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Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:30 pm
by guido
Hello, I'm Guido from Italy (living in Verona) and and first of all many thanks for all the precious info I could find here!
I hope it is allowed to ask for help in planning my trip and I'm doing it in the right place, if not I'm sorry in advance.

I've been tempted for a while to visit some of the "stans", especially since I had seen, months ago, some cheap and easy flights to Astana while browsing fro random destinations.

I've been a bit too busy and stressed out (and I gave up and postponed things for this reason, when I got overwhelmed by information), but now I'm trying almost last minute to figure out where to go for my 4 weeks holidays starting on the 25th of august.

I'm totally still in the gathering information phase, but I think I could find decent flights to Uzbekista, Kazakhstan, and maybe Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan seems to be about to simplify visa applications with evisa, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan should be visa free for Italians.

What would be a decent itinerary for 4 weeks?

Please consider:
* in this phase I'd like to figure out just a starting point and ending point (in order to book flights) that would be plausible (ie: not rushing too much in between)
* I don't speak russian (I'll try to learn some basics before leaving, currently I more or less can read the alphabet and I know some 10 words)
* I'm into photography (this means I'd be hunting for scenic places, and I would take it slow)
* I'd be travelling alone (but hopefully joining other travellers on the spot, or maybe arranging something with other forum users)
* I'm a backpacker and a couchsurfer, travelled enough but probably not as many of you, especially to such unconventional places (the less conven tional was probably Georgia, so far, in may)

Thanks a lot for any suggestions!

Re: Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:12 pm
by bwv812
I think the best sampling of the region will come if you travel between Tashkent and Almaty, with the M-41 in the middle. A sample route is below, with what I consider the most essential sections in bold. Penjikent, Arslanbob, and Karakol are more destinations for light hiking/trekking. The section between Khorog and Osh, as well as between Karakol and Almaty (if you go via Kegen) will require private transport, but the rest can be done via public transport.

Tashkent: 2 nights
Bukhara: 2 nights
Samarkand: 2 nights
Penjikent & 7 lakes: 2-3 nights
Dushanbe: 2 nights
M-41 to Khorog: 1 night
Khorog to Osh via Wakhan Valley: 5-8 nights
Osh: 1 night
Arslanbob (via Ozgen): 2 nights
Bishkek: 2 nights
Karakol and area: 3 nights
Almaty (via Kegen and maybe Charyn Canyon): 2 nights

Re: Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:03 am
by guido

Anyway, in the end I'm booking different flights (cheaper and with less mess like spending a night in airport in moscow)

On the way there, I already booked and I'll land in Astana 26th of august.

On the way back I have one main options departing from Almaty 21th of september.
Or from Osh the same day, slightly more unconfortable and expensive but still doable.

Can't find other decent solutions.

I'll 90% take a night train from Astana to Almaty after a few days in Astana, so it would make more sense not to fly back from Almaty to avoid going back and forth... on the other hand I'm afraid to plan too much stuff. I don't want to rush too much, and i don't know the itineraries and so on.

I'd like to explore a few countries, but at the same time I don't want to rush.. so I might be happy even with just Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.. although of course if I manage to visit Uzbekistan in a decent way I'll be happier.

What would you suggest?


Re: Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 6:08 pm
by guido

Landing in Astana on 26th august evening.. planning to stay there till 28 o 29, taking a night train to Almaty.
After that I plan to go to Biskek on the 30 as 31 is indipendence day and it seems the city will be filled with celebrations and so on.

After that I have to be back in Astana by 20th of september evening as I fly 21th early morning (I still haven't confirmed that, but I can't find anything better).

so.. let's say what I need is a 3 weeks tour starting and ending in Almaty.

Any help?

NB: i rehgret having just picked an area because i found cheap flights, without getting properly informed before... I was a bit last minute, but having more time i would have arranged things to do the pamir route... now I don't think i'll manage to do it... but maybe I'll keep it for next time, with a dedicated trip...

Re: Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:37 am
by steven
Hi guido,

i would suggest after Bishkek you make your way to the Issyk Kul area, the World nomad games will start there shortly after, lots of ppl are interested in that and it should make for good pictures.

After that you can either go over Song Kul, Bishkek or Naryn to Osh (this will take a few days and you will need to arrange transport) and then towards Uzbekistan, where there are the usual points of interest (Ferghana Valley, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva) and then return to almaty by train from Tashkent.

Or you can take a train from Bishkek to Tashkent and start exploring Uzbekistan from there.

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan combine well together - big contrasts. Pamir Hway is something you should take your time for and indeed do on a separate trip.

Hope that helps! I am still writing the travel guide for these places but some general suggestions can already be found on the site under the place guides.

Re: Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:44 am
by guido
thank you very much! I've been too busy with work and other things lately, but I'll now start "studying" a bit!

