Kyrgyzstan – Mountains, Lakes and Nomads

Kyrgyzstan has to be one of the most striking countries in Asia. Its landscape of towering snow capped peaks, azure blue lakes and alpine forests, are populated by iconic wildlife such as bear and snow leopard.

Elsewhere nomads move between summer and winter pastures with their vast herds, following a way of life that has remained largely unchanged for generations. Kyrgyzstan is one of the last bastions of nomadic culture in an increasingly modernised world. This two-week Kyrgyzstan holiday encompasses the very best the country has to offer, from its scenery to its traditional cultures and its ancient Silk Road monuments.

Starting in Bishkek we travel through the Suusamyr Valley to the Toktogul Reservoir and the Sary Chelek Reserve. Here we mingle with local villagers and hike in the surrounding mountains, hoping to spot bears along the way.

In Arslanbob we hike through its ancient walnut forests and visit the nearby waterfall. At the local market we have a chance to sample the excellent local produce. Kyrgyzstan has excellent community based tourism programmes and for much of our time we stay as guests of local families in homestay accommodation. This is one of the best ways to gain an understanding of traditional culture and customs.

Moving on we explore the monuments of Uzgen and Osh – an ancient city dating back more than three thousand years with a wealth of history to explore.

From here, our journey takes us across the centre of Kyrgyzstan, crossing the Kaldarma Pass. We’ll have incredible views along the way as we travel to the lake of Song Kul. This is a great place to meet local nomads and learn about their lives, and we have a full day to explore the area.

South from Song Kul lies the 15th century caravanserai of Tash Rabat, once an important stop for traders on the old Silk Road. We stop here before moving on to Issyk Kul. We travel around the southern and northern shores of this great lake, stopping to explore picturesque canyons and meet traditional eagle hunters. We see the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata, which is the jewel in Kyrgyzstan’s crown and we have plenty of time to explore the region.

Finally, before heading back to Bishkek we visit the Burana Tower all that remains of a once powerful civilisation.

Kyrgyzstan is a truly enchanting country and its breathtaking landscapes and traditional nomadic cultures are an intoxicating combination.

Kyrgyzstan Mountains and Lakes itinerary

Highlights

  • Incredible scenic drives
  • Look for wildlife at Sary Chelek
  • Experience traditional hospitality
  • Meet Kyrgyz nomads at Song Kul Lake
  • Meet a traditional Kazakh eagle hunter
  • Visit the caravanserai at Tash Rabat

Day 1 - Bishkek

Arrive in Bishkek and transfer to the hotel. After some time to freshen up, begin exploring the city visiting some of its main sights including Ala Too Square and the monument to Lenin. Overnight Art Hotel or similar. (LD)

Bishkek

Formerly known as Frunze after a Bolshevik military leader, Kyrgyzstan’s capital is a fairly unremarkable place that only really came to prominence when Russian forces captured it in the 19th century, with modern architecture, wide boulevards and large public spaces that are typical of cities of the old Soviet Union. Today it is a modern city and Kyrgyzstan’s most cosmopolitan with Russian, Chinese and Korean populations rubbing shoulders with Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and others.

Day 2 - Chichkan Canyon – Toktogul

Head out of the city on a picturesque drive over the Tuu Ashuu Pass and through the Suusamyr Valley, with a picnic lunch en route. Our journey ends at the town of Toktogul, where we stay on the shores of the lake and have opportunities to explore the surrounding area. Overnight local guesthouse. (BLD)


Days 3-4 - Sary Chelek Reserve

Travel to Sary Chelek, a beautiful area of lakes, forests and mountains that is home to wildlife such as bear and snow leopard. We stay in the pretty village of Arkyt, and after a leisurely exploration of the village on Day 3 we have a full day to hike and explore the area on foot on Day 4, with great views of the landscape throughout. On occasion it is possible to spot bears in this area, and we’ll pass local people going about their daily activities. Overnight local homestay. (BLD)


Days 5-6 - Arslanbob

Continue to Arslanbob, situated in a region surrounded by vast walnut forests. We stay with a local family, explore the village, and hike through the landscapes to a picturesque waterfall and to panoramic viewpoints. Staying within a local community gives us good opportunities to learn about rural life in Kyrgyzstan, and the scenery here is magnificent. We’ll also visit the local market – Arslanbob is rich in fruit such as apples and pears, and much of the produce on sale is based on this. Overnight homestay. (BLD)


Day 7 - Uzgen – Osh

Drive first to Uzgen, a small town which was once one of the capitals of the Karakhanid state and the centre of a vast empire in Central Asia from the 10th to 12th centuries. Visit its interesting mausoleums and minarets before continuing to Osh. Here we visit Solomon’s Throne, one of the main shrines of the Islamic world in Central Asia, and follow the trail of pilgrims to the top of the hill. We also explore the lively bazaar, where traders from around the region meet. Overnight Sunrise Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Osh

One of the oldest cities in Central Asia, Osh dates back at least three thousand years and possibly more, although little of its heritage from this time remains. It is the second city of the country and the capital of the south, and the terminus of the Pamir Highway in Kyrgyzstan. The city is best known for the barren rock known as Solomon’s Throne, a renowned place for Muslim pilgrims and reputedly visited by the prophet Mohammed – the small mosque here was originally built in the 15th century but has since been reconstructed. Osh was razed to the ground by the Mongols in the 13th century but is today a lively place and a melting pot of ethnic groups – something that sometimes erupts into tensions. It also houses the largest open air market in Central Asia – a great place for people watching and soaking up the atmosphere.

