5 Stans Spring Tour

Start
Apr 19, 2025
Ashgabat
End
May 12, 2025
Almaty
Duration
24 days
Price
US$3895.00



TOUR OVERVIEW



This is the tour for those who want to get a great snapshot of what Central Asia has to offer, and there is plenty of amazing, special and weird stuff for us to explore. Starting in Turkmenistan's bizarre and unique capital of Ashgabat, we'll visit the unbelievable Gates of Hell, before crossing into Uzbekistan where we'll include the must-sees in Uzbekistan such as the Registan and the old town of Bukhara, and our tour of Tashkent and surrounds has some pretty cool SAIGA specials, including a solar furnace and a formerly closed Soviet mining town.

We'll explore the spectacular Fann Mountains in Tajikistan, with a night in a Soviet sanatorium, before navigating the mountains and lakes of Kyrgyzstan, fitting in some little-known Soviet relics, and eventually arriving in the cosmopolitan city of Bishkek, with our last stop being in the trendy and progressive city of Almaty.

View the full itinerary


The tour can be done as a whole, or if your time is limited, it is also made up of the Turkmenistan Easter Tour and the 4 Stans Spring Tour .

And for those who'd like to see even more while you're here, we also have an optional Kazakhstan Extension at the end of the tour.

Wedding Palace, Palace of Happiness, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan



If you like the look of this tour but the dates don't work for you, or you'd like to do part of the tour, please get in touch and let us know. All our tours are able to be split into smaller sections, we're always scheduling new tours and your dates might work for one of them, or we can always organise an independent tour.




Group

Start End Days Price Single Sup.

Turkmenistan Easter Tour

Apr 19
Ashgabat

Apr 26
Ashgabat

8 $1395 $350

4 Stans Spring Tour

Apr 26
Bukhara

May 12
Almaty

17 $2500 $800

5 Stans Spring Tour

Apr 19
Ashgabat

May 12
Almaty

24 $3895 $1150

Kazakhstan Extension

May 12
Almaty

May
Almaty


$ $



INCLUSIONS:

Letter of Invitation for Turkmenistan

Accommodation in twin share at roughly 3 star hotels, breakfast included, except when other accommodation is mentioned in itinerary

Where itinerary mentions yurt or homestay accomodation, single supplement and twin share may be affected

Transport as per itinerary

Entrance fees to most sites (as per itinerary)

SAIGA guide and local guides


SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: $1150


EXCLUSIONS:

Visa fees if necessary

Visa support if necessary, other than Turkmenistan

Some activities, eg. treatments at sanatorium (as per itinerary)

Meals other than breakfast

Transport to and from the start and end of tour

Personal expenses such as souvenirs or any optional activities

Any COVID related expenses



TOUR HIGHLIGHTS


Spend the night mesmerised by the horrendous but exhilirating Gates of Hell

Go back in time in the Silk Road gems of Samarkand and Bukhara

Navigate the moutains, valleys and lakes of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

Explore some little-known Soviet relics in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan



