||Arrival in Bishkek.
Meeting at “Manas” airport. Transfer to Bishkek (30 km), check-in at hotel. Guided sightseeing tour of Bishkek: the central Ala-Too Square, National hero Manas Monument, statue of Lenin, Old Square with Parliament House, Victory Square, Oak Park, Opera House, Philharmonic Society. After lunch drive to Ala Archa National Park. Walking. Return to Bishkek. Overnight at the hotel.
Welcome to Bishkek - the capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan!
Thence our road begins, on which numerous caravans used to travel centuries ago.
The city is located in the centre of Chuy Valley, at 800m above sea level in the foothill of Kyrgyz Alatoo Range of which the highest one - Alameddin Peak (4895m) - can be seen from the city (50km to the south).
Bishkek was originally designed and built in 1868 as a Russian military garrison base. Independent since 1991, modern city of 1 million-odd population still is regarded as one of the most Russian-speaking cities of Central Asia.
Bishkek is a city of wide streets, marble-faced public buildings and numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks with interior courtyards, as well as thousands of smaller privately built houses outside the city center. It is laid out on a grid pattern, with most streets flanked on both sides by innumerable trees which provide shade in the hot summers. There are over 150 species of trees and smaller plants growing in the city.
Places to visit in Bishkek are: the Ala-Too Square (Alatau Square), the main square of the city, with the government building and fountains. On the square you can see a flagstaff and a monument to epic hero Manas. The square is surrounded by a number of interesting objects, such as Historical Museum with its unique for CIS countries collection of bronze relieves and statues of the Soviet period, the House of the Government made of white marble, the Oak Park and the Nikolskaya Church, the city’s oldest building.
You should also see Lenin’s statue, as Bishkek is the only capital of the post-Soviet countries featuring a statue of this person. Opera goers may choose to attend impressive Opera House to enjoy opera or ballet performance given once or twice a week or opt to listen to European classic- or Kyrgyz folk music concerts given at the Kyrgyz State Philharmonic Society.
No problems in changing you foreign currency (USD, Euros, JPY, British Pounds and Chinese Yuans) in Bishkek as well as using your travellers checks and credit cards for buying local currency (called Kyrgyz Som).
After lunch we shall have an excursion to the Ala Archa National Park (41 km from Bishkek), situated on the northern slope of the Kyrgyz Range at elevations between 1,600 and 4,875 m above sea level and stretching some 18 km from north to south.
‘Ala’ translates as ‘snowy’, while ‘Archa’ means ‘juniper.’ The gorge is the location of over thirty glaciers of different size, each beautiful in its own way, which melt only in the hottest season. The gorge’s slopes are covered with various juniper species.
Ala Archa features alpine lakes, gracious waterfalls, moraines and glaciers, which can be observed from high above if one climbs beyond the clouds. During a single trip you can feel burning heat and visit the realm of snow and glaciers. The grandiose panorama that can be obtained from the heights includes Semenov-Tyan-Shansky, Korona, Free Korea, Teke-Tor, Ak-Too and other peaks, most of which rise over 4,000 m above sea level.
Return to Bishkek in the evening.
Overnight at the hotel.
||Bishkek - Kyzyl-Oy village (200 km; 5 h).
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to village Kyzyl-Oy via Too-Ashuu Pass (3370 m), providing a wonderful view of the Suusamyr alpine valley surrounded by the snow-white peaks of the Northern Tien Shan. On our way there we visit the Kojomkul museum, dedicated to a famous Kyrgyz strongman named Kojomkul and situated in the wrestler’s native village. Arrival in village Kyzyl-Oy. Dinner and overnight homestay.
On this day we shall enjoy the breathtaking panorama of the Suusamyr valley, which can be observed from the Too Ashuu Pass (3,370 m). The valley lies at elevations between 2,200 m and 2,600 m, hidden between two mountain ranges - the Kyrgyz Ala-Too from the north and the Suusamyr Too from the south, 130 km from Bishkek. The valley is surrounded on all sides by numerous picturesque mountains up to 4,500 m in height. In winter the region sees a great number of skiers and snowboarders tempted by virgin snow and the opportunity of backcountry skiing.
On our way we shall call at the museum dedicated to Kyrgyz strongman Kojomkul (1888-1955), located in the village the man was born and grew up in. People say that Kojomkul was over 2 m in stature and able to lift up an adult horse and carry huge boulders for long distances.
