14 days

Kyrgyzstan - Lakes of the Sky

Kyrgyzstan - Lakes of the Sky

Torugart Pass

Yurt stay at Son-Kul Lake

Chorsu Bazaar of Tashkent - one of the largest and oldest farmers' markets in Central Asia

The 'hot lake' of Issyk-Kul

Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek

Burana Tower of ancient Balasagun

Kochkorka homestay

Kashgar - the Silk Road capital of the Uyghurs

Trip rating
  • Join us on this journey as we travel from the ancient trading hub of Kashgar, in the footsteps of Silk Route merchants and over high mountain passes into Central Asia. With its spectacular Pamir Alay and Tian Shan peaks, Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian gem waiting to be discovered. Staying in simple traditional yurts, travellers move alongside friendly nomadic people, enjoying unrivalled hospitality and witnessing a culture little-changed for centuries. Travel through this unspoilt country offers adventures and surprises in equal measure - traverse the Torugart Pass, swim in Son-Kul and Issyk-Kul Lakes, or simply relax into life as a Kyrgyz nomad.

    Why we love it

    • On this expedition, you will travel from the ancient trading hub of Kashgar, in the footsteps of Silk Route merchants and over high mountain passes into Central Asia.
    • With its spectacular Pamir Alay and Tian Shan peaks, Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian gem waiting to be discovered.
    • Staying in simple traditional yurts, travellers move alongside friendly nomadic people, enjoying unrivalled hospitality and witnessing a culture little-changed for centuries.
    • Travel through this unspoilt country offers adventures and surprises in equal measure - traverse the Torugart Pass, swim in Son-Kul and Issyk-Kul Lakes, or simply relax into life as a Kyrgyz nomad.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Kashgar

    • Upon arrival in Kashgar you will be transferred to your hotel.
    • Your pre-departure meeting will take place this evening.
    Tian Yuan International Hotel or similar

    Day 2 - Kashgar

    • Today you will visit the famous Kashgar Sunday Market. The city is alive with traders selling all kinds of wares - rugs, hats, spices and boots to name just a few.
    • At the separate livestock market animals are offered for a 'test-drive' while their handlers catch up on the latest news and gossip.
    • Recharge with some street food - perhaps the local specialty, spicy noodles - and make sure you're prepared for a photographer's paradise!
    Tian Yuan International Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 3-4 - Torugart Pass - Tash-Rabat

    • You will have an early start today as you head up into the mountains and across the Torugart Pass (3752m).
    • This ancient gateway takes you through some spectacular scenery. The drive takes about four hours, the second part of this will be on unpaved roads.
    • This is a relatively taxing day, and you should be prepared for some bumpy, windy roads – there is no cause for concern though, our drivers are extremely experienced and will make your safety their priority at all times.
    • Depending on the time of year you travel, there may still be snow as you approach the Pass, and it's possible there will be some delays due to poor road conditions after the winter.
    • Please make sure you have a warm jacket on hand – the temperature will drop noticeably in comparison to the desert where Kashgar is situated.
    • A basic packed lunch will be provided before you leave Kashgar (your Chinese tour leader will arrange this), but you may wish to prepare some additional snacks and drinks.
    • You will reach Chinese customs (at an elevation of approximately 2000m) before heading into no-man's land for a further 70kms. At the next checkpoint you will say goodbye to your Chinese hosts as they introduce you to your Kyrgyz team, who will escort us through Kyrgyz border formalities.
    • Today you must be patient – as you will see, this is a very remote and unsophisticated border point, and the custom and immigration processes can be tedious.
    • There are no money changing facilities here, but this does not present a problem, as there is nowhere to spend money until you reach the next town and the bank.
    • Most nationalities no longer require a visa for Kyrgyzstan, but this situation can always change and formalities still need to be completed.
    • Once all the paperwork is completed, you will continue on to the beautiful 13th century caravansarai at Tash-Rabat. There is plenty of time to relax here with a free day to enjoy trekking in the area, or simply enjoy the stunning setting of your yurt camp.
    • Please be aware that the camps are set up and dismantled (in nomadic tradition) according to weather conditions and the progress of the seasons. A yurt is more sophisticated than a tent, but still relatively basic accommodation.
    • Generally the group will share two to three yurts (usually five to six people per yurt), with the yurts are designated as singles or couples, and male or female, or divided in another way according to the wishes of the group. If you have a particular request or concern about the sleeping arrangements, please speak to your tour leader.
    • The yurt camps do not have shower facilities, but will have access to water and a private area for washing. The toilets are 'out-house' style, located at a distance away from the yurts. Please ensure you bring a torch with you (head-torches are particularly useful!).
    • In each yurt you will find wooden beds with mattresses fitted with sheets and blankets. These mattresses are more like thin futons rather than traditional mattresses.
    • If there has been an especially long winter, it is possible that the first groups of the year may be accommodated at a lower altitude for comfort, however a stop at Tashrabat to visit the caravanserai will still be included.
    • Whatever time of year you travel, we strongly recommend you pack layers and a lightweight set of thermals to ensure you are comfortable, particularly at night.
    • Your hosts may have small souvenirs for sale, but will accept US dollars or Euros, so it's worth having some small denomination notes prepared for this purpose.
    Yurt Camp ( Dostuk) or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 5-6 - Son-Kul Lake