Itinerary
Day 1Sat Apr 19
Ashgabat
  • Wheel of Enlightenment, Alem Merkezi, Ashgabat Our first day in Ashgabat, you’re going to be in awe of everything that the capital has to offer. We’ll spend the day taking in all the main sites of Ashgabat, including all those crazy monuments you’ve probably seen pictures of, as we begin explaining all the weird and wonderful aspects of Turkmenistan that make it such a special place.
  • We’ll start with a driving tour of Ashgabat's main sites, including Independence Park and Independence Monument, the Monument to the Constitution, the Arch of Neutrality, Lenin Park, and a drive-by of the Olympic Complex which was built for the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. The complex is home to the famous Horse Stadium ( the largest structure in the shape of a horse in the world – you’ll hear plenty more of these records! ), but unfortunately is closed to the public.
  • A highlight of the day will likely be the Alem Centre, which is the complex in which the Wheel of Enlightenment is, the largest indoor ferris wheel (yes, there’s another one). And YES, for just $1, you can even take a ride!
  • Stop for lunch at Berkarar Shopping Centre, where you can go ice-skating, play in the games centre, ride a miniature double-decker bus, and even have a cappuccino in a hipster café – bet you weren’t expecting that!
  • In the afternoon we’ll visit the university bookshop, a great chance to pick up some very cool, unique Turkmenistan swag, including where you can find amazing coffee table books written by and about the former president (and father of the current president, Serdar Berdimuhamedov), Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, as well as ones about Ashgabat and Turkmenistan. You can even get them in English! They also have postcards and posters, and if you're lucky they might even have a copy of the Ruhnama, the book written by Turkmenbashy.
  • Spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.
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Day 2Sun Apr 20
Nisa, Ashgabat, Night Tour
  • Nisa, Turkmenistan Today we’ll start off by leaving the city, to visit Nisa, a UNESCO site which was once the capital of the Parthian Empire.
  • We’ll then continue on to Kipchak to see the resplendent Turkmenbashy Mosque and Mausoleum, where Turkmenbashy is buried beside his mother, father and two brothers in their white marble mausoleum. There aren’t too many Turkmenbashy related sites still around, but this one is truly spectacular.
  • Return to Ashgabat in the afternoon and you'll have some free time to enjoy a beer by the pool at the hotel or take a walk around the old part of the city where the hotel is located, before we set off in the evening.
  • Night tour of Ashgabat. With the white marble buildings lit up by brightly coloured neon lights, Ashgabat is a truly spectacular place after dark. We'll make a stop at the Palace of Happiness in the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains, from where you can get a fantastic panorama of the whole city.
  • For dinner this evening we’ll go to the Yyldiz Hotel – the newest and most expensive hotel in Turkmenistan, where you can have a real 5 Star restaurant experience for 1 Star prices, complete with 360 degree views of the city.
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Day 3Mon Apr 21
Kow Ata, Nokhur, Serdar
  • Lunch at Kow Ata, Turkmenistan Checking out of our hotel in Ashgabat, we'll begin heading west, with our first stop at an underground thermal cave lake which is said to have many medical attributes, but is also used by locals as a swimming hole and makes for a very fun and relaxing swim.
  • After a refreshing swim in the cave lake, we'll sit down and chill for a while with some shashlik from one of the restaurants just outside the entrance to the cave.
  • We’ll continue driving west, away from Ashgabat, to the village of Nokhur, situated in the Kopet Dag mountains. Nokhur Cemetery, goat horn graves, Turkmenistan Unlike the rest of Turkmenistan, even during the Soviet Union and the era of Turkmenbashy, this village were largely left to their own devices and as such live a much more traditional lifestyle than most Turkmens.
  • Here we’ll visit Nokhur Cemetery, where each grave is adorned with the horns of a mountain goat and a small market next to a wishing tree where you can buy all sorts of natural teas and potions.
  • Keep driving to the town of Serdar where we’ll spend the night in a local hotel.
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Day 4Tue Apr 22
Balkanabat, Avaza, Turkmenbashy
  • Today we’ll complete the drive towards the Caspian Sea, arriving in Turkmenbashy in the late afternoon.
  • We’ll stop in Balkanabat on the way for some lunch and a quick look at a monument to the caravans of the Silk Road.
  • Arriving in Avaza in the afternoon, this is the epitome of bizarre modern day Turkmenistan. Although the facilities are extravagant and the buildings futuristic, the town is somehow best described as a ghost town.
  • We’ll have dinner at the one café that will be open, and from there you can explore the amusement parks, beaches, and hotels of Avaza, and if you’re game, take a swim in the notoriously cold Caspian Sea.
