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This overland adventure travels along parts of the ancient Silk Road through the wild mountain landscape of Kyrgyzstan and across the border and onto the dusty plains of Uzbekistan.
Explore Tour Leader
5 nights simple guesthouse
4 nights simple hotel
3 nights comfortable hotel
1 nights simple yurt
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Bishek, a former Silk Road settlement. Kyrgyzstan's capital is a young city, starting life as a clay fort built by the Khan of Kokand in 1825 only to be destroyed by the Russians 43 years later. It was rebuilt in 1878 and it is from this time that Bishkek evolved.
For those arriving on time today our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 11am for the welcome meeting and to take us on the sightseeing tour, which is by bus and on foot. We learn about the main monuments and buildings of the city, and take a leisurely walk through Oak Park.
If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Manas International Airport (FRU), which is 50 minutes' from the hotel. For those arriving on flights in the early hours of this morning, we'll arrange for your hotel room to be available immediately upon your arrival. For anyone arriving before today please contact us to book additional nights accommodation.
Please note that if you wish to join the Bishkek City Tour today, you must arrive at the hotel by 11am. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least one hour to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 40 minutes' drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 9am. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information at 6pm.
Asia Mountains 1 Hotel (or similar)
Leaving behind the city we head into the heart of this small nation. At its centre lies Issyk Kul Lake, surrounded by the Tien Shan Mountains. Along the way we visit the Burana Tower, all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun. The tower is believed to be the oldest minaret in Central Asia with a detailed external pattern of relief work in brick.
We also see the petroglyphs in Cholpon-Ata where stones vary in size from 30cm to 3 metres. Ancient drawings on the stones date from the 7th century BC to the 3rd century AD, many of them figures of hunters, ibex, goat and reindeer. From here we are also afforded with views of Issyk Kul Lake. We then follow the shore along the north of the lake arriving in the evening in the city of Karakol. Strategically located this was once a Russian military outpost, and the gateway of expeditions into the Tien Shan and beyond. This evening we enjoy a meal cooked by a family from an ethnic minority group, either Dungan or Uygur; both groups are Muslim people of Chinese origin. We not only sample their hospitality but also learn about the traditions and lifestyle.
Altamira Hotel (or similar)
The great Russian explorer Prjevalsky died in Karakol before an expedition to Tibet and the small museum dedicated to him gives a great insight into the 19th century Central Asian explorers. In the city we have the opportunity to see the Chinese influence at the Dungan mosque built in 1910 in the style of a Buddhist pagoda (it is made of wood without any nails) whilst the strong Russian influence is evident at the Orthodox Cathedral.
After sightseeing in the morning we drive to visit the Valley of Seven Bulls, at Djety-Oguz, where large red sandstone rock formations tower over the valley. During Soviet times this area become known as a health retreat, the sanatorium remains. It became famous when after his first flight in space Yuri Gagarin came here to decompress.
We continue along the southern shore of Issyk Kul Lake where we make a stop for the opportunity to take a bracing dip into the cold waters of the lake. Continuing on we stop again to view the waterfalls within the dramatic 10km long Barskaun Gorge, as well as having an opportunity to spot birds whilst we enjoy a river-side picnic. Our final destination is Kochkor, a typical Kyrgyz town where we spend the night in local guesthouses, a great way to get to know the locals. Depending upon size we may find the group split between guesthouses.
Kochkor Family Guesthouse (or similar)
The women of the town are famous for felt-making and this morning we have the chance to see how 'shirdaks', traditional felt applique rugs, are made by hand.
We then set off along a dramatic mountain road via Kalmak-Ashu Pass at a lofty 3346m where we can drink in our epic surroundings as we journey to Song Kul. The lake itself is spectacular and the second largest in Kyrgyzstan, situated at an altitude of 3013m above sea level. Surrounded by dramatic snow-covered mountain peaks, it is hidden in a flat, plate-like 'jailoo' (the Kyrgyz word for mountain pasture) which is covered in Edelweiss flowers at certain times of the year. In the summer the shepherds drive the livestock (sheep and/or horses) up into the mountains for pasture and establish a camp for the season.
