Into the Wild. Kyrgyzstan

In one of the least visited regions on Earth, take a walk in the wild in Kyrgyzstan, land of horse games and eagle hunters. Explore the ancient cities of the Karakhanids, with visits to the sites of Uzgen and Balasagun and gaze in wonder at the ramparts of the mysterious fortress of Koshoy Kurgan. Hike among some of the most impressive works of nature on the planet with stays in the majestic Jeti Oguz gorge and hikes around the southern lakes of Kol-Suu and Son-Kul. Take a journey along the silk road with a stay near the caravanserai lodge at Tash-Rabat and view a twinkling night sky full of millions of stars from the step of your yurt. Although Kyrgyzstan is already off the beaten track, go one step further with visits to the scenic village of Jyrgalan and the remote beautiful lake of Sary-Chelek.

Wake up among the stunning natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan with stays in nomadic yurts and enjoy the warm hospitality of the local people with stays in small guesthouses and homestays in small towns and villages.


TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Explore the vast natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan with its Alpine ‘jailoo’ meadows, stunning lakes, pretty waterfalls and the impressive Jeti Ozguz and ‘fairy-tale’ gorges
  • Meet a family of eagle hunters in Bokonbeyevo, take a sunset boat ride on Issyk-Kul Lake and meet the Dungan people who inhabit the area around the lake’s shoreline
  • Discover the ancient cities of Uzgen and Balasagun, home of the enigmatic ‘Burana Tower’, as well as marvel at the mysterious, towering walls of the fortress of Koshoy Korgon
  • Have a go at making the traditional and moreish dish of Boosok, learn to build a yurt and watch a traditional horse game of ‘Kok Boru’
  • Stay in traditional yurts set up in the picturesque countryside, cosy homestays and guest houses in small towns and villages and traditional hotels in cities

The Basics

Start: Bishkek

Finish: Bishkek

Trip style: Unique

Max group size: 15

21 Days

BISHKEK – BISHKEK

$6375 AUD*

Departure date: 28 August 2023

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: IKBB *from

ITINERARY

Arrive in Bishkek and make your own way to the trip hotel. Meet your trip leader and travel companions for a welcome meeting at 17.00 to discuss your Kyrgyzstan tour. After the meeting, head out into Bishkek to a local restaurant for a special dinner.

This morning we will begin our exploration of Bishkek. The capital of Kyrgyzstan. We will begin with a walk through the colourful Osh bazaar where we will have the opportunity to buy fresh produce such as fresh fruit and nuts directly from the local people.

After the bazaar we will continue on to Ala-Too square, built in 1984 to celebrate the soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. Our next stop will be ‘Old Square’ which is home to a giant statue of soviet hero Vladimir Lenin. We will visit the Kyrgyz National Philharmonic Hall and Manas complex, dedicated to one of Kyrgyzstan’s national heroes.

Later in the morning we will make a stop at the ZUM National Department store, one of the oldest stores in Kyrgyzstan and formerly run by the state, before a stop at the Kyrgyz State Historical Museum

The afternoon will be free for you to explore Bishkek on your own.

This evening there may be the opportunity to attend a ballet or an Opera at the Abdylas Maldybayev Theatre. If the schedule of the theatre aligns with our trip, tickets will be offered* closer to the departure date. (We’ll keep you posted!)

* Performance at the Abdylas Maldybayev Theatre is an optional experience and is not included in the trip price.

We will depart Bishkek this morning and head out into the stunning wilderness of Kyrgyzstan. Our destination today is Kegety Gorge, a long canyon on the northern slopes of the Kyrgyz Ridges.

On arrival at the gorge we will take an easy trek to the beautiful Kel-Tor Lake, on the way we will see mountain glaciers and lots of local flora including colourful wild flowers. When we reach the lake we will stop to rest with a picnic lunch on its picturesque shores before following the Kegety Gorge stream back to our vehicle.

After our day in the wilderness, we will transfer to a local guesthouse in Tokmok for the evening.

We will arise early this morning and head to the archaeological site of Burana. The site is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun, which was established by the Karakhanids, a Turkic khanate which ruled over Central Asia in the 9th century CE. The site contains grave markers called ‘balbals’, three mausoleums, the remnants of a castle and most famously the enigmatic ‘Burana Tower’, a large free-standing minaret.