  • Overnight in Turkmenbashy.
  • Avaza is currently closed to foreigners, as of April 2023. We are working on the assumption that it will open before the time of this tour, however there is a chance that it won't. If it is unavailable we will change around the itinerary accordingly and as always we will work with the situation on the ground at the time to ensure that the tour is as well-rounded as possible.
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Day 5Wed Apr 23
Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenbashy
  • Today we’ll visit Yangykala Canyon. Until recently most Turkmens didn’t even know that this place existed, and still not many have been there. Wide and vast, the area was once a seabed, and scattered with all sorts of fossils, it stretches as far as the eye can see. In 4x4s, we’ll drive over the canyon walls, through the canyon itself, and up the other side, stopping at a couple of different viewpoints along the way.
  • We will take a packed lunch with us so we can enjoy it whilst taking in all the shapes and colours of this spectacular natural phenomenon.
  • Returning to Turkmenbashy in the afternoon you'll have some free time before we head out for dinner.
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Day 6Thu Apr 24
Turkmenbashy, Ashgabat, Gates of Hell
  • Gates of Hell, Darvaza, Turkmenbashy We'll fly on Turkmenistan Airlines (an experience in itself!) back to Ashgabat in the morning, where we'll have a chance to have a little rest or just get yourself organised for the night ahead!
  • We'll stop at a supermarket to pick up supplies for the rest of the day and dinner that night.
  • After lunch we’ll drive 250km north to Darvaza, The Gates of Hell.
  • One the way we’ll make a few stops – including to see a salt lake, two other craters (one full of mud, one full of water), and of course maybe for a toilet (not a luxurious one!).
  • Crossing the sand dunes to get to Darvaza, we’ll arrive in time to watch the sunset over the fiery crater and experience dusk turn to dark at this breathtaking site.
  • Set up tents near the Gates of Hell and camp near the fiery crater.
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Day 7Fri Apr 25
Gates of Hell, Ashgabat
  • Gates of Hell, Darvaza, Turkmenistan We'll wake up this morning at the Gates of Hell. What a place to wake up!
  • Make sure you get your fill of fiery pits over breakfast, before we drive back to Ashgabat, arriving around lunchtime.
  • We'll check into the hotel and have free time for the rest of the afternoon.
  • Most people will probably want to head to one of our favourite bazaars in Central Asia – the Russian Bazaar. Here you'll have the opportunity to get some super cheap, local food for lunch, do some souvenir shopping, or if you’re in the market for a Turkmen carpet we can show you a good place to get them.
  • This is also where one of the main shops for buying the famous Turkmenistan tracksuits is, so if you've made it to this point in the tour without one, and you're a bit jealous of your tracksuit-adorned fellow travellers, this is your chance to get one.
  • Yyldiz Hotel, Ashgabat You also might like just to go exploring, whether it's a walk to the psychadelic Ashgabat Mall, or to Tashkent Park, or to the alabay (dog) statue, or you could simply walk through one of the areas of new white marble buildings. And of course we'll be there to help you figure out what to do with your time.
  • For dinner this evening we’ll go to the Yyldiz Hotel – the newest and most expensive hotel in Turkmenistan, where you can have a real 5 Star restaurant experience for 1 Star prices, complete with 360 degree views of the city.
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Day 8Sat Apr 26
Ashgabat, Turkmenabat, Bukhara
  • Today will be the last day for those in Group A. If you're finishing here, you will be taken to the airport according to your flight times.
  • Those continuing will fly to Turkmenabat in the morning.
  • Visit the Lebap Regional Museum. This museum is home to a fascinating array of taxidermy, dioramas, and huge models and murals of the surrounding area. Not to mention some very informative displays about the wheat production and oil production of Turkmenistan.
  • Lyabi Hauz, Bukhkara, Uzbekistan Cross the border into Uzbekistan – this in itself can be quite the experience. Hopefully there won’t be many locals crossing and it’ll be relatively quick, but you need to have your wits about you for this crossing.
  • Once we’ve made it to Uzbekistan we’ll drive to Bukhara and check into our hotel, where we'll meet up with those in Group B.
  • Depending how long the border crossing takes you’ll have some free time to start exploring the old town before we have dinner next to the lake in Lyabi Hauz square, a beautiful setting right in the centre of the old town.
  • In the evening we'll sit by the lake, chilling out and taking it all in over a cold drink and a chat.
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Day 9Sun Apr 27
Bukhara, Samarkand
  • Bukhara, Uzbekistan This morning we’ll take a walking tour of Bukhara, strolling through the iconic streets of Bukhara's old town.
