Group Tour 13 days from £1790 per person
Places Visited: Bishkek, Cholpon Ata, Karakol, Bokonbayevo, Kochkor, Naryn, Song Köl, Bishkek
Departure 18th June 2020
Experience the sublime landscapes and fascinating nomadic culture of Kyrgyzstan 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 one of the country’s great cultural events: 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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On arrival, the group will be met by our local representative and transferred to the hotel, where we’ll have time to recover from international flights. In the afternoon, visit the city’s impressive Ala-Too square, as well as the famous Oak Park.
Today we’ll continue our sightseeing of Bishkek with a visit to the Museum of Applied Arts and an embroidery school where you’ll take a workshop to learn more about this traditional art. During the afternoon, they’ll be time to visit the atmospheric Osh Bazaar.
Bishkek – Issyk-Kul
A busy day today as we leave the capital behind for an overnight stay near Issyk-Kul. En route, visit the remains of the minaret, Burana Tower. Walk around the superb collection of balbals (gravestones used by the nomadic Turkic’s) and petroglyphs (stone carvings). On arrival at Issyk-Kul we’ll visit the Museum of Nomads.
Issyk-Kul - Karakol
Visit the incredible petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata this morning. They are situated high above the lake in an open-air garden - covering some 42 hectares - containing a vast number of prehistoric monumental structures. Afterwards, we’ll drive along the lakeside to Karakol.
The town of Karakol was founded during the Tsar time and many of the buildings reflect the old Russian style. In the morning, visit the blue-tiered Russian Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Chinese Muslim built Dungan Mosque, and the Prjevalsk Museum, dedicated to the famous explorer who spent a lifetime travelling through central Asia. In the afternoon, head out of town to explore the Jety-Oguz Gorge and famous “7 bulls” rock formation. Later, enjoy dinner with a Uyghur family and try the national dish of lagman.
Karakol – Bokonbaevo
Today, we follow the Silk Road along the south side of Issyk-Kul Lake. On the way, stop at Barkskoon Gorge, where we’ll take a walk up to the natural waterfalls. On arrival in Bokonbaevo, enjoy a demonstration of how the eagle hunters catch their prey, a tradition dating back 100’s of years. Tonight, we’ll stay in a traditional nomadic yurt camp.
Bokonbaevo – Kochkor
This morning we head towards the centre of Kyrgyzstan’s felt handicrafts – Kochkor. On the way, stop at Kyzyl-Suu village to visit a yurt workshop. Here, we’ll be shown how the nomadic dwellings are manufactured and assembled. Continue to a felt workshop to witness the art process of the traditional “Elechek” hat. This evening will be a special overnight in local homestay.
Kochkor – Naryn
Today we’ll drive to Naryn and enjoy some time at leisure, before exploring the local museum. Enjoy a traditional dinner of besh-barmak (meat broth) and boorsok (a type of fried dough).
A special day as we visit the annual Kyrgyz Shyrdak Festival that takes place in At-Bashy village for only two days per year. Shyrdak is a traditional Kyrgyz carpet made of felt and is one of the most complex processes in central Asia tradition. Being at the festival, it’s also a superb time to buy local arts directly from manufacturers.
Naryn - Son-Kul
This morning will be a memorable drive over the picturesque Moldo-Ashuu Pass to the alpine Son-Kul, the second largest lake in the country after Issyk-Kul. Spending two nights at a yurt camp here will enable you to get familiar with the traditional lifestyle of Kyrgyz nomads, amongst the rural tranquillity of the summer pastures dotted with grazing cattle, mountains and the lake itself.
A full day at Son-Kul to continue learning about the nomads and the beautiful region they call home. Take some time to enjoy a walk with unrivalled rural views of the lake and surrounding mountains, as well as an opportunity to spot some local birds. If a fan of horse riding, there may be an extra opportunity for to try your hand at trotting through the local landscape.
Son-Kul - Bishkek
The long road from Son-Kul to Bishkek is one of epic proportions with stunning landscapes out of every window. A late afternoon arrival in Bishkek, where you can relax before tomorrow’s departure.
This morning, we’ll be met at the hotel and driven to the international airport.
Group Tour 13 days from £1790 per person
✓ 12 nights' accommodation
✓ Internal travel by shared vehicle
✓ English-speaking local guides throughout accompanied by Joan Pollock
✓ All guided sightseeing noted on the itinerary
✓ Breakfast in Bishkek and half board elsewhere
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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