We will continue to Boom Gorge, for an afternoon of exploring more of Kyrgyzstan’s stunning scenery on foot. A labyrinth of smaller canyons, Boom Gorge is broken up into ‘Grand Canyon’, ‘Sky-scraper Canyon’ and ‘Bobsled Canyon’ among others.

After our hike in the canyons, we will transfer to the lake side village of Cholpon-Ata and check in to our local hotel.

Optional experience: Sunset boat ride on Lake Issyk-kul

Prior to departing Cholpon-Ata this morning we will discover some of Kyrgyzstan’s most ancient past at the open-air Petroglyph Museum. Some of the Petroglyphs date back over 4000 years, however most can be dated to the bronze age (around 1500 BCE) and were carved by the Saka-Usun tribes.

In the mid-morning we will start our journey to the wilderness of the Jyrgalan region, a place where very few outside travellers have ventured. This evening we will stay at a farm where they breed Kyrgyz racehorses. The use of horses in Kyrgyzstan is still of vital importance in a country which still has a large nomadic population, and which participates in many difference horse sports including horse racing and the traditional game of Kok-Boru.

Lunch and dinner will be served at the farm and after dinner we will be treated to some ‘frog therapy’ at a nearby pond.

Later we are in for a treat with a traditional display of folk dancing and music at the farm.

This morning we will travel into the valley to Jyrgalan Village. Once there we will explore the local area around Jyrgalan on foot. The Jyrgalan Valley is by far one of the most beautiful places in Kyrgyzstan, where snowmelt rivers carve their way through jagged peaks and feed into alpine lakes and where nomadic shepherds tend their cattle among picturesque yurt camps.

This afternoon we will try our hand at making the local dish of ‘boorsok’, a small savory donut often eaten alongside other meals such as soup. Sounds simple, but believe us, it’s more some and you won’t be able to get enough once you try it!

This afternoon is free for you to explore the stunning landscape and village of Jyrgalan on your own. You may want to rest, chat to the local people or just wander about the small village.

Optional experience: Horse Riding to Turnaluu Kol or ‘Crane Lake’

This morning we will leave Jyrgalan and travel to the eastern shore of Issyk Kul Lake to the town of Karakol. On arrival we will visit the wooden Russian Orthodox Church and Dungan Mosque, as well as take a stroll through the local bazaar.

Lunch today will be served in the house of a local Dungan family. The Dungan people are a mix of peoples of Arab and Chinese ethnicity and who emigrated to Karakol in the 1880’s to escape religious persecution.

After lunch we will transfer to Jeti Oguz gorge where we will see the enormous stone formations of the ‘Seven Bulls’ and ‘Broken Heart’.

We will have lunch in a nearby yurt before a hike to a beautiful waterfall.

This evening we will sleep in traditional nomadic yurts in Jeti Oguz, surrounded by the stunning scenery.

This morning we will emerge from our yurts, instantly surrounded by nature. We will enjoy a view of Terskey-Ala-Too ridge and after breakfast we will begin the journey to Bokonbeyevo on the southern shore of Issyk-Kul lake.

Our first stop along the way will be the Barskoon Gorge, known for the beauty of its waterfalls, before traveling to the so-called ‘fairy-tale’ gorge. Solid clusters of limestone and sandstone form colourful castle like structures, fairy figures and churches making for a magical experience.

On arrival in Bokonbeyevo village we will visit the house of a local eagle hunter to meet the eagles and learn all about the nomadic practice of eagle hunting, before arriving at our yurt camp on the southern shore of Issky-Kul Lake.

We depart this morning and transfer to Son-Kul Lake deep in the south of Kyrgyzstan.

Along the way we will stop in the village of Kochkorka, where we will have lunch in a traditional restaurant, visit the local crafts museum and see a demonstration of the process of making felt carpets.

On arrival at Son-Kul we will check in to our yurt camp.

We wake up surrounded by nature again this morning in the area of Son-Kul Lake. The lake is legendary in Kyrgyzstan as the most beautiful lake in the centre of the Tian Shen mountains. The lake is located on an alpine meadow (known locally as ‘jailoo’) and is surrounded by mountain ridges giving the lake its own microclimate.

