Group Tour 14 days from £1995 per person
Places Visited: Bishkek, Cholpon Ata, Karakol, Bokonbayevo, Kochkor, Naryn, Song Köl, Bishkek
Departure 20 June 2019
Experience the sublime landscapes and fascinating nomadic culture of Kyrgyzstan this summer on a special TransIndus group tour. Devised and led by Central Asia expert Joan Pollock, the route covers the most rugged, mountainous stretch of the old Silk Road between China and Uzbekistan – a region of sun-lit snow peaks, vast blue-green glacial lakes and pastures dotted with yurt encampments.
Joan has timed the trip to coincide with two of the country’s great cultural events: the weekly livestock market at Karakol, which attracts herders from a wide area; and the annual Shyrdak Festival of Felt Art, where you’ll be able to buy the finest quality Kyrgyz rugs and carpets, and watch them being made by the country’s top artisans.
In additional to seeing some of the most spellbinding vistas in Central Asia, you’ll also get to experience life in a genuine nomads’ camp, sample traditional Kyrgyz and Uyghur cuisine, and learn about the region’s Russian colonial legacy through its art and architecture.
Accommodation throughout will be in comfortable, well run hotels and luxury yurt camps set up in glorious locations. The weather in late June and early July is optimal, with warm, mostly dry and sunny weather, and night-time temperatures comparable with those of northern Europe.
About Joan Pollock
Joan started her career as a nurse, but began working as a guide on trips to Asia in the 1970s, accompanying some of the first organized tours into China and the Soviet Union. Over three decades of travel in many countries since, she has formed longstanding attachments to certain communities, notably the inhabitants of the remote Himalayan valley of Spiti, where she founded a charity focussing on the health and education of children. In 2016, ‘The Spiti Projects’ (www.spiti.org) was awarded a United Nations grant to construct a solar-powered community centre. A fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, Joan is also a keen photographer. A selection of her work appears at www.joanpollock.co.uk.
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Fly overnight from London Heathrow to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, via Istanbul.
On arrival, the group will be met by our local representative and transferred to the hotel, where we’ll spend the remainder of the morning recovering from the journey. After lunch, visit the city’s History Museum, Ala-Too, located on the main square in Bishkek.
Today we’ll continue our sightseeing in Bishkek with a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts which holds a splendid collection of applied arts including felt rugs and paintings. Later we enjoy the Embroidery School and learn more about the traditional art. Finally visit the Osh Bazaar – the city’s main source of fresh produce, as well as old-style ‘ak kalpak’ hats.
A busy day today as we leave the capital for Cholpon Ata, on the northern shores of Issyk Köl Lake. En route, we visit the iconic Burana Tower, sole surviving vestige of an ancient Silk Road city. Walk around the superb collection of 1,500-yearold ‘balbals’ (anthropomorphic gravestones carved by nomadic Turkic peoples) and much older petroglyphs and visit the small museum on the site. On the shores of the Issyk Lake we’ll visit the recently opened exquisite Nomadic Museum at Ornok before reaching the hotel.
The morning’s focal point will be a visit to Cholpon Ata’s famous petroglyph garden, an impressive archeological site scattered over a 42-hectare boulder field above the lake. Among the rocks are an incredible assemblage of prehistoric stone circles, tombs and grave markers, as well as the petroglyphs themselves. This unique site spans an estimated 2,500 years of human ritual art. Afterwards we’ll continue on to Karakol.
Dating from the late-19th century, Karakol’s architecture is vividly reflected in the town’s onion-domed Holy Trinity Cathedral. Other highlights of the morning include The Dungan Mosque, built to serve Karakol’s community of Dungans (Chinese Muslims who fled persecution in the 1880s), and the very interesting Nikolay Przevalsky Museum. In the afternoon visit the ‘Seven Bulls’, a row of spectacular blood-red crags framed by a glorious backdrop of snow-streaked mountains. In the evening, the group will attend a cooking demonstration and supper with a local Uyghur (Chinese-Muslim) family.