After settling into our yurts, we will have the opportunity to relax and unwind or perhaps go on a pleasant walk by the lake. Yurts are circular dwelling structures made from felt and insulated with sheepskins, traditionally made to be portable and accommodate 5-6 people. Basic long drop toilets are available in a separate building along with an outdoor basin for washing and are shared with the camp. The experience is very basic, however, gives a unique insight into how local nomads traditionally live and allow us to wake up the next morning in the middle of nowhere.
Song Kul Lake Yurt Camp (or similar)
This morning you may choose to relax by the lake, or depending on weather conditions, it may be possible to take a hike into the mountains surrounding the lake. Leaving the camp we walk along grassy, undulating slopes through the Moldo-Toor range. Song Kul Lake offers a spectacular backdrop to the north and we hope to meet locals along the way to get a further glimpse into this traditional lifestyle. The walk takes around 4 hours and reaches an altitude of 3300m. After lunch we leave our yurts and make our way to back to Kochkor for the night, this time taking a different route crossing the Teskey-Topok Pass, arriving in town in the late afternoon. This evening we head out to enjoy a musical Folklore ensemble performance with a wide repertoire of traditional ballads, love songs, work songs and lullabies, accompanied by Kyrgyz national instruments.
We spend the day on the road driving through the wild mountain scenery of the inner Tien Shan Mountains as we make our way west. Our drive takes us along the stunning Suusamyr valley, which is situated at an altitude of 2000-3200m between the dramatic ridges of Kyrgyz and Talas Ala-Too and stretches for some 155km. During the summer alpine grasses cover the whole valley, whilst the winter months see it blanketed with snow. There will be plenty of stops for photo opportunities along the way as we make our 320km journey across the passes to Suusamyr Valley.
Baytur Resort (or similar)
After breakfast we set off on a scenic drive along the Ala-Bel pass (3175m) before following the course of the Chichkan River to the junction with its tributary, the It-Agar River. From here we start a mostly easy walk on an earth trail which is stony in some sections. The path follows the It-Agar River for about three kilometres uphill, before arriving at the small, but impressive and beautiful alpine Lake of Saz Kul. The walk is around two hours up and one hour down. After some time enjoying this picturesque place we drive along a winding road that follows the Naryn River all the way to the Toktogul Resevoir, the largest reservoir in all of Central Asia and our base for the night.
Kok-Bel Hotel (or similar)
Today we leave Toktogul and again drive through the wild landscapes that make Kyrgyzstan such a memorable place to visit. Our destination is Djalal-Abad, located at the north-eastern end of the Fergana Valley and nestled in the foothills of the Baba Ata Mountains. The city is well-known for its spas and is responsible for producing several brands of mineral water sold across Central Asia. It is an also important agricultural hub, providing the majority of the fruit and vegetables for the region. Upon arrival, the rest of the afternoon is free to either explore or to relax after the day's drive.
Rosa Park Hotel (or similar)
We start the day travelling 90 kilometres north to the charming village of Arslanbob. Here we spend the day accompanied by a local guide, walking through the walnut groves of Arslanbob sometimes referred to as 'The Royal Woods of Kyrgyzstan'. The trees can reach 30 metres and grow wild on mountain slopes, and walking through the grove rewards us with spectacular views. We will also come across a beautiful 23 metre high waterfall nestled deep in the forest. The walk will take around three to four hours and is graded as easy, with no significant ascents or descents. Later in the afternoon we will make our way back to Djalal- Abad.
Leaving Djalal Abad behind we make our way into the expansive Fergana Valley and past the city of Osh, which according to legend was founded by either King Solomon or Alexander the Great! Although it dates back to the 5th century BC, very little remains to suggest its ancient past and today, it is Kyrgyzstan's second city and very much soviet in feel.
We then make our way to checkpoint 'Dostlik', on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, where we undergo immigration and customs formalities and bid farewell to our Kyrgyz leader as we are handed over to our tour leader from Uzbekistan. From the border we drive to our overnight stop in Fergana City.
Terra Nova Hotel (or similar)
This morning we head out to start the final leg of our journey. We must travel by convoy of smaller vehicles as we cross over Kamchik Pass at 2300m. We make a stop at Rishtan town, famous for its ceramics, where we visit a workshop. The Silk Road introduced Chinese ceramics to Uzbekistan, and while craftsman initially emulated Chinese designs, they soon evolved their own, now traditional, Uzbek geometric style. Later we make a brief stop in Kokand town, the former residence of Kokand Khan, before finally arriving in Tashkent.
