Beginning with the Buzkashi Horse Games (or “dead goat polo”) in the National Hippodrome in Bishkek, this tour kicks off with Kyrgyzstan’s unique Independence Day events. After experiencing some amazing national music, dance and food during the celebrations, we’ll leave Bishkek, and make our way into the phenomenal countryside of Kyrgyzstan, experiencing mountains and lakes and having the unique opportunity to spend a couple of nights sleeping in traditional yurts.
Despite Kyrgyzstan’s natural beauty and nomadic culture though, we can’t forget that like the rest of Central Asia, this amazing country was part of the Soviet Union and there are still some fascinating relics of this to be explored. On the shore of Lake Issyk Kol, we’ll have the chance to visit an old Soviet heavy water factory, a Soviet brewery that is now responsible for Kyrgyzstan’s best-selling beer and a YPT exclusive outing to the Soviet Meteorology Station.
We’ll spend the rest of the day doing a city tour of Bishkek.
This will include a stop at Ala-Too Square, home to the National Museum of Kyrgyzstan and a large Kyrgyz flag. Although this flag isn’t quite as famous as neighbouring Tajikistan and Turkmenistan who have the world’s second and fifth tallest flagpoles, it is still impressive and every hour, on the hour, there’s a changing of the guards. The National Museum itself is especially unique because of the spectacular Soviet murals that cover the ceilings of the three-storey museum.
Experience some of Bishkek’s nightlife, such as the Putin Pub or the Obama Bar.
Day 2 – Saturday August 31st – Bishkek, Buzkashi Games
Today we’ll be spectators at the semi-finals of the Buzkashi Games at the City Hippodrome. Famous all over Central Asia, this horse-riding tournament is sometimes described as “dead goat polo”. You’d have to see it to believe it!
Depending on the scheduling of the event, we may have some free time in the afternoon and evening.
Day 3 – Sunday September 1st – Bishkek, Independence Day
Bishkek will come alive today with people from all over Kyrgyzstan coming for the Independence Day celebrations taking place all over the city.
Celebrations will begin in the centre of the city, in Ala-Too Square, with performances of traditional music and dance from many backgrounds, including Kyrgyz, Russian, Ukrainian, Dungan and Caucasian. Around the square, you’ll find some national games that you might be able to take part in, some traditional art, and of course plenty of Kyrgyz and Central Asian cuisine.
In the afternoon we’ll either return to the Bishkek hippodrome for some more Buzkashi or attend a concert in the Bishkek Philharmonic Concert Hall.
The parks will be flooded with collections of pop artists and amateur musicians and dancers, providing impromptu and informal entertainment.
When all the official celebrations are over, Ala-Too Square becomes a giant dance floor, local pop stars take to the stage and Kyrgyzstan’s youth continue the party well into the evening.
And to top it all off, like any good celebration, there’ll be a fireworks show to end the night.
Day 4 – Monday September 2nd – Bishkek, Cholpon Ata Petroglyphs, Jergalan Health Spa, Karakol
Leaving Bishkek we’ll drive towards Issik Kol, the world’s second-biggest saline lake and tenth biggest lake.
Our first stop will be in Cholpon Ata, on the northern side of the lake, where we’ll make a small detour into the mountains to visit the open-air petroglyph gallery.
Continuing around the lake, our next stop will be the Jargalan Health Spa, a Soviet-style health spa resort with natural mineral baths.
Arriving in Karakol after about five or six hours of driving, we’ll visit the museum of N.M.Prjevalskii, a renowned Russian explorer of the 1800’s.
Have dinner and spend the night in a homestay.
Day 5 – Tuesday September 3rd – Karakol, Valley of the Flowers, Jetty Ögüz Gorge, Kyzyl Suu
After breakfast, we’ll take a tour of the town, with stops at the Dungan Mosque, shaped like a Chinese pagoda and the Russian Orthodox Chuch.
Leaving Karakol, we’ll begin the three-hour drive towards Son Kol.
We’ll take a walk through the beautiful Kök-Zhaik area, which means “Valley of Flowers”, named for the poppies that are strewn all over the valley.
Our next stop will be Jetty Ögüz Gorge, which translates directly into English as “Seven Bulls” Gorge. The name comes from the 35km wall of seven intimidating red-brown cliffs that resemble angry bulls.
Spend the night in a mountain hut at Kyzyl Suu.
Day 6 – Wednesday September 4th – Son Kol, Institute of Glaciers Foundation
After breakfast with our host family, we’ll leave the lake behind us and drive through the mountains.
Explore the Soviet Meteorology Station and the Institute of Glaciers Foundation.
Meet our host family and spend the night in their yurt.near the edge of Issik Kol Lake.
Day 7 – Thursday September 5th – Issik Kol Lake
On the southern shore of Lake Issik Kol, 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.
Begin the four-hour drive to Son Kol Lake, a spectacular example of Kyrgyzstan’s natural beauty. Set high in the mountains, the lake itself is in the middle of a fertile plateau, dotted with horses, sheep and yurts.
Tonight we’ll stay in a yurt again, this time near the edge of Son Kol Lake.
Day 8 – Friday September 6th
Group A – Son Kol Lake, Burana Tower, Jivoe Brewery, Kochkor, Bishkek
After breakfast, we’ll leave Son Kol and start the three-hour drive to Kochkor.
On the way, we’ll make stops at Burana Tower, a gem of Silk Road architecture, and Jivoe Brewery, a gem of the modern Russian influence.
Stop for lunch in Kochkor.
After lunch, we’ll continue driving about another four hours to Bishkek.
•All transport according to the itinerary
•Local English speaking guide
•Western YPT guide
•Accommodation according to itinerary in twin/double share, except on days 4, 5 & 6 where we will be sharing a yurt with each other
•Entrance fees to all sites outlined on the itinerary
•Breakfast every day
•Lunch and dinner on days 4, 5 & 6 and dinner on day 7
•Travel arrangements to Bishkek at the start and end of the tour
•Visas or LOI’s for Kyrgyzstan. Most Western passport holders can now enter Kyrgyzstan for 60 days without a visa, but if you don’t fall into this category we can advise you separately.
•Meals other than those stipulated (allow up to $10 per meal)
•Drinks at meals
•Single supplement for accommodation ($75, not available in the yurts on days 4,5 & 6)
•Tips for guides (not obligatory, and up to your personal discretion)
•Any other personal expenses such as souvenirs
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.