DAYS 59 – 78: KAZAKHSTAN & KYRGYZSTAN

You will drive north from Tashkent to the border with Kazakhstan.  Aksu-Dzhabagly Nature Reserve is your main stopping point in Kazakhstan and you have 2 nights here to take in the stunning scenery of green valleys, rushing rivers and snow capped peaks.  Here you stand a chance of spotting bears, ibex and golden eagles.

You will then cross the border from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan is a rugged country with the Tien Shan mountain range covering approximately 95% of the whole territory. The mountaintops are perennially covered with snow and glaciers.  Your first stop is Bishkek, the country’s capital.

Less than an hour’s drive from Bishkek, the Ala-Archa Nature Reserve offers spectacular scenery for trekking and skiing and you will hopefully spend a couple of nights here, depending on the weather.

Heading east you will explore the area of Lake Issyk-Kul, a mountain lake in the northern Tien Shan Mountains, once used by the Soviets to test their submarine torpedoes!  Famous for its magnificent scenery and with a surface area of 6,300 sq km, this is considered to be one of the largest mountain lakes in the world. The surrounding countryside is full of fruit trees and the local people transport their wares by traditional donkey and cart.

You will spend the next few days following the beautiful shoreline of the lake, camping in the wilderness and stopping off when we feel like a swim, or to hike in the stunning scenery.

You will then visit the vast red stone cliffs in Jeti Orguz and visit the town of Karakol with its attractive houses and tree-lined streets. Behind it are the Terskay Ala-Too Mountains, an unspoilt wilderness populated only by nomadic shepherds.

Continuing around the lake to Semenovskre Gorge the adventurous can hike through lush terrain, following the rivers that wind through the national reserve.

Travelling south and leaving behind Lake Issyk-Kul, you make your way to the isolated and breathtaking Lake Song Kol, where you stay in traditional felt Yurts.  There will be opportunity to either hike or horse-back ride and explore the surrounding area.  If you are lucky we may even see a game of Ulak Tartysn – a Kyrgyz version of polo.

You will then spend a couple of days driving south through the mountains towards the border with China. This is a difficult journey along rough roads and at high altitude – so expect to be cold and a little uncomfortable, but the scenery more than makes up for it!. Along the way you will cross vast high plains where Kyrgyz nomads, living in their traditional yurts, practice a lifestyle which has changed little over the centuries. Your last stop in Kyrgyzstan will be at Tash Rabat, an ancient Caravanserai on the old Silk Route before retracing some of your steps and heading north back to Bishkek, seeking out scenic camping spots as you go.

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