3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

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violetc
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3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by violetc »

Hi all,

I'm planning to visit Central Asia in late June/early July this year, as part of a bigger trip through Asia (mostly by rail). I'll be (hopefully) arriving over the Torugart Pass from Kashgar around the 17th of June and I've booked an (insanely cheap!) flight from Bishkek to London on the 11th of July.

I'm trying to hash out a rough itinerary, and would be very grateful for any help! Here's what I'm currently looking at doing:

Day 1: Cross the Torugat Pass, overnight at Tash Rabat
Day 2-3: 2 nights in & around Naryn
Day 4-8: In & around Kochkor (I'd like to do some yurt stays during this period)
Day 8-9: Overnight bus to Osh & border crossing to Uzbekistan, then train or bus to Samarkand
Day 10-11: 2 days in Samarkand
Day 12-14: 2-3 days in Bukhara
Day 15-16: 1-2 days in Khiva
Day 17: Travel to Nukus
Day 18-19: 2-day Aral Sea tour
Day 20: Overnight train from Nukus to Tashkent (I've checked the timetable and there's one per week, so I'd time it to be there for it)
Day 21: Travel from Tashkent to Shykent & get an overnight train (or bus) to Almaty
Day 22: Full day in Almaty
Day 23-24: Travel from Almaty to Bishkek
Day 25: Fly out of Bishkek

Does this look too ambitious? I'm a little concerned that if I'm delayed at any stage in this plan, the whole thing will fall apart like a house of cards - especially as I've heard the Torugat Pass can be a bit complicated to arrange.

An alternative option I've been thinking about would be to skip Khiva, Nukus, and the Aral Sea altogether, travel Bukhara-Tashkent-Almaty, spend two days in Almaty & then hop over to Karakol for three days or so of hiking. Is that a better idea?

Any thoughts or suggestions extremely welcome!

Violet x
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bwv812
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Re: 3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by bwv812 »

I think your schedule looks mostly reasonable, but here are some random thoughts:
  • I assume you are aware of the high cost of doing the Torugart pass.
  • I don't think you need 2 nights in Kochkor.
  • Transportation in Kyrgyzstan is mainly marshrutkas and share taxis; there are no overnight buses as there are in China, and transportation between the East and West/Southwest of the country is generally via Bishkek. To go from Kochkor to Osh you'll either have to go through Bishkek, hire a private car, or get lucky with a share taxi (and you'll probably have to go back to Naryn to find one going to Osh/Jalalabad).
  • With the new trains from the Ferghana Valley it's easier to get from Osh to points west of Tashkent, but check schedules. And based on train schedules and routes, the best plan is to go to Bukhara first via overnight train from Tashkent, then backtrack to Samarkand, then go from Samarkand to Urgench/Khiva. The reason for this is that there is no train between Bukhara and Urgench/Khiva.
  • Almaty to Bishkek takes only a few hours, and Almaty is a great city to spend time in, so I would spend a bit more time there.
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steven
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Re: 3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by steven »

bwv812 wrote:I think you're schedule looks mostly reasonable, but here are some random thoughts:
  • I assume you are aware of the high cost of doing the Torugart pass.
  • I don't think you need 2 nights in Kochkor.
  • Transportation in Kyrgyzstan is mainly marshrutkas and share taxis; there are no overnight buses as there are in China, and transportation between the East and West/Southwest of the country is generally via Bishkek. To go from Kochkor to Osh you'll either have to go through Bishkek, hire a private car, or get lucky with a share taxi (and you'll probably have to go back to Naryn to find one going to Osh/Jalalabad).
  • With the new trains from the Ferghana Valley it's easier to get from Osh to points west of Tashkent, but check schedules. And based on train schedules and routes, the best plan is to go to Bukhara first via overnight train from Tashkent, then backtrack to Samarkand, then go from Samarkand to Urgench/Khiva. The reason for this is that there is no train between Bukhara and Urgench/Khiva.
  • Almaty to Bishkek takes only a few hours, and Almaty is a great city to spend time in, so I would spend a bit more time there.

Very solid advice imo
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violetc
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Re: 3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by violetc »

Hi there,

Thank you all for your really helpful advice! I'm going to have a rethink of my itinerary based on your suggestions.

I've heard the the Torugat Pass is expensive, but I'm not actually sure how much. I was attracted to it because everyone says the scenery is amazing, but originally I intended to get the train into Almaty from Urumqi and head into Kyrgyzstan from there. Do you think that's a better idea?