  • Of course we'll see all the famous minarets, mausoleums, mosques and madrassas, however listing these just doesn't capture Bukhara's charm.
  • Aside from the impressive brick and blue tiled buildings, at every turn there are shops selling interesting things you might not have seen before. This is a great place to buy all sorts of kinds of souvenirs. Bukhara, Uzbekistan
  • We'll have the opportunity to learn about and watch demonstrations of various local handicrafts, such as suzany (a local type of embroidery), blacksmithery, woodwork, cooking (usually of plov), and tons of other stuff. Bukhara, Uzbekistan
  • We'll end our walking tour at a huge structure that looks like a giant ark. Known as the Ancient Ark Fortress, this was the Palace of Bukhara’s Emirs, and parts of it are still open for visitors. This is probably the single most iconic building in Bukhara.
  • In the late afternoon we’ll drive to Samarkand where we’ll check into our hotel and have free time for the rest of the evening.
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Day 10Mon Apr 28
Samarkand
  • Once known as the “Pearl of the Muslim World”, Samarkand is a city synonymous with the Silk Road, full of towering minarets, shimmering domes and home to a splendid technicolour bazaar, which you will have time to wander around and discover for yourself.
  • And so as not to keep you waiting any longer, what everybody’s waiting for when they go to Samarkand –  the famous and spectacular Registan Square which is flanked by three beautifully decorated, sparkling blue mosaic madrassas. Once the city’s commercial centre, Registan Square is modern Samarkand’s centre piece and a pride of the Silk Road.
  • Having died in September 2016, Islam Karimov, the First President of Uzbekistan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan now has his mausoleum on the newly renamed Islam Karimov Street.
  • Winding through the narrow streets of the old city, we'll stop at a particularly unique synagogue. Totally unrecognisable from the outside, it looks like any of the typical houses on either side, but inside is a bizarre and unique mixture of Uzbek and Jewish décor. Romanenko Fashion Show, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  • We'll also pay visits to Bibi Khanum Mosque, Siyab Bazaar, and the grave of St. Daniel which is said to grow a foot in length every ten years.
  • Visit Romanenko House, a place that is difficult to describe. This small suburban house has been transformed into a completely unique textile workshop where thirty men and women redesign ancient Central Asian clothing into colourful, modern designs.
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Day 11Tue Apr 29
Samarkand, Dushanbe
  • Jarteppa land border crossing, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan Today we'll be leaving Uzbekistan (for the first time on this tour), and going to Tajikistan, crossing the border at Jarteppa.
  • Once inside Tajikistan, of course we'll do the usual things of getting everyone some local currency, and stopping for a cold drink no doubt, before visiting a few ancient sites in and around Penjikent. Sarazm, Tajikistan
  • Our first stop will be the UNESCO listed ruins of Sarazm, an archeological site dating back to the 4th Millennium BC (yes, millennium, not century!).
  • Old Panjakent, Tajikistan In Penjikent you’ll visit the Museum of Rudaki, the local bazaar, and the ruins of Sogdian and Sarazm.
  • In the evening we will arrive in Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capital city.
  • Overnight in Dushanbe.
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Day 12Wed Apr 30
Dushanbe, Khoja Obi Garm
  • We’ll take a tour of Dushanbe's city centre, including Rudaki Street, the World's Largest Teahouse, Dushanbe, Tajikistan Somoni Monument and Central Park, where you can gawk at the huge flagpole which was the largest in the world from 2011 to 2014.
  • We’ll visit the largest teahouse in the world, which is actually a series of insanely impressive funtion rooms, all adorned with incredibly ornate, but very varied, decorations. From the room that is lined in entirely mahogony, to the mirror room, or the pastel detail of traditional Tajik decor, they all share one thing - the resplendence.
  • Then we'll visit the Museum of National Khoja Obi Garm Sanatorium, Tajikistan Antiquities with the reclining Buddha in Nirvana, before c ontinuing on to the Botanical Gardens, the Somoni Monument, and the Building of National Spirit (unfortunately it’s not possible to go inside, but it’s still impressive from the outside).
  • Leaving Dushanbe, we’re going to spend the afternoon and evening at an amazing building which really encapsulates what we're all about. Khoja Obi Garm is a Brutalist behemoth Soviet-era sanatorium that is still in operation. The drive there is like the opening scene from the film The Shining. It's run by the Khoja Obi Garm Sanatorium, Tajikistan Tajikistan Trade Union organisation to provide workers with rest and relaxation. The treatments are a little unorthodox as they include radon baths, electric shock therapy, pulsating circulation treatment as well as mud baths and acupuncture (treatments not included in tour price). It’s an absolute dream for any lovers of weird Soviet stuff.