Today we will get acquainted with the nomadic life of the region. We will see the Tash-Tuulga stones, a stone circle on the eastern shore of the lake, which were used to support large cauldrons. The stones date back to the 1st century BCE and have parallels in Western Mongolia, Altai and Tuva. 

We will hike up a nearby hill to gain a better view of the jailoo, ancient stone calendar and see ancient petroglyphs.

The afternoon is free for you to experience the beauty of Son-Kul on your own.

Optional experience: Horse riding around Son-Kul Lake

Horse Riding - Kyrgyzstan tour

Featured Optional experience – Kok Boru Game

Kok-Boru is a traditional horse game which has been played in Kyrgyzstan for centuries and is enshrined on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The name ‘Kok-Boru means ‘blue wolf’ in the local Kyrgyz language and may have evolved from informal competitions among local shepherds who hunted wolves that threatened their flocks. The game is akin to polo, played by two teams, but not played with a ball, but rather the carcass of a goat. The teams try to manoeuvre the goat into the goal of the other team. Kyrgyzstan has a higher league of Kok-Boru players as well as semi-professional and amateur teams. A chance to see this sport played at Son-Kul is an opportunity to see it in its most original form as played by members of the public and local nomads. As nomads (and former nomads) the horse is still a very important fixture in the Kyrg

This morning we will view the beautiful Son-Kul waterfall which is located along the ‘Serpentine Way’ before transferring the Naryn city.

On arrival we will have some free time to explore and grab some lunch.

Departing Naryn we will ascend the Kyzyl-Bel pass, which heads down to the At-Bashi Valley. We will then ascend the Kyndy pass and proceed through customs, as our destination lies on the border with China (we will not enter China). From the pass we will head down to the Ak-Say River and the area of Kol-Suu Lake. Kol-Suu Lake is situated at a height of 3500m above sea level and is clenched in by high cliffs.

On arrival we will check in to a yurt camp for an evening in the high wilderness.

This morning we will wake up in our yurts and then undertake a hike to see Kol-Suu Lake.

After lunch at camp, we will depart for Koshoy Korgan. Koshoy Korgan is an immense ruined fortress of uncertain date located in At-Bashy.

On departure from Koshoy Korgan we will travel to the caravanserai of Tash-Rabat where we will check in to our yurt camp for the next two nights.

The caravanserai is a remnant of the days of the great Silk Road. Caravanserais acted as a kind of lodge where men, camels, horses and goods could gain a nights rest out of the elements along the great trading way.

Today is a free day for you to experience the beautiful scenery of Tash-Rabat. You may want to relax or read today, or you could take a hike or horse ride to Chatyr-Kul Lake, located close to the Chinese border.

Optional experience: Learn to build a yurt

After breakfast this morning we will transfer to Kazarman.

On arrival we will check in to our cosy homestay and lunch will be served.

The afternoon is free for you to explore this picturesque village with its local shepherds, cattle and sparsely places homes.

This morning we will leave the tiny village of Kazarman and transfer to Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second city.

On arrival we will have a walk through the Osh bazaar in which you can buy anything from local produce to electronics and locally made handicrafts.

Lunch will be served in a local restaurant before a visit to the sacred hill of Suleman-Too – ‘the throne of Solomon’. We will reach the top of the hill via a short hike, which will give us a great vista over the city. At the top of the hill there is a museum installed in a cave, which is home to spiritual legends and magic as well as a collection of cultural items and displays from Kyrgyzstan’s past and present.

After our visit to the museum, we will check into our hotel for the evening.

Today is the stuff of travel legend as we take to the Pamir Highway en route to the village of Sary Tash. The Pamir Highway traverses Kyrgyzstan from the north, and is the main road leading through Tajikistan and beyond.

The village is known for having amazing views of the surrounding mountains including Lenin’s Peak the highest mountain in Kyrgyzstan. While in Sary Tash, we will walk through the small village, perhaps play soccer with the local kids and admire the stunning surrounding scenery.

In the afternoon we will travel back to Osh and the evening will be free for you to relax.

We leave the city of Osh this morning and transfer to Uzgen. When we get to Uzgen we will visit the 11th century Uzgen minaret and mausoleums. The structures were built by the same civilisation as those that built the Burana Tower which we visited early in the trip.