Thanks again for taking the time to respond!

Violet
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lissie45
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Re: 3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by lissie45 »

We want to do Torugat for the same reasons you meantion. Travelling later on in August though. I've found this link which gives you some idea http://www.uighurtour.com/tour/torugart-pass-crossing/
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violetc
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Re: 3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by violetc »

Sheesh it is pretty expensive! are you going to go for it anyway? the train from urumqi is pretty pricey too but not as much as that. I wonder whether the torugat scenery is really that much more impressive than what you can see in Kyrgyzstan proper... hmmm.
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lissie45
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Re: 3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by lissie45 »

violetc wrote:Sheesh it is pretty expensive! are you going to go for it anyway? the train from urumqi is pretty pricey too but not as much as that. I wonder whether the torugat scenery is really that much more impressive than what you can see in Kyrgyzstan proper... hmmm.


Agreed it is - but I also think that's the advertised "first price" and the reality on the ground maybe a bit cheaper. The train is not really an option for us because we'd have to backtrack all the way to Urumqi - and I'm not willing to skip Kashghar and I'm quite keen to do the trip down the Karakoram to the Pakistan border. The other alternative is the Ishertktum (sp) which is a lot cheaper and doable via public transport/taxis
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bwv812
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Re: 3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by bwv812 »

Those prices are basically what I was quoted in Kashgar in 2012, and I expect they're fairly firm as they seem in line with what others have paid (about $400 per car, with slight increases for additional passengers).

Even if you don't take the Torugart Pass, I would still eschew the Urumqi-Almaty train, unless you intend to see Kashgar and southwestern Xinjiang before doubling back to Urumqi for the train. Urumqi has always been dominated by the Han, and isn't very representative of Uighur culture, architecture, or life. Southwestern Xinjiang is much more interesting—for my money it's more culturally interesting than CIS Central Asia—and the Irkeshtam pass is also extremely scenic.

If you do opt for the Irkeshtam Pass, I would consider changing your route to something like the following: Kashgar -> Osh -> Bukhara via Tashkent -> Samarkand -> Khiva -> Nukus/Aral Sea -> Almaty via Tashkent -> Karakol via Charyn Canyon & Karkara border -> Kochkor or Song Kul -> Bishkek.
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violetc
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Re: 3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by violetc »

I see, well this is certainly food for thought...

I hadn't really put that much importance on seeing Kashgar & southwestern Xinjiang to be honest - I'd read that Kashgar had lost some of its charm in recent years and so I guess I was just heading there in order to get to the Torugat Pass. But now I'm thinking perhaps I was wrong. I also just had a quote for the Aral Sea tour and realised it's probably out of my price range, so I can probably take a few more days to explore Xinjiang.

I guess the Irkeshtam Pass has the additional benefit over both train and Torugat that you don't really need to book it in advance, so it'll give me more flexbility on both sides...

Thank you again for the suggestions!
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violetc
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Re: 3 week itinerary - advice welcome!

Post by violetc »

OK so I've revised my itinerary based on your advice, and taking out the Aral Sea (too expensive). I've also added on some days at the beginning when I'll be in Kashgar.

Does this make logistical sense? Have I scheduled too long in a place that's not very interesting, or not long enough in a place that deserves longer? Is it worth putting in an overnight trip to Tash Rabat?

I'd also like to know whether it's worth including Khiva as well as Bukhara and Samarkand, or whether that would be silk road city overload...

1: Arrive morning in Kashgar
2: Kashgar & around
3: Kashgar & around
4: Kashgar & around
5: Travel Kashgar to Osh (via Irkeshtam Pass)
6: Travel Osh to Bukhara (via Tashkent)
7: Bukhara
8: Bukhara
9: Travel Bukhara to Khiva
10: Khiva
11: Travel Khiva to Samarkand
12: Samarkand
13: Samarkand
14: Travel Samarkand to Turkistan
15: Day trip to Sauran
16: Travel Turkistan to Almaty
17: Almaty
18: Almaty
19: Almaty
20: Travel to Karakol via Charyn Canyon
21: Karakol & around
22: Karakol & around
23: Travel Karakol to Kochkor
24: Kochkor & around
25: Kochkor & around
26: Travel Kochkor to Bishkek
27: Full day Bishkek
30: Fly home

Thanks!
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