    • After breakfast you will drive to Son-Kul Lake, a beautiful spot where many nomadic herders choose to make their summer camp. With gentle pastures set against a backdrop of dramatic mountains, this is the perfect place for an afternoon hike - perhaps dropping in on a local family along the way.
    • You will stay for two more nights in traditional felt tents (yurts) and sample some traditional dishes from your Kyrgyz hosts.
    • Again the bedding in a yurt consists of layers of mattresses (like thin futons, but not a traditional bed) and layers of blankets/covers that are stacked during the day to give space, then built up for each person at bedtime (the camp staff will usually assist with this).
    • You will usually be sleeping in close proximity to each other, so a pair of earplugs and an eye-mask are well worth packing.
    • Son-Kul Lake is located off the main roads, so you will be subject to local conditions – it is unlikely that you will be unable to reach the lake, but should the drivers feel it is unsafe to attempt the pass, you will stay with nomads in an area of equal beauty and interest instead.
    Yurt Camp ( U Baisha ) or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 7 - Kochkor

    • From Son-Kul's pastures you will wind your way across country towards the village of Kochkorka.
    • Here local families will welcome you, they will be your genial hosts for the night. By using these homestays, you are supporting a community-run initiative, but the pleasure will be all yours with fabulous home-cooked meals and a unique insight into everyday life in a Kyrgyz town.
    • The ladies take pride in their hospitality, and you should feel free to tuck into the extensive range of dishes provided – at the very least, you should try to sample all of the delicious jams and preserves on offer.
    • According to Central Asian tradition, guests are to be treated with the greatest respect, given their freedom of the hosts' home, and allowed total privacy – we encourage the host families to interact, but they will appreciate some encouragement.
    • Once the family photos are brought out, it generally doesn't take long for mothers and grandmothers to be swapping notes and admiring pictures. It's not necessary to tip the families (they receive payment for their hosting) but if you wish to give a gift of some kind, try to think of something personalised – a postcard from your home or a photo of you and your family for example.
    • Many of the husbands and sons of the village are working in the cities, or in Russia, to provide an income for their families – this is why you will tend to see only the very youngest and the very eldest of the men-folk around.
    • You will also have the opportunity in Kochkorka to observe the Kyrgyz art of felt making.
    • You will take in a shydak-making show, shyrdak being a richly decorated Kyrgyz carpet. This method of carpet making requires the ramming and rolling of different coloured wool into felt.
    • A traditional method, it is passed on to child from mother and has been around for many hundreds of years. There are variations of this in many different parts of Central Asia.
    Kochkorka Village Family Home stay or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 8 - Barskoön Gorge - Tamga

    • You will have a more leisurely day today, as you get your first glimpses of turquoise Lake Issy-Kul and explore the Barskoön Gorge on foot.
    • Your day will be relaxed and you will share a picnic lunch in these idyllic surrounds.
    • You will continue this evening to another simple guesthouse at Tamga village on the southern shore. From here it is a short stroll to the local beach, where a spectacular view of mountain peaks and clear blue water awaits you.
    • The brave might want to consider a dip in the lake, but be warned that the locals you see swimming here are used to the icy temperatures, with glacial streams feeding the lake from the high mountains that you have recently left behind.
    Village Guesthouse or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9-10 - Lake Issyk-Kul

