Kyrgyzstan - Uzbekistan Overland Tour
Explore the nomadic way of life in Kyrgyzstan, witness how people live hand in hand with nature continuing customs that have been passed down the generations for centuries in Central Asia. Explore the ancient city of Osh with its 3000 years old Silk Road history, and sleep in traditional Kyrgyz yurts.Read more
Explore the nomadic way of life in Kyrgyzstan, witness how people live hand in hand with nature continuing customs that have been passed down the generations for centuries in Central Asia. Explore the ancient city of Osh with its 3000 years old Silk Road history, and sleep in traditional Kyrgyz yurts.
For well over a thousand years, merchants carried their wares over remote mountain passes, along verdant river valleys of Fergana Valley and through the Great Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan. These nomads, conquerors, and settlers left behind an architectural legacy that draws on forgotten empires and ancient religions. Uzbekistan has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status for its age-old cities: Bukhara, Khiva, and Samarkand, arguably the jewel in the country’s dazzling crown. Central Asian mosques, madrassas, fortresses, and bazaars combine to create a timeless atmosphere, while out in the countryside, the country’s incredible landscapes will, we promise, capture both your imagination and your heart.
Welcome to Central Asia! Transfer to the hotel and early check in at the hotel. You can have a rest after your long flight, take a shower and have breakfast.
Transfer to Ala Archa National Park, in the mountains, just 30km outside of Bishkek. We will have a walk in the Park, enjoying the nice views and fresh air. Transfer back to Bishkek for lunch in the city center. In the afternoon we will have a city tour in Bishkek. The tour includes Osh Bazaar, Panfilov Park, Ala-Too Square with the National History Museum, and monuments to national hero Manas, writer Chingiz Aitmatov and another Kyrgyz hero Kozhomkul. Dinner in a nice local restaurant.
Hotel Plaza or similar.
After breakfast we depart from Bishkek. First stop is Burana Tower near the town of Tokmok, 60km east of Bishkek. The minaret from the 11th century is the only remaining building from the ancient town of Balasagun, once capital of the mighty Karakhanid empire. You can walk up the winding staircase and enjoy a nice view of the Chuy valley.
There is also a small open-air museum with “balbals”, carved stone figures used as monuments. We then continue driving to lake Issyk Kul. Lake Issyk Kul is the second-largest mountain lake in the world, after Titicaca. Located at an altitude of 1600m, it is a slightly saline lake with no outlet, surrounded completely by the Tien Shan Mountains.
Some evidence suggests that ruins of an old trade center from 2nd century BC can be found under the water. At the beginning of the lake, on the southern shore we visit the village of Kyzyl-Tuu. Most people in this village are engaged in the manufacturing of yurts and it is the perfect place to learn more about the Kyrgyz yurt and how they are made. We then continue driving along the picturesque southern shore of the lake to our yurt camp near the village of Tosor. Upon arrival at the yurt camp there is some time to go swimming in the lake before dinner.
Overnight in yurt – 2-4 people in a yurt, facilities are outside (Western toilet, shower with heated water).
After breakfast drive along the southern shore of the lake back westwards towards the village of Kochkor. On the way we make a first stop at the canyon “Skazka” translated as “Fairytale” due to its bizarre rocky landscape, which for many years has been transformed by wind into fabulous sculptures and formations. We go for a short hike at the canyon. In the village of Bokonbaevo we will make the next stop to meet an Eagle hunter, who will make a demonstration for us. Finally, we arrive in Kochkor, where we visit a workshop where local women produce carpets from felt. You can even try to make your own. Dinner and overnight in a local guesthouse in Kochkor.
Adamkaly Guesthouse, with shared western toilet and shower.
Waking up fully refreshed, we’ll spend the morning hiking in the hills south of Son Kul Lake. Huge lumps of granite litter the verdant meadows and we’ll wander among them keeping our eyes peeled for the petroglyphs that can be found on some of them. These rock drawings depict scenes of rural life that have changed little in the intervening centuries.