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Day 13Thu May 1
Dushanbe, Iskanderkul Lake, Khujand
  • Iskanderkul Waterfall, Fann Mountains, Tajikistan Today we will be doing a full day drive through the famous Fann Mountains to Khujand.
  • We'll be driving via Istiklol Tunnel, sometimes known as the “Death Tunnel”, 2,630m above sea level.
  • There will be plenty of stops on the way though for photos, toilets and of course lunch.
  • The best stop though will be at Iskanderkul Lake (2,255m above the sea level), wh ere there will be an opportunity to go for a 40 minute hike to the local waterfall after arriving at the lake, or if you’d prefer, you can just relax by the lake or go on a shorter walk around it.
  • Overnight in Khujand.
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Day 14Fri May 2
Khujand, Tashkent
  • Lenin statue, Khujand, Tajikistan Start the morning with a sightseeing tour in Khujand including the Orient bazaar Panjshanbe – the famous Panjshanbe city market and one of the most interesting sights of Khujand, Sheikh Muslihiddin Mosque and the Mausoleum of Khujand.
  • A highlight of Khujand will be the massive Lenin statue, standing majestically on the side of a hill overlooking the city, this is now the largest statue of Lenin still standing.
  • In the afternoon, cross the border into Uzbekistan.
  • Drive to Tashkent. Despite certain likenesses between Tashkent and Ashgabat, with their wide boulevards, artificially manicured lawns and pristine facades in front of crumbling buildings, Tashkent is a vibrant capital city with lots to do.
  • Overnight in Tashkent.
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Day 15Sat May 3
Tashkent
  • Today we'll spend the day exploring this hustling and bustling city.
  • Our first stop in Tashkent will be the famous Chorsu Bazaar, with its iconic blue dome that's now home to meat, dairy and dried fruits. Exploring the stalls you'll learn about traditional bread-making methods, local remedies for everything including of course virility issues, and how Uzbek babies are taught to go to the toilet.
  • In the afternoon we'll visit Tashkent Land, Central Asia's answer to Disneyland. With its faded welcome sign, crumbling gift shop and creaky rides, this is definitely a step back in time. Most tourists don't make it to this gem of Soviet infrastructure, but we just can't resist it. If you're really game you can try out the “Boomerang” rollercoaster, or if you'd like something a bit more relaxing you can take a ride on the “African tour”, a boat trip through the jungle land.
  • You'll most likely have tried plov by now, but nothing will prepare you for the Plov Centre. This gigantic hall, decorated as if for a wedding in the 1980's, is set up for large numbers of people to eat plov in. Mixed and cooked just outside by an army of Uzbek women, it is some pretty good plov, but more than that, it is an exceptionally unique experience.
  • Visit the Tashkent TV Tower for fabulous views of the city, and if it’s open, a coffee or a beer in a Soviet-built revolving restaurant.
  • We'll take several rides on the Tashkent Metro while we're there, one of only two metro systems in Central Asia (the other one being in Almaty). As with most Soviet built metros, the stations are unnecessarily lavish, but Tashkent's are particularly ornately decorated. Until June 2018 it was illegal to take photos inside them, but fortunately now pictures of these incredibly photogenic stations are allowed.
  • Next we'll visit the Museum of Railway Techniques’. This outdoor museum is full of all sorts of old locomotives, and they don't mind us climbing all over them. We can even take a little train ride around the train museum. You don't have to be a train lover to enjoy this charming muse
  • Overnight in Tashkent.
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Day 16Sun May 4
Parkent, Yangiabad