Day 8 - Kazarman

Drive across the Kaldarma Pass, which separates the northern and southern regions of Kyrgyzstan, with stunning – and different – views from both sides. We have plenty of opportunities to stop for photos before arriving in the village of Kazarman, where we spend the night. Overnight homestay. (BLD)


Day 9 - Song Kul

Drive to Song Kul lake, one of the most picturesque parts of Kyrgyzstan and home to seasonal families of nomads. On the way we have plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the magnificent landscapes. Overnight simple yurt accommodation (multi-share). (BLD)


Day 10 - Song Kul

A full day to explore this beautiful area by foot and vehicle. We take excursions around the lake shore and meet local nomads with their herds of livestock, learning about life in this remote corner of Asia. Overnight simple yurt accommodation (multi-share). (BLD)

Song Kul

Kyrgyzstan’s second largest lake, Song Kul, is surrounded by broad meadows (jailoos) and flanked with snow capped mountains; it’s widely recognized as one of the most attractive parts of the country and the presence of nomads and their herds of livestock adds to the sense of timeless wilderness. During the summer Kyrgyz nomads take advantage of the good grazing here, returning when the cold weather arrives in October. It’s also a great place for birds, with almost seventy species recorded here, and has been designated as a wetland of global importance – species to be found include geese, ducks and raptors, while lynx and deer are also present.

Day 11 - Tash Rabat

Drive to the town of Naryn where we have lunch in a family home, then continue to Tash Rabat, a 15th century caravanserai that was once an important stop for traders on the Silk Road. Overnight yurt camp. (BLD)


Day 12 - Bokonbaevo

Drive to Bokonbaevo, on the southern shores of Lake Issyk Kul and set amidst glorious scenery. This afternoon we meet a traditional Kazakh eagle hunter and learn about this ancient art from one of the few remaining practitioners. Overnight yurt camp. (BLD)


Day 13 - Djety Oguz - Karakol

Continue driving along the shores of Issyk Kul to its eastern edge. En route we stop at the Skazka Canyon, which we explore on foot. We also stop at Djety Oguz with its distinctive red sandstone cliffs. Overnight local guesthouse. (BLD)


Day 14 - Cholpon Ata

Explore the town of Karakol with its Dungan Mosque and Russian Orthodox church, built from wood. Moving on we visit the rock carvings at Cholpon Ata, which date back to around 1500BC with images of hunters and their prey. Our accommodation tonight is on the shores of Lake Issyk Kul. Overnight Karyen Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Day 15 - Bishkek

Return to Bishkek, stopping at the Burana Tower en route. This is all that remains of the capital of the Karakhanid dynasty, and dates back to the 10th century. Overnight Art Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Day 16 - Bishkek

Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


Djety Oguz gorge - Kyrgyzstan itinerary
Traditional Kyrgyz musician
Mountain scenery in Kyrgyzstan
Yurt camp at Tash Rabat - Kyrgyzstan tours

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

    Please note that the single supplement does not apply to the homestay accommodation, which is multi-share.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

Kyrgyzstan is becoming more tourist friendly, in that many nationalities, including UK citizens, do not need a visa for entry.

Visa regulations and requirements, as well as the documents that embassies request can change frequently so it is essential that you check with either the embassy at which you will apply, or the visa agency which you will use, as to the current requirements.

You should ensure that your passport has at least six months’ validity after the end date of your trip. We also strongly recommend that your passport has a minimum of two blank pages next to each other – on rare occasion it may lead to problems with visas and immigration authorities if it does not.

If your flights involve a connection in Russia you must check with your airline whether you need a Russian visa. On the occasion travellers have been refused boarding for flights that connect in Russia, even if not entering Russia itself.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The local currency in Kyrgyzstan is the som.

It’s not difficult to change money in Kyrgyzstan – usually the most convenient place will be a hotel but your guide will be able to point you in the right direction. There are also an increasing number of ATMs in larger

towns. However, these are not always reliable and so it is best to think of them as a backup rather than a main means of obtaining money. The best currency to bring for exchange purposes is US dollars, and these should have issue dates of 2006 or later, otherwise they can be difficult to exchange.

Credit cards are accepted in larger hotels and better restaurants (usually in major cities only) but are not commonly accepted elsewhere.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to Kyrgyzstan.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Djety Oguz gorge - Kyrgyzstan itinerary
Traditional Kyrgyz musician
Mountain scenery in Kyrgyzstan
Yurt camp at Tash Rabat - Kyrgyzstan tours
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
01 August 2021
Price (PP) -
£1,899
Single Supplement -
£110
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
31 July 2022
Price (PP) -
£1,999
Single Supplement -
£110
Trip Status -
Available