We take a 3 hour drive to Bokonbaev along the southern shore of Issyk Lake. On the way we stop at the Bark Skoon Gorge and take a walk to the waterfall. There is a bust of Yuri Gagarin who used to holiday in this beautiful area. Continue to Bokonbaev where we are privileged to see a demonstration of how eagle hunters catch their prey, as they have done for hundreds of years. Stay overnight at Beltam camp in a Yurt, a traditional nomad dwelling.
This morning we head towards Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan’s handicrafts hub. On the way, the bus will stop at Kyzyl-Suu village to visit a womens’ collective to see how yurts are made as well as the creation of felt carpets. Two types of carpets are produced: Ala-kiyiz and Shyrdaks. Both types are included in the set of a traditional bride’s dowry. Shyrdaks are more complicated to produce and are more expensive, thus they are laid in the most honourable part of the dwelling.
Today we’ll drive to Naryn, a market town on the former Silk Road crammed onto the floor of a sheer-sided valley. In the afternoon you’ll be at leisure to explore the town at your own pace, and perhaps visit the local museum. Later the group will be treated to a traditional Kyrgyz supper of ‘besh-barmak’ (meat broth) and ‘boorsok’ (a type of fried dough).
A highlight of the trip awaits today as we visit the annual Shyrdak Festival in the village of At-Bashy. ‘Shyrdaks’ are the traditional felt rugs made by Kyrgyz nomads from sheep’s wool. You’ll see literally hundreds of them for sale, with a broad range of contrasting colours, patterns and styles. Some of the finest makers in Central Asia will be demonstrating their art, making this the best souvenir shopping opportunity of the tour!
A memorable drive after breakfast takes us over the picturesque Moldo-Ashuu pass to Song Köl, a high-altitude lake enfolded by expanses of rolling grassland and snow peaks. We’ll spend two nights in a yurt, set up by local nomad families in the summer months. Here you will experience the tranquillity of the Son Kol Lake, walk along the shores and just enjoy the beautiful scenery of the grazing pastures for the animals in summer.
The group will have a full day to savour Song Köl’s wonderful views and sample life in the Kyrgyz yurt encampment and the superb nomadic cuisine. You’ll also have an opportunity to try kumis, a traditional fermented drink made from mare’s milk. If a fan of horse riding, you may also try your hand at trotting through the Ala-Too mountain range in the traditional local style. Your journey will culminate in a lively performance of Kyrgyz folk music and dance.
An unforgettable road trip through a landscape of epic proportions takes up most of the day, as we drive north from sleepy Song Köl to Bishkek over the great Ala-Too mountain range.
After breakfast, the group will transfer to the airport for our return flight to the UK, we’ll arrive at Heathrow Terminal 3, shortly before 5pm GMT.
Group Tour 14 days from £1995 per person
✓ International flight ticket
✓ 12 nights accommodation
✓ Internal travel by shared vehicle
✓ English-speaking local guides throughout accompnaied by Joan Pollock
✓ All sightseeing expenses
✓ Meal Plan: Half Board. Bishkek bed & breakfast
For more details and to book:
Contact Gary on: 020 8566 3739 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Places and Experiences in this tour
A city of wide, tree-lined boulevards and marble-fronted municipal buildings, Bishkek retains the feel of a Soviet-block capital circa 1990, though it makes an engaging place to f...
At the eastern end of Issyk Kul, Karakol was created at the end of the 19th century as a Russian military garrison town, and is today the region’s main hub. A sleepy grid of down-...
This high-altitude lake in central Kyrgyzstan is one of our very favourite destinations in the region – a spot that has everything you come to this part of the world to see, in ab...
Balasagun and the Burana Tower
Rising from a grassy plain against a backdrop of windswept ice peaks, the Burana Tower in the Chuy Valley forms a superbly iconic spectacle. The remains of a minaret that once sto...
Trekking and Horse Riding in Kyrgyzstan
For the most vivid experience of Kyrgyzstan’s dramatic mountain landscapes, it pays to venture away from road level and up to the remote ‘jailoos’ where the region’s nomads look a...
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