If any sight in Kyrgyzstan could be said to encapsulate the atmosphere of the ancient Silk Road, it’s this mysterious monument in the lap of the Tianshan mountains. Enfolded by denuded, snow-streaked hillsides, the building was originally constructed as a Nestorian-Christian monastery in the 10th century, and later converted for use as a caravanserai, complete with 31 domed rooms and central courtyard. Spend a couple of nights at the adjacent yurt camp, run by the welcoming Nazira and her family, for a vivid experience of this wonderfully remote spot.
Horses are available locally for hacks through nearby valleys, and longer, multistage rides are also an option for those with sufficient time. One of the most inspiring destinations (also reachable on foot) is remote Chatyr Kul, an exquisite turquoise glacial lake enfolded by high mountains.