Parkent Solar Furnace, Uzbekistan

  • Heading out of Tashkent, we'll drive to Parkent, where we've been granted permission to visit a spectacular example of Soviet technology and architecture – the solar furnace. Still functioning, though never really having managed to fulfil its purpose, it's not open to the public.
  • From here we'll continue into the mountains to visit the town of Yangiabad. A closed town during the Soviet Union, not even appearing on maps, it was built as a mining town where exiles were s Yangiabad, Uzbekistan ent. Once home to about 10,000 people, the population got down to just over 300, and it felt like a crumbling little Russian enclave within Uzbekistan. However, in the past couple of years the mountain air and scenic views have grabbed the attention of Tashkentians, and the area has become a popular local tourism spot.
  • We'll spend the afternoon wandering the streets of the town, exploring the Soviet architecture, and soaking in the atmposphere - a difficult-to-describe mix of lively and summery, and decrepit and derelict.
  • We'll spend the night at a nearby Soviet “resort”. If it's hot you can go for a swim in the river, or if you just want to relax, we might be able to find the massage lady.
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Day 17Mon May 5
Yangiabad, Osh
  • We'll drive through the Fergana Valley in the morning, crossing the border into Uzbekistan around lunch time, and arriving in Osh in the afternoon.
  • Our first stop in Kyrgyzstan, Osh feels a lot different to Bishkek. There’s a bit of a rugged, w ild west sort of feel, that’s quite charming. Sulaiman Too Museum, Osh, Kyrgyzstan
  • We’ll visit the sacred Sulaiman Too Mountain, the main attraction in Osh.
  • We’ll walk to the top of the rocky outcrop, no doubt meeting lots of local pilgrims happy to have a chat on the way.
  • Not only is the scraggy hill a site in itself, with amazing views out over the whol city, and also peppered with ancient petroglyphs, but it’s also home to Sulaiman Osh Bazaar, Kyrgyzstan Too Museum, one of those famous crazy Soviet buildings that appear on all the lists of weird Soviet structures.
  • If there's time we’ll go to the Osh bazaar, one of Central Asia’s largest open-air markets. This is a great opportunity to find some cool souvenirs – hats, coats, rugs, fabrics, ornaments, loads of the cool stuff you’ve been admiring on locals and in their houses since being in Central Asia.
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Day 18Tue May 6
Osh, Toktogul
  • Naryn River, Kyrgyzstan Leaving Osh today we'll start our road trip through rural Kyrgyzstan. The next few days, until arriving in Bishkek, will be full of naturally beautiful waterfalls, lakes, mountains, yurts, horses, small villages, plains covered in flowers, and roadside fruit and honey stalls.
  • Our first stop will be at the Uzgen Minaret, an 11th Century, 27.5m tall tower, alongside three mausoleums.
  • We'll be driving along the extremely picturesque Naryn River for most of the day, as we wind our way through western Kyrgyzstan.