Later we will transfer to Arslanbob, home to the largest walnut groves on Earth. On arrival we will take a short walk to a pretty waterfall and then to a viewpoint from which we will be able to see a nearby gorge.

In the late afternoon we will check in to our small homestay property and the rest of the day will be free for you to explore on your own or relax.

Early this morning we will embark on another hike to see the large waterfall of Arslanbob.

Arriving back in time for lunch we will be treated to a traditional folk show of Kyrgyz instruments while we rest from our walk.

In the afternoon we will transfer into the wilderness to the pearl shaped lake of Sary-Chelek where we will check in to our homestay.

This morning we will have a leisurely hike around Sary-Chelek Lake. Sary-Chelek is located 1873m above sea level and is the result of two opposing ridges crumbling, the debris of which formed a natural dam.

After lunch we will leave Sary-Chelek and travel to Toktogul Reservoir, the largest reservoir in the path of the Naryn river. The reservoir was created in 1976 and flooded more than twenty-six thousand hectares of land in which settlements and communities were displaced. Today Toktugal provides a picturesque stop on the way back to Bishkek and gives us a final chance to enjoy the amazing natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan before we return to the city tomorrow.

This morning we will transfer back to Bishkek via the Chychkan gorge and the Too-Ashuu Pass.

Check back in to the hotel on arrival, the afternoon is free for you to pack, relax or go out and explore the city of Bishkek.

In the evening join your fellow travel companions and trip leader for a meal at one of Bishkek’s restaurants to say goodbye and celebrate your adventure in Kyrgyzstan.

Your adventure in the wilderness of Kyrgyzstan comes to an end this morning after breakfast.

Trip Map - Into the Wild. Kyrgyzstan Tour
Trip Map – Into the Wild. Kyrgyzstan

Details

Duration: 21 Days

Trip style: Unique

Group size: Minimum 6 / Maximum 15

Trip code: IKBB

Cost: $6375.00 AUD twin share

Single supplement: $395.00 AUD

Inclusions

  • 20-nights accommodation in traditional and unique family run hotels, guesthouses, homestays and yurts
  • Meals as specified in itinerary (B = Breakfast / L = Lunch / D = Dinner)
  • All transport as specified in the itinerary
  • Services of your Inverted Atlas trip leader and local guides

Optional experiences (not included):

  • Bishkek: Night at the Opera or Ballet
  • Cholpon-Ata: Boat ride on Issky-Kul Lake
  • Jygalan: Horse riding to Turnaluu Kol (Crane Lake)
  • Son-Kul: Kok-Boru game
  • Son-Kul: Horse riding
  • Tash-Rabat: Yurt Building

* Please note some optional experiences must be booked prior to travel. You will be given the option to add these experiences at check out

Trip price does not include

  • International airfares or domestic airfares
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Visa for Kyrgyzstan (if required)
  • Any expenses associated with COVID-19
  • Meals not included as per trip itinerary including drinks and mini bar
  • Additional accommodation before or after the tour
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to laundry, souvenirs, porterage etc.
  • Travel insurance – please note comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas

Journey Rating – Adventure

This trip travels through remote areas of Kyrgyzstan, an area of the world not accustomed to tourism and where few travellers have ventured. Local infrastructure more often than not, will rarely be up to the standard you expect at home or from other more well-travelled destinations. Toilets you encounter in public restrooms or in remote unscheduled stops along the way may be of the eastern ‘squat’ variety and toilets in homestays and small guesthouses may have a squat ‘outhouse’. There are some long travel days, where we will be checking in to either a yurt camp or cosy homestay or guesthouse at the close of the days journey. These unique types of accommodation will not have all the creature comforts you expect from a hotel and will often be shared. Kyrgyzstan has a several microclimates and the climate can change rapidly depending on the area in which you are travelling, some of the areas we will visit on this trip are also at altitude. Facilities such as pharmacies, banks and ATM’s can be found in large cities but will be absent from towns, villages and remote places.

People following vegan, vegetarian and gluten free diets are advised to bring some supplemental snack food from home. We will do our best to accommodate your requirements, however this can be difficult in an area of the world where meat and bread are the staples of the local diet.