Accommodation at local house on arrival in village Kyzyl-Oy.
The mountain village of Kyzyl Oy is situated in the Kokomeren River valley at altitude of 1,800 m above sea level and is surrounded on all sides by beautiful mountains with red slopes. The place is ideal for resting from noise and the bustle of civilization!
Dinner and overnight homestay.
||Kyzyl-Oy - Son-Kul Lake (150 km, 5-6 ).
Breakfast at local house. Transfer to alpine Lake Son Kul along the Kokomeren, which is the main tributary of the Naryn, Kyrgyzstan’s largest river. The uphill road to the lake crosses the Kara Keche Pass (3,180 m). Accommodation and dinner at Yurt camp on the shore of Son Kul Lake, which is one of the most beautiful lakes in Kyrgyzstan. Overnight in a yurt.
Today we shall make a trip to Son Kul, one of Kyrgyzstan’s largest and most picturesque lakes lying in a giant depression 3,016 m above sea level, in the northwestern part of Naryn Province. The lake stretches to a length of 29 km and is 18 km wide, with a maximum depth of 22 m.
Lake Son Kul is surrounded by alpine meadows, which local people have used as summer pastures (jayloo) since ancient times. Shepherds arrive there with their families and herds in late spring and stay in the area for the whole of summer, living in yurts. The lake shores are richly covered with a diversity of flowers, among which are the famous edelweisses.
Recently, ecological Kyrgyzstan tourism (ecotourism) has grown popular in the region: in the so called jayloo tours tourists are offered to live the life of a shepherd, abstaining from the advantages of civilization, within the local nomadic culture, dwelling in yurts and enjoying the natural traditional food and the beauty of the mountains.
This day will be filled with crystal clear air, perfect silence, fantastic mountain landscapes, bright alpine meadows, the smooth turquoise surface of the enormous lake and the velvet canopy of the night strewn with myriads of large stars!
Dinner at Yurt camp on the shore of Son Kul Lake. Overnight in a yurt.
||Son-Kul Lake - Naryn - Tash Rabat stone caravanserai (280 км; 5-6 ч).
Breakfast at the Yurt camp. Descending from the lake area via the Moldo Ashuu Pass (3,110 m), from where you can enjoy the sight of a gorge covered all over with TIen Shan spruces. Dinner in Naryn. Driving through the At Bashi valley, the home of the famous runners. Arriving in the Yurt Camp near Tash Rabat. Excursion to Tash Rabat - a medieval caravanserai on the Great Silk Road. Dinner at Yurt camp. Overnight in a yurt.
After breakfast in the Yurt Camp we shall depart for the city of Naryn via the high-altitude Moldo Ashuu Pass (3,110 m), which provides a breathtaking panorama with snow-capped mountains and slopes covered with Asian spruces. A picturesque serpentine road leads to the top of the pass, which is sometimes buried in thick mist.
Naryn,the administrative centre of Naryn province, is situated in the Naryn depression at an elevation of 2,000 m, on the bank of the river with the same name. With an average temperature of +18°С in July, Naryn is the coldest city in Kyrgyzstan. This centre of tourism boasts unique natural beauties surrounding it, such as picturesque mountain passes, deep gorges, gurgling mountain streams, magnificent lakes and waterfalls, perpetual snow belts and glaciers and the unique ancient nomadic culture. Naryn is a starting point for many of the horse and walking trips across the spurs of the Tien Shan Mountains, as well as hunting tours and rafting in the rapid Naryn River.
After lunch we shall transfer to the picturesque At Bashi valley with a river of the same name running along its bottom. Rocks with tilting tops and most beautiful coniferous forests on the banks of the stream are the valley’s distinguishing features.
Our destination today is the Yurt Camp near the Tash Rabat caravanserai (15th century).
Tash Rabat is a unique early medieval architectural monument and one of Kyrgyzstan’s principal archaeological attractions. It is located in the picturesque Kara Koyun gorge in Naryn province, 110 km from the city of Naryn, not far from the China-Kyrgyzstan border, at an elevation of 3,200 m.
In those ancient times, when the lively Great Silk Road was trodden with numerous caravans, the Tash Rabat fortress performed the functions of a caravanserai or, to translate it into contemporary language, a medieval hotel, an inn for merchants and travellers. This stone construction situated in the valley of the small Tash Rabat River in the Central Tien Shan Mountains in former times was a major point on a trade route that connected the Chu and Fergana Valleys with Kashgar.