  • We might stop and buy a watermelon or a box of strawberries, so we can kick it local style and have a lake-side picnic at Toktogul Reservoir. homestay in Toktogul, Kyrgyzstan A very popular place for locals to set up for an entire day, with makeshift tents, camp seats and tressle tables everywhere, we'll stop here for a refreshing swim and just to relax and hang out for a while.
  • We'll arrive at our destination for the day in the late afternoon. The town of Toktogul, 1000 metres above sea level, was originally named after Toktogul Satylganov, a well-known Kyrygz poet and musician. His contributions and talent were so extensive that he is featured on the 100 Som note.
  • You can go for a wander around the town if you want to, before we have dinner at our homestay for the night.
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Day 19Wed May 7
Toktogul, Kyzyl Oi
  • Ozero Sazka, Reflection Lake, Kyrgyzstan Leaving Toktogul, we’ll drive through the Suusamyr Valley towards Kyzyl Oi. On the way though we'll take a slight detour to follow the It Agar River and make a stop at Ozero Sazka - Reflection Lake. Named for good reason!
  • After a short walk past a yurt camp, a bunch of horses, and across a small stream, we'll come out at the edge of the picturesque lake.
  • Continuing on our way we'll stop in the very small village of Manas, where there's a wonderful, you guessed it - statue of Manas. Kojomkul Monument, Kyrgyzstan
  • Our next small detour will be to the even smaller village of Kojomkul, where you'll never guess what there is - a monument to Kojomkul! Kyrgyzstan's most famous strong man, who you'll a lot about during our trip.
  • We'll arrive in Kyzyl Oi in the late afternoon, an old village located in the Suusamyr Valley in a narrow gorge of the powerful Kokomeren River. Kyzyl Oi, Kyrgyzstan
  • At 1800 metres above sea level, and characterised by scattered reddish clay houses, it gets its name which means “Red Bowl” from the formation caused by the high red mountains surrounding it.
  • We'll arrive in the late afternoon and meet our favourite local family in Kyzyl-Oi.
  • You should have some time to explore the town a bit if you like, or you can watch/help the ladies of the house prepare dinner.
  • If the grandfather of the house is around, he'll show you ordo (a tradtional game involving throwing animal knuckles at other animal knuckles), and his chicken rearing techniques, and tell you all sorts of stories about life in rural Kyrgyzstan during and after the Soviet Union.
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Day 20Thu May 8
Kyzyl Oi, Song Kol
  • Yurts at Song Kol, Kyrgyzstan Today we’ll drive to Song Kol Lake through the Jumgal Valley, crossing the Kara-Keche Pass, stopping for a picnic lunch on the way.
  • After the epic drive, we’ll arrive at Song Kol. Set high in the mountains, the lake itself is in the middle of a fertile plateau, dotted with horses, sheep and yurts.
  • Even though it’s summer and we’ll have been hot up until now, we’ll now be very glad to have stoves on in each yurt for warmth, and you might even pull out a jumper in the evening.
  • Depending on how early we arrive, you'll have the opportunity to go horse riding, or just take a walk around the area or if you’re really brave, a dip in the lake. Either way it’ll be a relaxing and peaceful evening under the stars.
  • Dinner will be in the main yurt at our camp, cooked by the family we’re staying with.

Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

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Day 21Fri May 9
Song Kol, Kochkor, Bishkek
  • Mountains, Kyrgyzstan Leaving Song Kol this morning, we'll gradually head back to civilisation today.
  • Other than some spectacular photo ops, our first stop on the four-hour drive to Bishkek, will be in the town of Kochkor.
  • Although most of the time this would be considered a small, rural town, compared to where we've just spent the last few days, this will feel like the big smoke!
  • We'll stop at the Soviet WWII memorial and the Lenin statue, both in the centre of town. We'll also take you to our favourite souvenir shop in Kyrgyzstan - run by local women, it's a great spot to find most things you might be looking for, from handicrafts, to antiques, and everything in between.
  • We'll take a short walk through the market, and have lunch.
  • This afternoon we'll visit Burana Tower, one of Kyrgyzstan's most famous sites. A 25 metre brick tower, this was once a 45 metre tall minaret.
  • With a couple more quick stops, such as the mounted MiG aircrafts in the nearby town of Tokmok, we'll arrive in Bishkek in the evening. MiG, Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan
  • And now we're really back to civilisation!
  • Now in Bishkek, we might want to take the opportunity to eat something other than Central Asian food - there's an excellent Japanese restaurant that we love, we could get burgers or pizzas, Chinese or Korean, or of course there are plenty of options if we want to stick with Kyrgyz food.
  • Then afterwards we can go out and experience some of Bishkek's rapidly gentrifying nightlife, maybe at Save the Ales or some of the many other cool ever-emerging options.
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Day 22Sat May 10
Bishkek, Almaty
  • We'll start the day by doing a short walking tour of Bishkek, a quintessential Soviet city with an amazing mix of Stalinist and Brezhnev era architecture. The wide boulevards and Brutalist apartment blocks, in stark contrast to the snow-capped mountain backdrop.

  • We’ll start with the Frunze Museum, dedicated to Mikhail Frunze, whom the city of Bishkek used to be named after (and why the airport code is still FRU!). Lenin Statue, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

  • Making our way past Victory Square, the circus and Tsum, we'll visit the Lenin Statue and Ala Too Square, home to the National Museum of Kyrgyzstan and a large Kyrgyz flag. Although this flag isn't quite as famous as their world-record holding neighbours, Tajikistan and Turkmenista n, it is still impressive and every hour, on the hour, there's a changing of the guards.

  • If there's time we'll continue on to Osh Bazaar, passing the White House on the way, and we’ll finish off the day learning about some of the weird and wonderful produce and delicacies you’ll find in the market.

  • We'll drive to Almaty after lunch, arriving in the late afternoon or early evening.
  • Overnight in Almaty.
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Day 23Sun May 11
Almaty
  • Zenkov Cathedral, Almaty We'll spend today exploring Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, and until 1997, its capital. As is becoming increasingly common in Kazakhstan, Almaty was formerly known as Alma-Ata and before that Verny.
  • We'll start with a walking tour of such famous sites as the Green Bazaar, the Arbat and Panfilov Park, named after the 28 Panfilov Guardsmen from Almaty, who died during the Battle of Moscow in 1941, which i s also home to Zenkov Cathedral. A Russian Othodox Church, its claim to fame is being the largest wooden structure in the world constructed with only joins, and no nails. 28 Guardsmen WWII Memorial, Panfilov Park, Almaty
  • In the afternoon we'll catch the metro to a few of the destinations not within walking distance. One of only two metros in Central Asia (the other being in Tashkent), it has just nine stations, so is largely useless to most people. However, like many metros in the former Soviet world, the stations themselves are ornately decorated, sparkling clean, and well worth a look at.
  • Lenin statue, Almaty We'll pass Old Square and Republic Square, the two places where the Kazakh Parliament used to take place before moving to Astana in 1997. These are also where we recently saw fatal riots in January 2022, along with the images of the destroyed city hall and presidential residence.
  • Heading into the suburbs of Almaty, we'll make a stop that isn't on other tour itineraries, and in fact most people in Almaty aren't even aware of this gem of Soviet history. Hidden in amongst medium density housing, there's a park which is now home to all the unwanted Soviet statues that were moved from their original places throughout the city and dumped unceremoniously here. Our favourite is the giant Lenin which used to be in Old Square, removed from his plinth and just standing flat on the ground with no sign or plaque to be seen.
  • If you like to have a night out of any type, whether it’s fine dining, a cosy bar, a noisy pub or even the ballet, Almaty is the city you’re going to want to do it in.
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Day 24Mon May 12
Almaty, End of Tour
  • Last day of the tour.
  • Transfers to Almaty airport for onward travel, or if you wish to stay longer in Kazakhstan check out our Kazakhstan Extension , where we will venture out of the city and back into nature for a few days.
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