This adventurous trip takes us far down the Silk Road, along which ancient traders would journey between Europe and China, and is the perfect holiday-length trip for travellers who love the great outdoors and spectacular mountain scenery.
We begin in Uzbekistan’s pleasant capital of Tashkent and venture into the truly breathtaking lands of the fertile Fergana Valley, visiting some of the historical highlights en route. We will then head into the favourite Central Asian country of many of our travellers – the remote and mountainous land of Kyrgyzstan in the dramatically-rugged Tian Shan mountain range. We explore the marvellous country of Kyrgyzstan on a flexible itinerary, adapting our route according to weather and road conditions – we will enjoy incredible scenery from soaring peaks to flat open spaces and beautiful forests and lakes, trekking in the stunning valleys, and immerse ourselves in the day-to-day life of the locals at various homestays and yurt camps en route. We then head to the fantastic Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek to reflect on our truly special trip. Join us on this wonderful and unforgettable overland experience on the Silk Road!
Day 1: Tashkent
Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport.
There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am – please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.
The rest of the day is free to explore this old Soviet city.
In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
*Important note – do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*
*Another important note – please be aware that all itineraries in Kyrgyzstan are highly weather-dependent. The itinerary described in these notes are a statement of best intention, but we must approach each trip in Kyrgyzstan with a large degree of flexibility, as our leaders and local guides will have to ‘play things by ear’ according to the local conditions and weather. In low season certain routes become impossible and it may become far too cold to camp – in all cases there are fantastic and well-tried alternatives in place which means we can always run an excellent and comprehensive trip here, but please do not treat the exact details of the itinerary listed here as gospel – thanks for your understanding!*
Activities in Tashkent:
- Take in an opera performance at the neoclassical Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre – UZS 1500
- Explore the delightful traditional farmer’s market at the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent’s Old Town – Free
- See the grand 16th-century Kukeldash Madrassa and the city’s principal Juma Mosque in the Old Town – Free
- Visit the religious centre of Tashkent at Hast Imam Square and see the Uthman Koran, believed to be the world’s oldest extant copy of the Koran – 5 USD
Day 2: Fergana City, Fergana Mountains, Fergana Valley
This morning we travel in local transport over the Kamchik Pass to Kokand, where we will have the opportunity to visit the Khudayar Khan’s Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory before completing the journey to Ferghana.
The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin us this evening in Ferghana.
In Ferghana we will stay in a basic local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time – 6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions – however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, borders and many other factors – flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).
- Visit the beautiful and ornate Palace of Khudayar Khan in Kokand – UZS 3000
- Explore the impressive 19th-century Juma Mosque in Kokand in the stunning Fergana Valley – UZS 1000
- See the silk-weavers of the Fergana Valley at the Yodgorlik Silk Factory – Free
Day 3: Arslanbob
Border information: Exit Uzbekistan at Andijon, enter Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik.
This morning we leave Uzbekistan behind and make our way into the magical mountain kingdom of Kyrgyzstan!
Once we have crossed the border we continue our journey to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan’s Ferghana Valley – if we are delayed at the border we may choose to stay in the closer town of Jalalabad instead.
In Arslanbob we will stay overnight in a local family-run guesthouse.
Estimated Drive Time – 8 hours.
Day 4-6: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
We 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.
During these days we plan to wild camp en route. Please note that trips running in low season (May to mid-June and October to November), we may not be able to camp if temperatures are too low, in which case we will stay in local guesthouses along the route instead.
Drive times – 4-8 hours per day.
1. Get off the beaten track with 3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan – Included in Kitty
Day 7-8: Song Kol Lake
Today we complete the drive to the incredible Song-Kul Lake, where we will spend the next two nights.
We 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!
At Song-Kul we will stay in traditional felt yurts.
Estimated Drive Time – 4-8 hours.
Please note that trips during the low season will not be able to visit Song-Kul Lake, as temperatures will be below freezing, the road will be snowed over, and there will be no yurts to stay in! Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.
1. Experience a slice of the daily life of the Kyrgyz mountain shepherds at Song Kol Lake – Included in Kitty
2. Witness the unbelievable game of mountain polo, traditionally played with a goat’s head (if available) – 20 USD
Day 9: Kochkor
Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!
Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women’s felt making cooperative that produces ‘shyrdaks’, the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We 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!
In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.
Estimated Drive Time – 6 hours.
