Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Summer Tour

Jul 16, 2022
Jul 31, 2022
16 days


This is a great tour for nature lovers, taking in all the best parts of the two most mountainous countries in Central Asia. Starting in Bishkek, we’ll circle around Issyk Kol, with stops at some petroglyphs, a beach resort, a secluded gorge or two and a couple of breath-taking valleys. Being SAIGA tours though we of course have some cool stuff along the way to add an extra dimension, like a game of Kok Boru, a meteorology station and some abandoned Soviet relics.

Then we’ll spend a night at the magical Lake Song Kol before really getting off the main road when we head down to the remoter and even less explored towns of Kazarman and Jalalabad, on our way to the Pamir Highway. Every day there will be multiple times when you think “wow, this is the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen”, and then we’ll finish up in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, which although small compared to most world cities, will feel like the big smoke after the last couple of weeks of travelling.

View the full itinerary


Accommodation in twin share at roughly 3 star hotels/guesthouses, breakfast included

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



Visa fees if necessary

Visa support if necessary

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

PCR Tests and any other COVID related expenses


Take in the breathtaking views on the Pamir Highway

Soviet urban exploration: Abandoned factories in Kyrgyzstan to Mining towns in Tajikistan

Participate in a local match of ' Dead goat Polo ' or just sit back and watch

Go horseback riding along the shores of Song Kol

Day 1Sat Jul 16
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Day 2Sun Jul 17
Bishkek, Burana Tower, Petroglyphs, Cholpon Ata
  • Our first stop will be in the town of Tokmok, a stereotypical Soviet town and home of the former air force training base. To honour the town’s past, there’s a MiG-23 mounted as a memorial.
  • Our next stop will be at Burana Tower, which was once the minaret of a mosque in Balassagyn city, and you can climb to the top of it for some great views over the nearby landscape.
  • Next up is a real local treat – a game of Kok Boru, which is played on horseback, and the aim is to get a newly decapitated goat into the other team's goal. They'll also demonstrate other horseback sports such as shirtless wrestling.
  • If you're game you can even have a go yourself, whether it's just seeing if you can pick up the dead goat (not as easy as they make it look!), or getting on a horse and actually trying to play.
  • We’ll stop for a home-cooked lunch in a local family home before continuing on to Cholpon Ata, on the northern side of the lake.
  • Check in to the hotel and for the rest of the day we’ll just chill like we’re locals on a summer holiday – swim in the lake or a swimming pool, sit around and drink or eat, chat with whoever you stumble across, play games with some locals, go for a walk, or simply relax and soak in the atmosphere.
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Day 3Mon Jul 18
Cholpon Ata, Karakol, Jeti Ögüz Health Spa
  • We'll visit the famous 4,000 year old petroglyphs. It’s a very strange an d unique view, huge boulders dotted over the side of the otherwise baron and sparse hillside, and the lake visible in the distance.
  • On the way back to the main road, we’ll drive down the old runway which was part of the Cholpon Ata airport that no longer exists. Back in the heyday, all sorts of dignitaries and celebrities flew into the resort town (including Yuri Gagarin who was a regular here), but it went out of use in 2003.
  • Continuing around the lake, today we’ll visit Karakol, at the very eastern point of Issyk Kol, stopping on the way into town at the museum of N.M.Prjevalskii, a renowned Russian explorer of the 1800s.
  • A small town with a big reputation, Karakol has a couple of pretty cool things to see, inclu ding the Dungan Mosque, unexpectedly shaped like a Chinese pagoda, and the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • We’ll stop for lunch and have traditional Dungan food before heading on to a SAIGA favourite – the Jeti Ögüz Health Spa, a Soviet sanitorium which is very tired and dated (as you’d expect a Soviet health spa to be!) but still functioning. You’ll have a chance to explore the grounds and buildings, get a massage, see all the weird treatments available and generally take a step back in time. Depending on who we find, we might be able to get radon baths, electric shock therapy, pulsating circulation treatment as well as mud baths, acupuncture and who knows what else!
  • For anyone who loves the weird and wonderful, this creepy night will be right up your alley!
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Day 4Tue Jul 19
Valley of the Flowers, Jetty Ögüz Gorge, Kyzyl Suu Meteorology Station
  • After breakfast, we say goodbye to the sanitorium and the babushkas we’ve no doubt made friends with and head along the south shore of Issyk Kol. You’ll have already realised how huge the lake is, but now you’ll start appreciating how different the two sides of it are. To the north the land is much flatter and more like farmland, the mountains very close to the shore. In the south though, it's all canyons, gorges and waterfalls. It's much more rugged, yet the mountains are much further away.