At the site we shall stay in traditional Kyrgyz yurts. A guide will familiarize you with the caravanserai.
Dinner and overnight in yurts.
||Tash Rabat - Tamga village (450 km; 7 ч).
Breakfast at the Yurt camp. Returning to the city of Naryn along the familiar road and travelling further to the town of Kochkorka across the Dolon Pass (3,030 m). Dinner with a local family in Kochkorka (as an option). If desired, we can organize a shyrdak show (demonstration of the process of making carpets from felt) or a visit to a museum-shop. Travelling along the southern shore of Lake Issyk Kul with a stop at the Fairy Tale canyon. Arrival in Tamga village. Check-in and dinner at guest house.
Overnight at guest house.
Today we shall travel across the picturesque Dolon Pass (3,030 m) to Kochkorka.
Kochkor (Kochkorka) is a small town in Naryn province, Kyrgyzstan, situated at an elevation of 2,000 m. The Kochkor valley (which is actually a plateau) has recently grown highly popular among tourists for the bright and unique Kyrgyz traditions, which have been preserved there unchanged, amidst the pure majesty of high mountains.
Among these traditions are the making of shyrdak - a traditional ornamented Kyrgyz felt carpet, the process of which, if desired, can be demonstrated as part of the shyrdak show.
Travelling along the southern shore of Lake Issyk Kul with a stop at amazing Fairy Tale canyon.
Consisting of red sand and clay, the canyon formed millions of years ago through geological processes and the work of water and wind. This wonderful place was named Fairy Tale, because, if you wander long enough through the numerous labyrinths of the canyon, whose bottom is covered all over with ephedra shrubs, its forms begin producing in your mind the fairytale images of fabulous animals and monsters, castles, towers and human faces. Rain or strong wind can alter the canyon’s relief greatly, and, coming there another time, you can see completely different images and figures.
Arrival in Tamga - a resort village on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Kul. The village is famous for its holy ancient rocks with Buddhist mantras inscribed on them, which are located in the Tamga gorge not far from the settlement.
Lake Issyk Kul (“warm lake” in Kyrgyz) - a natural wonder of Central Asia! The phenomenon of Issyk Kul lake is not only in its being world’s second largest (both by deepness and square area) alpine lake but also that, despite altitude (1.608m), it never gets ice on its surface. The lake attracts hundreds of birds (local as well migratory), is abundant in fish (trout, carp, pike-perch etc.) and provides habitat (the lake-shore riparian forests as well as surrounding mountain forests) for diverse wildlife including nearly extinct snow leopards and red wolves.
Issyk Kul is the most popular tourist destination of Kyrgyzstan. The mountains and the marine microclimate produce a wild, unique environment here. The water of the Issyk Kul is clear blue with a visibility of up to 60 feet (20 m).The water temperature in July on the surface is a comfortable 68° to 73° F (20° to 23° C), and in January it is 36° to 37° F (2° to 3° C).
Accommodation and dinner at guest house in Tamga village. Overnight at guest house.
||Tamga village - Djety-Oguz gorge - Karakol (140 km, 6-8 h including stops).
Breakfast at guest house. Transfer to the Jety-Oguz Gorge with the famous red rocks, The Broken Heart and The Seven Bulls. Driving upstream along the gorge to the Flowers Glade. Walking up to a waterfall, if weather permits. Picnic. Transfer to Karakol. Check-in and overnight at hotel.
Today we visit Djety-Oguz Gorge (“seven bulls” in Kyrgyz) located in the Northern slopes of Terskei Ala Too some 35km west from Karakol. Here we can see an unusual formation of red sandstone cliffs that gave the place its name - Seven Bulls. The landscape of the gorge was formed by the Jety-Oguz River emptying into Lake Issyk Kul. The slopes in the gorge are covered with the world-famous Tien Shan blue spruce for about 25km along the fast mountain river, being one of the most beautiful places in Kyrgyzstan.
Next to the gorge’s mouth there is The Broken Heart rock, one of the most romantic places ideal for lovers. According to legend, the rock symbolizes the broken heart of a girl having died because of two young men, who had killed each other in a fight for her. Loving couples like to have their pictures taken in the place.
Transfer to Djety Oguz gorge located in the Northern slopes of Terskei Ala Too some 35km west from Karakol. The countryside is rich (wheat, barley) and green (lucerne, rape) with some farm settlements initially giving way to pine forest and meadows (good for beekeeping) set in a narrow valley.