So you think it is possible that I make both Issyk Kul area and Uzbekistan with the time I have? I think I'll take advantage of some night long-distance trains to avoid wasting precious day time :)

I've been told about World nomad games, so i guess that's what I'll do! :)
When are the exact dates of world nomad games?

By chance, I have 2 other people I know (I've been in the couchsurfing community for more than 12 years now, so I know many travellers) who are in the area in the same period. One is doing the Pamir from Dušanbe to Osh starting around the 9th... I'm tempted to try and reach him, but can't find any reasonable itinerary and it would be too much in a rush... so yeah, I think I'll keep the pamir for next adventure, although I'm a bit sad about being in the area and missing it.

Another friend is probably doing a similar tour to what I'm now considering to do from Bishkek, so we'll probably go together for a couple of weeks.

Thanks a lot. I'll be definitely back with questions, meanwhile i'll study a bit of info both here and on lonely planet :)

Re: Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 11:03 am
by guido
no answers? :(

So far my plan:
* Astana for a few days
* night train to Almaty probably on 29th august night
* Bishkek by 30th evening in order to be there on independence day (31st)
* on the 2nd of September going to World nomad games for a few days.

Considering I have a flight back from Almaty on 21st morning (and still Almaty itself to see), what would you suggest after?

In Bishkek I'm meeting with a friend, and she intends to spend some more days around the lake (I agree) and then go back to Almaty to take a plane to Uzbekistan (she has less days than me, going back on 16th from Almaty)... does it make sense? I'm not convinced for a couple of reasons:
1) I wouldn't like to take other flights once in the area. I'd prefer travelling overland unless strictly necessary, cheap, and safe (I work in the aviation, I'm not afraid to fly... but I'm afraid of local companies with low safety standards).
2) Would it be worth to rush across the area instead of exploring better Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan? I would anyway leave the area of Osh for another occasion, when I do the Pamir.

So nostheastern Kyrgyzstan and more Kazakhstan (still have to discover what else is there to see)... or rushing to Uzbekistan?

Thanks for any inputs

Re: Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:32 am
by steven
Maybe in your case it would be interesting to take the Bishkek-Tashkent train? It only runs in summer, so I don't know if it will still be running when you want to take it...more info on the train pages.

I think for you it would make sense to take in a bit of Uzbekistan as well after Issyk-Kul. Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara. I think you will enjoy it as an interesting counterpoint to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Re: Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Wed Aug 08, 2018 12:30 pm
by guido

I'm very attracted by Uzbekistan, but I think all in all it's so many kms... I don't want to end up rushing. Anyway, I'll check about the trains.

One option at the moment would be to go in that direction, the other would be to go towards Aralsk (more relaxed itinerary) and spend some more time in and near almaty on the way back, and leave uzbekistan tajikistan and pamir for next year...

Re: Help with setting an itinerary?

Posted: Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:39 am
by guido
Still struggling to figure out what itinerary would be reasonable.

So far:
26 evening landing in astana
29 evening taking a night train (already booked) to almaty
30 Probably almost immediately head to Bishkek after arriving in Almaty in the morning
31 independence day of Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek
1 or 2 heading towards WNG to stay for a couple of days.

Let's say I'd leave the WNG on the 5th.. this makes 15 days before flying back from Almaty on 21st early morning.

At this point I've got two vague options:

option 1)
wander around Kazakhstan taking my time and exploring "real" places, improvising a lot and being on adventures (hopefully meeting other travellers, hitchhiking if necessary, etc).
The main idea would be to go through Taraz, Shymkent, Turkistan, Bayqoñyr (provided I could enter for a reasonable price.. apparently there's a launch on the 8th), Aralsk, and maybe beyond (I'd be tempted to try and reach Caspian sea, but it does seem far and badly connected), then go back to Almaty and surroundings (if I have "too many" days at the end of the trip I'll find a way to fill them).
Optionally I could spend some more days in Kyrkyzstan before heading to Kazakhstan (maybe a loop around issyk kul? probably another day in Bishkek) .

Option 2)
Go to Tashkent (by train or plane, so I guess arriving on the 6th), explore uzbekistan till the 18th, then go to Almaty and spend last 2-3 days there.

On one hand option 1 would be more coherent: leave uzbekistan for next trip, and try to get the most of the countries I'm already visiting (I generally hate skipping places. Can't understand people that would travel in europe from London to Paris, then Berlin, vienna, Budapest.. I prefer to stick with an area and get to know it a bit).
On the other hand there might be not much to see in those places, and might be difficult to reach them and so on, so it could make sense to go for option 2.

I need your experience to try and figure out... if Uzbekistan didn't require a visa I'd definitely improvise once there.