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Take in the tranquil landscape of Son-Kol Lake; watch for wild boar and deer around Chychkan Gorge; see Solomon's Throne in historic Osh; and get your fill of mosques and museums in Samarkand. Abounding with ancient culture, divine natural beauty and intriguing relics this is a journey that will leave you eager to discover more of Central Asia.
Welcome to Kyrgyzstan! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Enjoy a full-day city tour of Bishkek. You'll notice a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere as you stroll around town. The centre of the city is Ala-too Square, which was known as Lenin's Square in Soviet times. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of this square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains. For those interested in their Soviet memorabilia, a larger-than-life Frunze can be found still sitting on a bronze horse facing the train station, though his name plaque has been removed. You can also still visit the museum built over Frunze's birthplace. A nice place to watch the world go by is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'll find a few open-air cafes that are great to sit at and soak up the atmosphere over a drink. The century-old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia.
Drive 60 km to the 11th-century Burana tower, an ancient minaret from the Silk Road period. In the nearby village of Don Aryk, visit a local home. Reflecting the important role horses have played in the traditional Kyrgyz nomadic life style, the country is famous for at least four types of horse games such as odarysh or wrestling, tiyin-enish, where riders try to pick up coins at full gallop and kok buru or buzkashi, a type of goat-snatching polo. We'll take the chance here to watch the how the locals play the horse game here. Enjoy lunch with the family.
Continue to Issyk Kul lake – the second largest alpine lake in the world. This beauty is one of the biggest natural water reservoirs in the world, at 170 km long and 70 km wide. A combination of extreme depth, thermal activity and mild salinity means the lake never freezes. Next, continue to Kochkor. Explore a small local market in the centre of the village as well as local co-op that provides training to local women in traditional handicrafts.
Make the 130 km drive to Son-Köl, one of the largest lakes in the country. This beautiful alpine lake is considered a sacred place for many Kyrgyz people as well as one of the best summer pastures for nomadic herders. In the middle of the summer, you'll see nomadic herdsmen and their families watching over goats, sheep, and horses. Enjoy exploring your surroundings for the rest of the day. There are many beautiful lake trails to hike along. Alternatively you might like to visit some ancient petroglyphs in the local area, or visit a nomad camp for a first-hand look at nomadic life. Simply sit and take in this beautiful corner of the world.
Tonight you will stay in your first yurt of the trip. Yurts, made of felt and tarpaulins on a round frame, are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz people. Sleeping arrangements are on a multi-share, mixed-gender basis with mattresses on the floor. It can get very chilly in the evenings, so there's a stove for heating and plenty of blankets. There are no bathroom facilities inside the yurts. Outdoor toilets are to be expected. All meals are included during our stay here. Those daring enough for an invigorating morning splash can use the lake nearby.
Today you travel along the gravel roads to the tiny village of Kyzyl-Oi squeezed between the mountains. On our way, we will pass large coal deposit and continue along the Kökömeren river which feeds the Syr Darya - one the major rivers of Central Asia that used to fill the Aral Sea. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the river in the shade of the trees and take some free time to explore the village once we arrive.
Keep in mind that the roads in Kyrgyzstan see little regular maintenance, so even short distances can take a full day. You will arrive at tonight accommodation sometime in the early evening so expect a full travel day. The road crosses the Suusamyr Valley – a high steppe plateau situated at around 2,200 metres above sea level. The mountainous, lush surrounding landscape is dotted with yurts. Just when you think the road couldn't possibly climb any higher, you will arrive at your guesthouse for an overnight stay. The road follows the Chychkan river that cuts through the Tien Shan range. Stop here for a while and soak up the amazing scenery. Surrounded by mountains and rivers flowing below, Chychkan is simply stunning. Arrive in Kok-Bel and stay in a guesthouse again tonight.
After breakfast, get ready for the all-day journey to the second-largest city in Kyrgystan – Osh. Located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country, Osh is often referred to as the 'Capital of the South'. With a history that dates to the 500 BC. Stop en route at Uzgen, an ancient trading town and handicrafts center on the Silk Road. Although much of the ancient city has been destroyed, a minarat and three mosques have survived to this day remain important examples of medieval Central Asian architecture.
Rise and shine for a visit to the only World Heritage Site in Kyrgystan – Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, also known as Solomon's Throne. For centuries Silk Road travellers have sought out the mountain's caves and their petroglyphs in the belief that they would be blessed with longevity. Back in Osh Town, visit the National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex and choose whether to hike up a hill for a great view of the Ferganna Valley. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time. Perhaps visit the Jayma Bazaar, where you might pick up an interesting souvenir or two. Or maybe take a self-guided tour of the remnants of Osh's soviet past with a walk to the giant Lenin statue in the city square. The many murals praising the Soviet Union also give an idea of just how deeply these ties went.