In Djety-Oguz (“seven bulls” in Kyrgyz) we can see an unusual formation of red sandstone cliffs that gave the place its name - Seven Bulls. The slopes in the gorge are covered with the world-famous Tien Shan blue spruce for about 25km along the fast mountain river.
Driving upstream along the gorge to the Flowers Glade. Walking to a waterfall, if weather permits. Picnic.
Further transfer to the city of Karakol (formerly Przhevalsk, after the Russian explorer Przhevalsky who died there an administrative centre and the largest resort of Issyk Kul Province (12km away of the Lake Issyk Kul) situated in its eastern part, at the foot of the Terskey-Alatau Range, at elevations between 1,690 and 1,850 m above sea level. Karakol was founded in 1869 as a military and administrative station on a caravan road connecting the Chuy Valley and Kashgaria. Karakol (population of 65,000) features highly developed infrastructure and boasts a large number of shops, restaurants, cafes, hotels and boarding houses; not far from the city there is a ski resort, hot springs and very many other places in the surrounding mountains good for active recreation (trekking, hiking, biking, paragliding and mountaineering).
Since ancient times the Lake Issyk Kul is historically known as fertile oasis (especially in its western edge where Karakol town is situated). Abundance of rains and deep mountain streams bring here a lot of water and make local climate extremely favourable for agriculture farming and cattle breeding. That is why the streets of the town are drawn in impressively thick and tall poplars as well as apricot, cherry, pear and apple trees. Local bazaars attract with its mix of Chinese, Dungan, Uighur and Russian faces and a diversity of local fruits and vegetables.
Check-in and overnight at hotel.
||Karakol - Cholpon Ata - Chong-Kemin (350 km, 6-7 h).
Breakfast at the hotel. Drive along northern shore of Lake Issyk Kul. Visiting Przhevalski museum on route (9 km from Karakol). Arrival in Cholpon Ata. Visiting Museum of petroglyphs in Cholpon Ata. Departure for the Chong-Kemin gorge after lunch. Arrival in Chong-Kemin gorge. Walking about a village and the neighbouring mountainous area. Check-in and dinner at guest house. Overnight at guest house.
Today we shall drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk Kul and visit the Przhevalsky Memorial Complex (9 km from Karakol), which includes a museum and the statue and grave of the outstanding traveller and explorer of Central Asia, who wanted to be buried near Issyk Kul.
Arrival in Cholpon-Ata - a 40 000-population big town and unofficial centre of resort area of Issyk Kul Lake where all spectrum of sanatoriums and rest houses is available. The Cholpon Ata museum contains over 1,000 petroglyphs, ancient burials, ruins of settlements, stone circles, remains of walls and other archaeological objects.
After lunch we depart for the Chong-Kemin gorge (Chon-Kemin gorge) - a wonderful mountainous region ranking among the most beautiful in Kyrgyzstan. A national park was organised in the territory of the gorge, including the Chong-Kemin River, with the purpose of conserving the region’s unique flora and fauna and its natural beauty.
Check-in and dinner at guest house.
||Chong-Kemin - Burana Tower - Bishkek (150 km, 4-5 h).
Breakfast at guest house. After breakfast we drive to Bishkek. Visiting the ruins of Burana Tower (old minaret) and ruins of Balasagun settlement near Tokmok town. Arrival in Bishkek and chek-in at hotel. Leisure time. Overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast we set off to Bishkek and visit Burana Tower on the way - an architectural and archaeological monument situated amidst the ruins of the Burana archaeological site, 12 km from the town of Tokmok. Historians suppose that the site was the location of the medieval city of Balasagun, the capital of the Karakhanids’ state (940-1212), which was one of the largest and most powerful feudal Turkic countries. At that time the Great Silk Road went past Balasagun, which made the city rank amongst the most prosperous cities of the time. In 1219 the city was captured by the Mongols and by the 14th century Balasagun stopped existing. And only the huge Burana Tower, ruins of fortresses and fortification walls and fragments of water pipes, as well as some household items and articles of decorative art found at the site testify to the grandeur that the Karakhanid capital once demonstrated.
Arrival in Bishkek and chek-in at hotel. Leisure time. Overnight at the hotel.
||Bishkek. Transfer to airport. Departure.
Transfer to airport. Departure.