1. Stay at an overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village – Included in Kitty
2. See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here – Included in Kitty
3. Visit a folklore demonstration near Kockhor where you can learn all about the handicrafts of the area, see a fantastic outdoor concert of traditional music and help to erect a yurt! – KGS 1000
4. See an incredible demonstration from a traditional eagle hunter near Kochkor – Included in Kitty
Day 10-11: Jeti-Oghuz Valley
Today we drive along the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul and up into the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti-Oghuz. En route we will have an included demonstation from a local ‘eagle hunter’.
The next day we will have a free day to hike in the incredible scenery here, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads!
In Jeti-Oghuz we will camp close to a local family yurt.
Estimated Drive Time – 7 hours.
Please note that on trips in the low season we may not be able to camp in Jeti-Oghuz due to low temperatures. If this is the case, we will stay for 1 night in a local hotel at the base of Jeti-Oghuz Valley (allowing time for some day walks) and then move via a stunning and incredible drive up a mountain in a Russian 4×4 truck to Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development in a stunning alpine setting, staying in dormitory accommodation.
1. Trek into the wilds of the stunningly-beautiful Jeti-Oghuz Gorge on the edge of the Tian Shan mountains – Included in Kitty
2. Explore the incredible mountain landscapes of the Jeti-Oghuz valley by horseback (if helmets available) – KGS 800
Day 12: Karakol
Today we will move on from Jeti-Oghuz or Altyn Arashan to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where we will have a free afternoon to explore and relax!
In Karakol we will stay in a decent local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time – 5 hours.
1. Journey around the whole of Lake Issyk Kol via the Russian-style town of Karakol – Included in Kitty
Day 13-14: Chong Kemin Valley, Cholpon Ata
Today we will drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul and visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon-Ata. We will then continue to the beautiful area of Chong Kemin where we will spend 2 nights.
The next day we will have a free day to explore and hike in this stunning area, or to get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion!
In Chong Kemin we will wild camp. If it is too cold or simply preferred by the group, we may choose to camp in the grounds of a guesthouse in Ashu, a village in the Chong Kemin valley, where there could be the possibility to upgrade to rooms.
Estimated Drive Time – 7-8 hours.
Activities: 1. Get off the beaten track with 3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan – Included in Kitty 2. Explore the beautiful Chong Kemin valley on horseback (if helmets available) – KGS 300
3. Head out on a white-water rafting adventure through the stunning Chong Kemin valley – KGS 1800
4. Walk around the incredible scenery of the Chong Kemin valley – Free
5. Explore the ancient rock petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata on the northern shore of Issyk Kol Lake – Included in Kitty
Day 15: Bishkek
Today we have a short drive to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, with the opportunity to visit the Burana Tower en route. We will have free time to relax and explore the city upon arrival.
In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Estimated Drive Time – 4-5 hours.
Activities: 1. Visit the 9th-century Burana Tower outside of Bishkek, the minaret that is all that remains of the ancient Karakhanid city of Balasagun – Free
Day 16: Bishkek
Border Information: if finishing in Bishkek, you will most likely exit Kyrgyzstan at Bishkek Manas International Airport.
Today we will have free time to explore Bishkek. Please note that if you are leaving in Bishkek, today is the last day of the trip and there is no accommodation included tonight.
1. Learn all about the 20th-century history of Kyrgyzstan at the Mikhail Frunze museum, dedicated to the Bolshevik genera whose name Bishkek bore until the city was renamed after independence – Free
2. Explore the vast Osh Bazaar, Bishkek’s largest market – Free
3. Stroll around the Soviet-built Panfilov Park in Bishkek – Free
4. Explore Bishkek’s past at the State Historical Museum on Ala-Too Square – KGS 150
You can sign into any of the following departures in 2017 (LAST Available dates):
16 July – 31 July 2017 Bishkek – Tashkent
20 August – 04 September 2017 Bishkek – Tashkent
Starting from 1320 Eur (~1391 USD) + Kitty from 380 USD
Kitty is a group fund, priced in USD, in addition to the trip price to pay for all accommodation, meals whilst camping and all activities listed as Included. Each passenger pays into the Kitty at the start of each trip and managed by the Dragoman crew in full transparency of the group. Kitties allow for flexibility on the road and ensure value through group discounts, buying locally and everyone seeing exactly how their money is spent. Any top-ups required to kitties are agreed as a group, and any money left over is refunded.