This morning we drive to Kyrgyz – Uzbek border. After passing through the border (approx. 1-2hrs), we meet our Uzbek guide and transfer to Andijan. From here we will take a local train to Tashkent (approx. 5.5 hrs). Arrive at our Tashkent hotel in the evening and take a good rest after a long day of travelling.
Begin you introduction to Uzbekistan. City sightseeing today in Tashkent will include a visit to State history museum, visit Abdul Khasim Medrassah with its hujra cells used as metalwork craft workshops to produce jewellery and other goods and Khast Imom Complex with its amazing architectural beauty. After lunch, stop in at the exciting Chorsu Bazaar to see traditional wooden cradles, handmade musical instruments, and the extensive vegetable and spice market.
Transfer to the station for the high speed train to fabled Samarkand (approx 2 hours). This city is located at the very centre of the ancient Silk Road. Enjoy some free time in the city. Maybe inspect the remains of the remarkable medieval observatory developed by Ulug Beg, Tamerlane's (Amir Timur) brilliant astronomer grandson. Today, only half of the below-ground semi-circular track remains to be seen, together with the excellent small museum close by. Or visit Afrosiab, or ancient Samarkand, and visit the Afrosiab Museum with its fine collection of treasures unearthed from the site, including the world famous 10th century frescoes.
Visit the great central square of Samarkand, the Registan. Continue to Guri-Amir, where Tamerlane is buried, to Bibi-Khanum Mosque and also visit the nearby market. Then we drive to Konigil village in the outskirts of Samarkand. A special lunch is served for us here by the family who set up a watermill here for a paper making workshop. After lunch we'll have a tour of this place and explore traditional way of making famous Samarkand paper from mulberry. Upon return to Samarkand we visit Shaki-Zinda ensemble of the Mausoleums. This unusual necropolis has monuments from the 14th and 15th centuries, reflecting the development of the monumental art and architecture of the Timurid dynasty.
Continue tracing the Silk Road towards Bukhara. One of the most important portions of the ancient route named Royal Road, this route connects two major cities of the area and takes us through steppe to the small town of Shahrisabz - a home town of Tamerlaine. We will make a stop at Shahrisabz, visiting the legendery Ak Saray Palace, Dor-ut Tilovat Memorial Complex, Dorus Saodat Complex and Kok-Gumbaz Mosque. Then we'll continue to Bukhara where we will rest for tonight.
Today, we'll enjoy a full day sightseeing in Bukhara.
First, you'll visit the lovely Sitora-i Mohi Khosa, once the summer residence of the last Emir. Designed by Russian architects, it has lavish interiors decorated
with traditional filigree plaster, mirrored surfaces and delicate floral wall paintings by local artisans. Then your private transport takes you through the Bukhara oasis to the peaceful 16th century Chor Bakr necropolis, where you'll enjoy the simplicity of decoration of Khonako-Medrassah-Mosque complex that is typical of Bukhara.
In the afternoon, visit the Ark Fortress and Kalon mosque which is symbolic of Bukhara, then to one of Central Asia's oldest and most exquisite structures, the 10th century Ismail Samani Mausoleum, whose superb decorative brickwork has survived 1,000 years of rugged history. From here it is only a short distance to the Lyabi-Haus area and our hotel which is situated in the old Jewish quarter and decorated with traditional Uzbek crafts. After dinner, there's time to join the locals strolling around the area and visit some of the small craft studios tucked into the ancient nearby madrassas and trading domes.
Historically Gijduvan was one of the caravan stops on the way to Holy Bukhara. Local Sufi master Kholiq (Abdukholiq Gijduvoniy) made this place famous because the Sufi Order he founded here in the 13th century. A couple of centuries later Ulugbek – the famous astronomer ruler of Samarkand and grandson of Tamerlane built a medrassah here, just next to the grave of the Sufi Saint. This town has gained further fame as one of the centers of glazed ceramic production. Today, you'll be transferred to this small town and visit the private studio of a local ceramic artist, meet his family and have a master class with ceramic artists. Later you can have some free time to explore this small town and learn more about life of Uzbek people outside big cities. For lunch we recommend to try another specialty of Gijduvan cuisine - the juicy
kebabs of Gijduvan are famous throughout Uzbekistan! On your way back, stop to see the minaret from the late 12th century in Vobkent.
After breakfast, enjoy some free time for optional sightseeing in Bukhara. In the afternoon, take a fast train back to Tashkent and arrive in time for your farewell dinner with your fellow travellers. Transfer to the hotel and stay overnight in Tashkent.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please speak to your leader about storing luggage at the hotel.
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|Standard:||from AU $3,383|
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