkan River beneath the towering peaks of Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan range, mountains even more spectacular for emptiness of the valleys below them.

  • Enjoy authentic experiences like sleeping in traditional yurts on the banks of Lake Issykul, staying in local villages and making yourself at home in a boutique hotel that used to be an old Jewish house in Bukhara

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Bishkek

Welcome to Bishkek! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. Tomorrow you’ll take a tour of the city, so don’t stress too much if you don’t have time to see much today. Bishkek is tree-lined town of parks and gardens, handsome houses and wide streets perfect for strolling. If you arrive with time to spare, maybe head out in search of some samsa (pastry pockets filled with meat and vegetables).

Day 2: Bishkek

Embark on city tour that showcases the various stages of Bishkek’s history. Visit the severe Ala-Too Square, once known as Lenin Square, and learn about the towering statue depicting folkloric hero Manas. Continue to Dubovy Park, and wander among the open-air cafes before strolling between the century-old oaks along Freedom Avenue. In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to further explore Bishkek. Quite the contrast to the relaxed quiet streets, square and parks in the city centre, Osh Market is noisy, crowded, and a perfect peek into local life. You'll find all kinds of things on sale here, from spices and fruits to clothes and carpets.

Day 3: Issyk-Kul Lake

This morning, up and on the road through the beautiful landscaps of Kyrgyzstan. You'll be travelling with our vehicle for the next few days so get ready for a road trip through some pretty stunning mountains and lakes. Firstly stop at Burana Tower, a minaret that is the most visible
remnant of the ancient city Balasagun. Then continue to Tokmak and meet a local Dungan family and enjoy a home-cooked lunch. Then onto the destination of today - Issyk-Kul Lake, the second-largest alpine lake in the world. At 170 - kilometres-long and 70-kilometres-wide, her beauty is a real sight to behold. Your yurt camp for tonight is set up along the south shore of the lake where you'll get a fantastic view of the snow-capped mountains setting behind the lake. Made of felt and tarpaulins on a round frame, yurts are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz people and this will be your 'settlement' for today and tomorrow.

Day 4: Issyk-Kul Lake

With relaxed plans for today, we’ll wander the beautiful alpine area and head out to meet a local eagle trainer (or Berkutchi) and discover the ancient principles of training these beautiful creatures to follow commands, catch prey and return back to their masters and then visit a few local families who’ll teach you more about their traditional yurts. With a special workshop, you’ll learn the basics of how these nomadic dwellings have been manufactured and how they play an important role in the community here. Enjoy a free afternoon and evening, relax in your authentic yurt camp, jump into the lake, ride a bike or sit back with a cold homemade vodka – created by your yurt camp owners, just for you.

Day 5: Song-Kol Lake (3016 metres)

Back on the road and travel to Song-Kol Lake, another alpine stunner that is considered a sacred place to many Kyrgyz people, as well as one of the best summer pastures for nomadic herders. The landscape will change depending on the season but is sure to be beautiful no matter when you travel. In the summer you might see nomadic herdsmen and their families watching over goats, sheep, and horses. Enjoy exploring your surroundings for the rest of the day, maybe hiking one of the many trails. Tonight, fall asleep in yurts set up along the shore. Tomorrow, those daring enough for an invigorating morning splash can use the lake to wash off the sleep.

Day 6: Kyzyl-Oi

Travel along gravel roads to the tiny village of Kyzyl-Oi, which is squeezed between mountains. On the way, pass large coal deposits and travel along the Kokomeren River, which feeds into the Syr Darya. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the river in the shade of the trees and use your free time to explore the village on arrival.

Day 7: Suusamyr Valley/Chychkan River/Kok-Bel

Get ready for a full-day of driving though big, beautiful landscapes. As the roads in Kyrgyzstan see little regular maintenance, even short distances on a map can take hours. The road crosses the Suusamyr Valley – a high steppe plateau situated at around 2200 metres above sea level. The mountainous surroundings are often dotted with yurts. Continue along the Chychkan River that cuts through the Tien Shan mountain range. Stop here for a while and soak up the amazing scenery. Arrive at tonight's accommodation in Kok-Bel sometime in the early evening.

Day 8: Osh

After breakfast, get ready for another all-day journey to Osh, the second-largest city in Kyrgystan. Stop en route at Uzgen, an ancient trading town and handicrafts centre along the Silk Road. Although much of the ancient city has been destroyed, a minaret and three mosques that have survived remain important examples of medieval Central Asian architecture. Continue to Osh. Located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country, Osh is often referred to as the 'Capital of the South' and is the oldest city in the country.