  • Today you’ll get to see some of Kyrgyzstan’s natural beauty, with stops at Kök-Zhaik, which means “Valley of Flowers”, and Jeti Ögüz, which translates directly into English as “Seven Bulls” Gorge.
  • After lunch we’ll switch vehicles from our minibus into a huge Soviet 4x4 bus to take us up the river to our overnight destination – a mountain hut at Kyzyl Suu. The drive in this vehicle is another SAIGA favourite, bouncing around in the huge all-terrain vehicle, winding our way up a rocky dried riverbed, and the hair-raising moment when we cross a fast-flowing river. Then we’ll arrive at our home for the night, which has literally made people cry because of the untouched beauty.
  • We'll be staying in the mountain hut of the family who lives here and looks after the nearby Soviet Meteorology Station and the Institute of Glaciers Foundation. Once we’ve settled in they’ll take us for a little tour around the two setups. It’s fascinating seeing the old Soviet ways of measuring everything, compared to the high-tech modern ways of measuring the same things.
  • After dinner we’ll no doubt have a bonfire and just relax, taking it all in.
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Day 5Wed Jul 20
Kyzyl Suu, Barskoon, Beltam Yurt Camp
  • Beginning our descent back down the mountains, stop and have a dip at a small natural hot spring, right on the edge of the glacial river, before leaving the mountains and getting back to to Issyk Kol.
  • Stop at the town of Barskoon to see the monument to Yuri Gagarin, carved into a huge rock.
  • Next we’ll visit Aalam Ordo. Building was started in 2009, and it was supposed to be a large centre of knowledge, culture and spirituality, but was never completed. Now it lies abandoned and half finished, but the ornate high wall catches everybody’s eye as they drive past.
  • Arriving at our yurt camp right on the shores of Lake Issyk Kol, we’ll get our yurts and make ourselves at home, taking in our surrounds at the edge of Issyk Kol, the second largest saline lake in the world (based on volume, actually it’s only fifth biggest based on surface area!).
  • Heard of glamping? Well this is glurting, with each yurt decked out like a hotel room, with power outlets, lights, and real mattresses.
  • Take a walk to the nearby abandoned Soviet campground. We’ve made friends with the local security guard, so we’ll be able to explore the dorms, industrial kitchens, shower block, theatre, and whatever else you can find. A keen urban explorer can easily spend hours here.
  • We’ll have a home-cooked meal inside a huge yurt, and spend the rest of the evening relaxing.
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Day 6Thu Jul 21
Beltam, Kochkor, Song Kol
  • Just 100m from our yurt camp, we'll have the opportunity to visit a fascinating old Soviet heavy water factory. Opened in 1955, needless to say, the experiment was a disaster from the beginning. Enduring almost 30 years of issues and failures though, Manufacturing Workshop Number 7 wasn't closed until 1982. Now it lies abandoned as a relic of one of the USSR's many failed projects. Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan
  • Begin the four-hour drive to Song Kol, stopping in the town of Kochkor where we'll visit the market, take a short walk through the streets, and have lunch in a local family’s home.
  • 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. Tonight's yurt is a bit more authentic than at Beltam, but still very Song Kol yurts and horses, Kyrgyzstan comfortable. Even though it’s summer and we’ll have been hot down in Bishkek and Issyk Kol, we’ll now be very glad to have stoves on in each yurt for warmth.
  • 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.
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Day 7Fri Jul 22
Song Kol, Kurtka, Moldo Ashoo Mountain Pass, Kazarman
  • After breakfast, leave for Kazarman Village via Moldo Ashoo Mountain Pass. This is a breathtaking drive, with loads of photo stops. There isn’t much to do on this drive, but the views of mountains and valleys, with cute villages dotted across the hillsides, will be plenty to keep you enthralled.
  • We’ll stop for lunch in the village of Kurtka, before continuing on to Kazarman.
  • You’ll have some time to explore Kazarman, known as a “tough mining town”, and definitely rough around the edges, formerly a gold mining town. With decreased employment opportunities a lot of the young people have left for the bigger cities, and we’ll get to see the sadder side to economic change in Kyrgyzstan and a part of the country a bit down on its luck.
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Day 8Sat Jul 23
Kazarman, Jalalabad
  • Continuing our drive through the mountains, we’ll arrive in J alalabad in the afternoon, and go to the Mineral Spa. Located in the hills just outside the city centre, the Jalalabad Sanatorium is another great example of some funky Soviet architecture. We can have a drink of the healing mineral water, freshly out of the ground, whilst taking in the brilliant views over the town.
  • Returning to the town, we’ll visit Madumar Ata Chaikhana, the most famous chaykhana in Jalalabad. Chaikhana, translating to tea house, and are common all over Central Asia. The building itself is worth a stop at, a huge gleaming hall, the outside walls covered in pictures of teapots.
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Day 9Sun Jul 24
Jalalabad, Osh