A note about fitness

This Kyrgyzstan tour requires an excellent level of physical fitness. This trip involves long trekking days to get to some of the sights visited. Most of the trekking is optional and easy, however you will get the most out of the trip if you are able to walk up to 10km over rough and uneven surfaces and can participate fully.  In addition, you should be able to climb up to 200 stairs unassisted and use an eastern style squat toilet (beware if you have knee issues). Pease also be aware that a small portion of this trip is at altitude.

You will need to be able to carry your own luggage to and from the vehicle and into the accommodation. (Due to OH&S regulations our trip leaders are not able to assist with luggage.)

In addition, you should be in good health, with no major chronic conditions requiring frequent medical attention. This trip often travels through remote locations where the availability of a hospital or even phone reception to call an ambulance is limited. While all our trip leaders are required to have a valid first aid certificate, they are far from doctors and any assistance they are able to provide will be limited to basic first aid. For more information please see our booking conditions.

Single supplement

Traveling by yourself? No problem, we love single travellers and don’t believe in penalising them by charging half the trip price again for our single supplement. With us you are only paying the actual cost to have a room all to yourself. If you’re up for making a new friend, you can elect to share with another single traveller of the same sex and only pay the twin-share price. The choice is yours!

Please note the single supplement on this trip only includes large cities like Osh and Bishkek where we stay in hotels. Yurts are shared with other group members, as are some homestays and guesthouses. Due to the size of these cosy properties, they often do not have enough rooms to accommodate one person having a room to themselves.

Trip leader description

Accompanying you along your journey will be your Inverted Atlas trip leader. Your trip leader is a logistics extraordinaire, keeps the trip running smoothly and ensures you have the best time possible on your trip. It is important to know that while your trip leader has the best job in the world, they aren’t actually on holidays, but rather they are there to make sure you have the best time while you are on your holiday! Your trip leader may at times need some time out so that they can complete back of house tasks that ensure everyone continues to enjoy the trip. It is also your trip leaders’ job to handle any issues (heaven forbid!) that come up while you’re on your trip like:

  • If you lose your passport or other travel documents
  • If there is a problem with your room at the booked accommodation – seriously please tell your trip leader don’t wait until you leave
  • If you become unwell and need to find a pharmacy
  • Assisting with restaurant recommendations or additional sightseeing during free time
  • Questions regarding the itinerary

Your trip leader will have some good local knowledge about the destination in which you are traveling, however they are not a ‘local guide’. You’re welcome to ask your trip leader anything about the trip and if they don’t know they will find out and get back to you. Other people you will meet along the way are ‘local guides’ who are generally available to the group in specific towns or at specific sites like national parks, temples or archaeological sites. These people are the local experts and will be able to answer any questions you may have about the history and culture of a specific site.

Itinerary disclaimer

This itinerary is correct at the time of upload to our website and we have composed it in good faith. From time to time we may elect to make changes before departure, if we are making a big change we will of course notify you, however if it is a small change this will be reflected in the final trip notes. So, make sure you download these prior to departure. Small changes prior to departure are usually made with the groups best interests in mind and come about due to liaising with our best resources – our past travelers and of course our trip leaders! The ability to change and evolve depending on what our travelers enjoy is what makes us such a great trip operator.

While we strive to operate our trips exactly to the letter of the itinerary, sometimes we may need to make changes on the ground while the group is on the road. This is all part of the adventure of traveling and we would ask that you come on your trip with an open mind and a good sense of humour because as much as we want it to, everything doesn’t always go to plan. In fact, these impromptu situations often make the best stories that you can have a laugh with your friends about later.

Age requirements

Minimum Age: 18 years

Due to the shared natures of a large portion of the accommodation on this trip, we are only accepting those over the age of 18 years.

There is no upper age limit for this trip, but you should consider the above fitness requirements prior to booking. If you are 65 years or over, you will be asked to complete our Health Check Form and have your medical practitioner sign it to confirm you are in good health and able to participate safely on this trip.

Travel insurance

Please note that comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas. Insurance must include provision for medical situations, emergency medical repatriation to your home country and personal liability at a minimum. Proof of valid travel insurance will be requested by your trip leader on arrival at the pre-departure meeting. Please have this paperwork available for them. If you are unable to provide proof of comprehensive travel insurance, you may not be allowed to join the trip and no refund will be payable.

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