Hotel Panarams by Radisson Individuals (or similar)
This morning we head out with a local guide to explore Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, which has been on this site for over 2000 years. Although much of it was destroyed in the earthquake of 1966 it has been rebuilt as a modern model city, with spacious avenues and ever-present fountains to cool the air. Our sightseeing tour includes various points of interest around the city, like the Independence Square, Navoi Theatre, Old City, Abu Khasim Madrassah and the Earthquake Monument. We also take a ride for 2-3 stops on the Tashkent Metro, which boasts some flamboyantly decorated stations.The afternoon is free.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Tashkent.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Tashkent at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport (TAS), which is 20 minutes' drive from the hotel.
Summer day temperatures can reach a maximum of 32°C in the lower slopes of the Tien Shan in July and August, although, as with any mountain area, temperatures can vary greatly and you should be prepared for extremes of weather. Night temperatures drop dramatically, possibly reaching zero degrees at night.
2 Pin Round
Islam, Russian Orthodox.
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit, when the temperatures are mild and there is the chance of occasional rains. April can bring colourful blooms to the normally barren desert landscapes, whilst summer days in the cities and desert can be very hot, when the temperatures can reach as high as 50°.
Islam, predominantly Sunni, Eastern Orthodox
Uzbek, Russian, Tajik
Chichkan Gorge - Afternoon forest walk (includes transportation and 2 hours guided walk) 10EUR per person (based on a minimum of 6 people)
Light-weight cottons are most suitable for the hot summers of Central Asia with warmer clothing including waterproof/windproof jacket needed for time spent in the mountains. At any time of the year a good fleece or down jacket plus gloves and hat are recommended for yurt stays. A pair of thermals is good as an extra layer, or for wearing in bed. The region is traditionally Muslim so brief shorts and skirts, or clothes that are revealing or tight offend local sensibilities. Women should bring a headscarf as this is necessary for some mosque visits. Bring swimming gear.
Good quality, comfortable shoes/trainers and sandals.
One main piece of baggage and a daypack will be needed as you will not have access to your main luggage during the overnight Yurt stay.
Bring a small torch, a water bottle, insect repellent and a small travel towel as some of the yurt camps do not supply towels. Although the yurt camps do provide thick blankets you may wish to bring your own sleeping bag for additional warmth as it can become very cold at night or in case of unseasonal weather. If using the local blankets then a sleeping bag liner or sheet should make your stay more comfortable.
Kyrgyzstan: Accommodation in Kyrgyzstan is very simple and the guesthouses we use may have shared bathrooms. We spend a night in traditional yurts with limited washing facilities. Although the yurt camps do provide thick blankets you may wish to bring your own sleeping bag for additional warmth as it can become very cold at night. If using the local blankets then a sleeping bag liner or sheet should make your stay more comfortable. Uzbekistan: We've chosen our accommodation in Uzbekistan to reflect different aspects of the country; from its nomadic roots, through Islamic heritage to modern day Uzbekistan. Rooms throughout are en suite and the standard is generally simple. We have tried to choose smaller locally run hotels for most of the trip rather than the bigger tourist hotels in the hope that this will provide a more personal authentic experience. Plumbing and electricity supplies can be somewhat erratic however and although the welcome is always warm, service levels may be less efficient than you may be used to.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Kyrgyzstan: Nationals of the UK, Canada, Australia and the United States don't need a visa to enter and stay for a maximum of 60 days. Other nationalities may require a single entry visa and should consult the relevant consulate or www.kyrgyzvisa.com for more information. Uzbekistan: Australian, Irish, Canadian and 'British citizen' passport holders can enter Uzbekistan as a visitor for stays of up to 30 days without a visa. Other nationalities including US nationals require a e-visa which can be obtained from www.e-visa.gov.uz All visa related information should be confirmed with the relevant Embassy prior to departureAll visa related queries should be confirmed with the relevant Embassy prior to departure
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against tetanus, infectious hepatitis, typhoid and polio. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on the need for and different prophylaxis available against malaria. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.