After our hike, we’ll leave Song Kul through the Kara Keche Pass (alt.3360m) and drive through a diverse landscape consisting of red sedimentary rocks, green meadows, black rocky mountains and yellow sandy hills. This is an artist’s palette of color and perhaps we’ll be inspired to sketch it for ourselves as we stop for a picnic on the way. Later, we’ll arrive in Kyzyl Korgon, a very small mountainous village where we will stay with a local family in their home.
Departing in the early morning we’ll take a challenging road which skirts the Kekemeren River and is often marked only by the tracks of the vehicles that have come before us. We’ll drive through a dramatic gorge where 500m high blood orange cliffs overhang the road, squeezing it into the narrowest spaces between the rocks and the river. Once again, the scenery changes constantly, a reminder of the diverse beauty that characterizes Kyrgyzstan.
Pausing for a picnic on the way, we’ll cross the Ter Jailoo Pass (alt.2465m), another spectacular mountain route. We’ll seize the opportunity to hike through the “Jailoo” (meaning pastures in Kyrgyz) as far as the village of Kara Jygash. We will also have the chance to meet nomadic families on the way, who will most likely invite us to drink kumis, the traditional beverage of the nomads. It is fermented mare’s milk, an acquired taste, but one you should try at least once during your trip. We’ll arrive on the shore of Toktogul’s Lake, this time, not a natural lake but instead an artificially created reservoir created by damming the Naryn River. Dinner and a bed for the night will be at in a small hotel in Kok Bel, on the southern shore of the lake.
In the morning, we’ll drive along the Naryn River towards the border with Uzbekistan. The Naryn River starts to flow ever stronger despite the fact that this is still only the beginning of the mighty Syr-Daria River, known as Iaxarte by the ancient Greeks, irrigating Central Asia with its sibling Amu-Daria. The color palette fades to one of sage greens, ice blues, and charcoal grays, but it’s every bit as photogenic as the scenery we’ve experienced already.
We’ll leave the Tien Shan Mountains behind us as we enter the Fergana Valley, a very fertile plain that straddles Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The climate starts to become a little warmer, there is a higher density of population and once again the landscape undergoes a transformation. We’ll arrive in Arslanbob, a village with a high concentration of ethnic Uzbeks.
They make their home against the foothills of the mountains, by one of the largest forests of walnut trees in the world. We’ll stay with one of the families and have enough time to explore the village, the forest and even hike to one of the nearby waterfalls. The villagers have donkeys for hire should you wish to ride one.
We’ll depart Arslanbob in the morning and drive along the Uzbek border to Uzgen, one of the capitals of the Karakhanid Empire during 11th and 12th centuries. Three mausoleums date from this period, once used for Karakhanid governors; a minaret also survives. We’ll take our time visiting this medieval architectural complex, unique to Kyrgyzstan before enjoying lunch in Uzgen next to the old bazaar.
After lunch, we drive to Osh, an ancient Silk Road city with a history spanning three thousand years and a culture that draws on both Uzbek and Kyrgyz traditions. We’ll climb Solomon’s Mountain and visit his throne and the museum tucked away in a natural cave nearby. The bazaar is also a draw, with traders’ stalls strung out along the river banks of the city. Dinner tonight will be taken in a traditional chaikhana, where we can taste plov, the famous Central Asian dish. Our overnight base will be in the house of a typical Uzbek family.
In the afternoon transfer to Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border point Dostuk. After the border formalities, your guide will welcome you on Uzbek side and take you further on your journey to Fergana. This is one of the world’s great drives, with desiccated slopes rippled with the marks of dried gulleys stretching as far as the eye can see.
Beyond, a backdrop of craggy peaks, their summits dusted with snow even in summer, help to take our minds off the sometimes uncomfortable road. On the way visit Andijan and Quva. This is the stuff of adventures, where dust and discomfort will be forgotten long before the incredible panoramas that will surely be etched into our memories.
Arrival at Fergana. Your tour leader will be by your side to explain and inform, offering context on topics as varied as history, people and tradition. We’ll meet over dinner in one of the city’s great restaurants and discuss our plans, so rest assured you’ll have myriad opportunities to ask questions.