Day 9: Osh

Rise and shine for a visit to the only World Heritage site in Kyrgystan, the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, also known as Solomon's Throne. For centuries Silk Road travellers have sought out the mountain's caves and their petroglyphs in the belief that they would be blessed with longevity or healthy children. Visit the National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time in Osh. Perhaps visit the Jayma Bazaar, where you might pick up an interesting souvenir or two. Or maybe take a self-guided tour of the remnants of Osh's soviet past with a walk to the giant Lenin statue in the city square.

Day 10: Border Crossing/Andijan/Tashkent

This morning, drive to Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, which is just outside of the city. After passing through the border control, farewell and thank your Kyrgyz guide and meet your new Uzbek guide. Transfer to Andijan and board a local train to Tashkent (approximately 5.5 hours). The train is a great place to meet locals, so don’t be surprised if people want to chat to the chet ellik (foreigner). Arrive in the evening and check into the hotel.

Day 11: Tashkent

Begin your introduction to Uzbekistan by exploring the capital on a sightseeing tour. Visit the State History Museum, which shows exhibits and collections spanning the countries 5000-year history. Continue to the Abdul Khasim Medrassah, where craftspeople operate in many small ‘cells’, making jewellery and other things. Finally, stop by the Khast Imom complex, a restored series of religious buildings (including a mosque) and a library containing an ancient Qur’an, parts of which have been dated to the ninth century. After lunch, lose yourself in the exciting Chorsu Bazaar, browsing traditional wooden cradles, handmade musical instruments, and the extensive vegetable and spice markets.

Day 12: Samarkand

Transfer to the station for the high-speed train to fabled Samarkand (approximately 2 hours). This city is located at the very centre of the ancient Silk Road. Arrival around midday and follow your leader on a short city orientation walk. Then enjoy some free time in the city, saving some of the key sights for the tour tomorrow. Maybe inspect the remains of the remarkable medieval observatory developed by Ulug Beg, an astronomer and grandson of nomadic conqueror and Timurid emperor Tamerlane (Amir Timur). Today, only half of the below-ground semicircle track can be seen, but there is a small museum close by that gives some context. Or perhaps visit the Afrosiab Museum of Samarkand, the main attraction of which is a tenth-century mural. After the day at your leisure, you’ll visit a local family to learn the secrets of plov cuisine during a cooking demonstration in the evening.

Day 13: Samarkand

Enjoy a tour of Samarkand. First up is the central square called the Registan, which features mosques and mausoleums that are true pinnacles of Islamic architecture. Continue to Guri-Amir, where Tamerlane is buried, and then the enormous Bibi-Khanum Mosque. Visit Shak-i-Zinda, a necropolis that features a series of gleaming blue-tiled mausoleums. This sacred site has monuments from the 14th–19th century, reflecting the development of the monumental art and architecture of the Timurid dynasty onwards. It is photo worthy at every turn, just remember to be respectful as pilgrims visit the complex.

Day 14: Bukhara

Travel from Samarkand to Bukhara by train this morning. Located on the ancient Silk Road, Bukhara was an important regional and world hub for many, many years and has a long, fascinating history featuring invasions by both Genghis Khan and the Soviet Red Army. Explore this fascinating city with your tour leader on an orientation walk after arrival and head to the Lyabi-Haus area, a busy 17th-century plaza with hundreds-years-old trees and there is time to wander the small craft studios tucked into the nearby madrasas and trading domes.

Day 15: Bukhara

Enjoy a day of sightseeing in beautiful Bukhara. First visit the Sitorai Mohi Khosa, once the summer residence of the last Emir. Designed by Russian architects, it has interiors decorated with traditional filigree plaster, mirrored surfaces and delicate floral wall paintings by local artisans. Continue to the 16th-century Chor-Bakr necropolis, where not many tourists venture. Walk through the madrasa and mosque complex. In the afternoon, visit the Ark Fortress and Kalon Mosque, the symbol of Bukhara. Continue to one of Central Asia's oldest and most exquisite structures, the tenth-century Ismail Samani Mausoleum, the superb decorative brickwork of which has survived 1000 years of rugged history.

Day 16: Tashkent

Enjoy some free time for your own optional sightseeing in Bukhara. In the afternoon, take a fast train back to Tashkent followed by an optional dinner with your fellow travellers.

Day 17: Tashkent

There are no activities planned today and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time after check out.