DAYS 64 – 79: KYRGYZSTAN
Crossing from China into Kyrgyzstan via the 3,752m Torugart Pass is an experience in itself! The border crossing and drive will take the full day, and once across the border you will head for Tash Rabat, once a key staging post on the Silk Road. During your time here you will visit an ancient caravanserai and have some time to explore the surrounding area. In Tash Rabat you will either wild camp or your tour leaders may choose for the group to stay in local nomadic yurts near the caravanserai, sleeping 8-10 people per yurt.
From Tash Rabat your next stop will be the small village of Kochkor where you will stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!
While in Kochkor you will also visit a small museum and women’s felt making cooperative that produces ‘shyrdaks’, the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. You may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!
From Kochkor it is a short drive to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s relaxed and atmospheric capital which you will have time to explore in the afternoon and the following day.
From Bishkek the itinerary will be a bit flexible as many of the group will be applying for their Uzbekistan visas while in Bishkek, and as the embassy opening times often vary the itinerary needs to be flexible to accommodate this. As a general guide, you will most likely spend your first night camping in the stunning mountainous Ala Archa National Park near Bishkek, and will then continue on to Chong Kemin National Park where you will have free time to explore and hike in this beautiful area, or to get involved in optional white water rafting excursion if time allows.
Leaving the Chong Kemin Valley, your overland tour will travel to the northern shore of Lake Issyk Kul and visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon-Ata and will then continue to the Russian-style town of Karakol where you will have a free evening to explore and relax.
From Karakol you will drive up to the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti-Oghuz. Here you will have a free day to hike in the incredible scenery or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads!
From Jeti-Oghuz you will return to Kochkor for another night of traditional Kyrgyz hospitality. Enroute to Kochkor you will have an included demonstration from a local “eagle hunter”.
Your next stop in Kyrgyzstan will be the incredible Song-Kul Lake where you will spend two nights in traditional felt yurts. You will have free time here to explore the area and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking, horse-riding or watching a game of goat polo!
You will spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning and remote Kyrgyz Ferghana Valley, stopping often to admire the views and perhaps take some impromptu hikes in the hills and countryside, and wild camping en route.
Continuing west, you will drive to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan’s Ferghana Valley, your last stop in this beautiful country. Note if you have had a slow journey in the previous days with lots of stops you may stay instead in the town of Jalalabad.