Today is all about the journey as we begin our way over the Kamchik mountain pass, located at 2267 metres above sea level. We’ll pause at Margilan and Kokand, once a bustling transport hub for Silk Road merchants bound for the Fergana Valley. Our driver will take us to Margilan.
Our first stop is at the Said Akhmad-Khoja Madrassa, its geometric architecture softened by the trees planted around it. These days, it’s the base of craftsmen carrying on the age-old tradition of producing carpets and silk. At the Yodgorlik Silk Factory, the wooden looms click as bolts of cloth are produced the old-fashioned way, the vibrancy of their colors matched only by the dresses of the women that work them. The traditional Ikat patterns that you’ll see are created before the cloth is woven by binding yarn and dip dyeing to form elaborate patterns.
Kokand was formerly the capital of Uzbek Khanate and an important religious center, it fell to the Russians in 1883 and surrendered its independence to become part of the Russian Republic of Turkestan. Its many mosques and madrassas will offer a welcome diversion from the road. The palace built by the last Kokand Khan, Khudoyar, is an impressive sight, the turquoise domes at its gate rising above an intricately tiled structure that combines shades of blue, yellow and brown which glint in the sunshine. By the evening, we will reach Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s lively capital.
The largest city in Central Asia is a curious blend of Islamic and Soviet influences and we’ll continue our exploration today. We’ll return to the Old City area of Tashkent to visit the Khast Imom Complex which contains ancient holy books and the Madrassa of Barak-Khan, as well as taking a closer look at the Tilla Sheikh Mosque and the Mausoleum of Saint Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi.
Then, we will take a ride on the city’s famous Soviet-era metro system which like Moscow’s features some of the most ornately decorated stations in the world. You’ll exit at Amir Temur Square Station for a look at the statue of the great conqueror and next to it, the grandeur of Independence Square. We visit Applied Arts Museum where you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the vibrant Uzbek art scene. As the afternoon fades into evening we’ll make our way to the airport for our flight to Bukhara.
The second of our UNESCO World Heritage stops, even the very name Bukhara conjures up images of the exotic Orient. Today, as for centuries, it’s an important trading post and you’ll have numerous opportunities to see traditional Uzbek products being bought and sold. The Old Town has been well preserved and is crammed full of minarets, mosques, and madrassas. Its once notorious canals and pools, the source of many an epidemic, have now been drained but the most famous, Lyabi-Hauz, is still there, an oasis shaded by mulberry trees at the heart of the city.
Overnight in hotel Asia or similar.
A single day isn’t enough to do Bukhara justice and so we devote a second to exploring this fascinating place. This morning, we’ll take you to the summer residence of Bukhara’s last Emir, a unique site which blends Oriental and Russian architecture. In the afternoon, hit the road, as tonight’s destination is the exotic city of Samarkand.
Sublime Samarkand evokes an almost mythical past full of romance and intrigue. This was the domain of Timur, one of history’s great conquerors. His vast empire rivalled any, stretching across the Eurasian steppe, who ruled his kingdom with an iron fist while at the same time patronising the arts and literature. Much of his architectural heritage has been preserved, allowing us to see how the city might have been at the peak of his power.
We’ll begin in spectacular Registan Square, the focal point of ancient Samarkand and framed by three beautiful madrassas. We’ll explore one of the city’s unmissable sights, the Bibi Khanum Mosque, before delving into the Siyob Bazaar to haggle for dried fruit and souvenirs to take home. Finally, our guide will show us the well-preserved Ulugbek Observatory. Uzbek astronomer Ulugbek was decades ahead of the west with his observations of the solar system and the earth and we’ll learn more about his story in this prestigious setting.
Today we continue sightseeing in magical Samarkand. We visit the Afrasiyab Museum and Tomb of St. Daniel before we head out of the city to nearby village Khoni Ghil, where we can learn about the traditional way of making Samarkand paper from mulberry.
At 17.00 we take high-speed train Afrosiyob to Tashkent which takes just little more than two hours. Back in Tashkent we will transfer to restaurant for farewell dinner.
Today it’s time to say a fond farewell to your Central Asia travel adventures. Our driver will provide your transfer to Tashkent International Airport. We hope you’ve enjoyed your trip and will return soon to explore other Central Asian countries.
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