  • We didn’t choose these days by accident – today needs to be Saturday so that we can get the epic and very unique experience of visiting Jalalabad’s animal market. From early in the morning, the marketplace comes to life with incredible numbers of cows, sheep, goats and horses, all being bought and sold in what seem to be some kind of theatrical code between farmers and traders.
  • Once we’ve had our fill of animal trading, we’ll leave for Osh, arriving in the afternoon.
  • After lunch we’ll take a city tour of the 3,000 year old town. Although in some ways it’ll feel like we’ve re-entered civilisation after a few days in the Kyrgyz countryside, Osh feels a lot different to Bishkek. There’s a bit of a rugged, w ild west sort of feel, that’s quite charming.
  • 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, but it’s also home to Sulaiman Too Museum, one of those famous crazy Soviet buildings that appear on all the lists of weird Soviet structures.
  • Next 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 over the past few days.
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Day 10Mon Jul 25
Osh, Sary Tash
  • Today we’ll drive to Sary Tash. In itself it’s not much of a destination, but as the start of the Pamir Highway, it’s a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon and evening before we start the next part of this epic drive.
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Day 11Tue Jul 26
Tajikistan border crossing at Kyzyl Art, Murghab
  • Drive to Murgab through the Ak Baytal Pass. At over 4,600m high, th is is the highest section of road in the former Soviet Union.
  • We’ll stop near Karakul Lake for picturesque views of Lenin Peak. At 7,134m, Lenin Peak is partly in Tajikistan and partly in Kyrgyzstan, and is the second highest mountain in each country. The highest in Tajikistan is Somoni Peak, which was previously called Peak Stalina. Lenin Peak is the easiest to climb mountain over 7,000m, with the most ascends per year, for a mountain of that size.
  • Arrive in Murghab, a small city in the Alichur Valley. Surrounded by high snow-covered mountains, this area is inhabited by Kyrgyz and Pamir Tajik people. From here you’ll get great views of the high summit of Muztagh Ata Peak, which is 7,546m, but ac tually in China.
  • Take a walk to explore the city and its traditional market. We’ll stop for a picture at the Lenin statue of course. A large number of the shops here are constructed using shipping containers giving the local market a very colourful unique feeling.
  • Overnight in homestay in Murghab.
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Day 12Wed Jul 27
Murghab, Langar Valley, Lake Yashilkul, Langar
  • We’ll keep driving along the next section of the Pamir Highway, on a section of road that was completed in 1931. We’ll stop at Yashilkul and Bulung Kul, two more spectacular lakes, then we make our way through the Khargush Pass.
  • This part of the Pamirs was made famous by the Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd film Spies Like Us.
  • We won’t actually be in the Wakhan Corridor, but as we drive along the River Panj, we’ll be just across the river from it, the Hindu Kush to the south and the Pamirs to the north.
  • After a pretty exciting day of driving and sight-seeing, we’ll arrive in Langar and spend the night there.
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Day 13Thu Jul 28
Langar, Yamg, Ishkashim, Khorog
  • Our first stop will be in Vrang, where we’ll see the caves dug by the Buddhis ts who used to live here.
  • Then we’ll stop in Yamg village to see the tomb and reconstructed house museum of Sufi mystic Mubarak Kadam, along with the stone that was used as a solar calendar 700 years ago.
  • We’ll check out Kah-Kakha Fortress and Abrashim Fortress, before arriving in Ishkashim, and contin uing on towards Khorog.
  • In the afternoon, before we arrive in Khorog, we’ll stop at the Garam Chashma hot springs to relax after another day driving the Pamir. There are also cafes here for those who would rather relax with a beverage and bite to eat.
  • Arriving in Khorog you’ll have a chance to explore the city yourself. Although it was once of strategic importance to the Soviet Union, this is now a really poor area of Tajikistan.
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Day 14Fri Jul 29
Khorog, Kalaikhum
  • Today we’ll drive to Kalaikhum, a cute little town of 1,600 people, nestled into the valley. From here you can easily see across the river Panj into Afghanistan.
  • I'm sure it's not just us that finds something really strange and exhilirating about looking across a border. It's just a few metres, you could throw a rock there, and yet it's like a whole different world. Especially when the other country is one that is so special and unique.
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Day 15Sat Jul 30
Kalaikhum, Dushanbe
  • Today we will arrive in Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital city. We’ll take a t our of the city centre, including Rudaki Street, the 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, where you can either just enjoy a locally made tea, or have something to eat in this iconic building.
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Day 16Sun Jul 31
Dushanbe, End of Tour
  • Today we finish our Pamir adventure.
  • Transfer to airport if required.
  • Tajikistan has a lot to offer other than the Pamirs, let us know if you want to continue your Tajikistan journey.
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