    • Over the next two days you will follow the shore of this impressive lake - so large it never freezes, hence the name Issyk-Kul - meaning 'hot lake' in the local language.
    • You will travel from Tamga via the iconic red sandstone formations of Jeti-Öghüz Canyon, to Karakol, where traditional wooden houses are laid out European style.
    • Tonight you will stay in a local guesthouse. Dinner is not included this evening, so you can take the opportunity to wander into town and try out a local restaurant.
    • The next day you will continue along the north shore to Cholpon-Ata, site of ancient petroglyphs – if time permits, you will stop to look, but there will be a lengthy drive to arrive at your final destination tonight at Chong-Kemin.
    • This long valley lies at altitudes of between 1400 metres and 2800 metres above sea level, and reaches over 80km deep into the mountains between the Kungey Ala-Too and Zailii ranges, parallel to the Kazakh border.
    • It has verdant pastures, woodland (of Tian-Shan firs), mountain lakes (Jamalysh, Kogor, Tor, Almaty and Kichi-Kemin amongst them) and spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
    • You will stay overnight at a small guesthouse in this beautiful setting.
    Village Guesthouse or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 11-12 - Chong-Kemin - Bishkek

    • After breakfast you will start on the road to Bishkek. Along the way you will stop at the 11th century Burana Tower, a minaret in the old city of Balasagun. This was the centre of state during the reign of the Karakhanids, once-great feudal rulers of Central Asia.
    • After joining a local family for lunch, you will arrive in Bishkek. The following morning you will have an introductory city tour to show you the sights of the capital including the National Museum and Gallery.
    • The afternoon will be left free for you to shop, explore or simply relax. Bishkek is a small but very pleasant capital, easily explored on foot, or using local taxis.
    • You will also find plenty of Internet cafes, something rarely found in the countryside.
    • It is a good idea to advise friends and family that you will be out of contact between Kashgar and Bishkek so they are not concerned if they don't hear from you for a few days.
    Asia Mountains or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 13-14 - Tashkent

    • You will fly from Bishkek to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, this morning. On arrival at Tashkent, be ready for hustle and bustle and prepare some assertiveness, as this airport is infamous for being exhausting in its arrival formalities.
    • There is no cause for concern, however it can take quite some time for the whole group to make it through so please be patient. You will need to complete two customs declaration forms, one will be kept by the Customs Officer on arrival, the second must be kept for your departure, when you will fill out a third one for comparison, having spent your money and hopefully bought some souvenirs that you will now declare.
    • If the forms are in Russian, we will find an example in English on display somewhere in the area. Match the fields up – the Customs Officer will check it and clarify if necessary.
    • Please keep this form somewhere safe as it will be required when you exit the country, as will the small 'Registration' slip that your Tashkent hotel will give you.
    • Although these registration slips may appear inconsequential (often just a rubber stamp on a small bit of paper) they form a record of where you have been staying and failure to present them can result in difficulties with immigration on departure.
    • Having met your Uzbek tour leader at the airport, you will make the short journey to your hotel, and the rest of the day will be free.
    • In this cosmopolitan city there is a plentiful choice of restaurants and activities for a final evening's entertainment.
    • Your journey will come to an end on Day 14 (Fri) after breakfast.
    Uzbekistan Hotel or similar
    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Arrival transfer
    • Experienced, English-speaking Peregrine leaders and specialist local guides at some sites
    • Authentic Accommodation includes: 3 nights comfortable hotel, 2 nights homestay, 2 nights guesthouse, 4 nights yurt tent (multi-share), 2 nights basic hotel
    • Meals: 13 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 7 dinners
    • Transport
    • Sightseeing and entrance fees including: Kashgar Sunday Market & Animal Bazaar; Felt making coop in Kochkor; Bishkek city tour
    • International flight Bishkek - Tashkent
    • Visa support for China & Uzbekistan

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Visas
    • Departure transfer
    • Meals unless specified in the itinerary
    • Insurance
    • Laundry - may be available at locations where we stay two or more nights
    • Tips - this is something to consider, and it might be worthwhile speaking to your group about making a group contribution at the end of the trip
    • Optional additional tours or activities during free time
    • Sleeping sheets or bags (optional)

    Safety Information

    Few travellers will experience any safety issues in Kyrgyzstan if general precautions are followed. Take care if you go out after dark. Keep large amounts of money hidden at all times and be wary of strangers offering help or being over-friendly. Be particularly aware of your surroundings when using currency exchange offices. There have been reports of thefts carried out by uniformed police officers and gangs. Avoid walking alone at night and don’t travel in unofficial taxis. Avoid using local buses and mini-buses as they are not always properly maintained and are notorious for pick-pockets. Demonstrations on political and socio-economic themes occur both in central Bishkek and in other parts of the country. You should avoid all demonstrations.

  • Map Itinerary

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PCKL
Group size 4 - 16
Start City: Kashgar, China
End City: Tashkent, Uzbekistan

What to know

Venturing well away from cities and remote areas, this trip takes you right off the beaten track. Accommodation and facilities may be basic but the rewards are immeasurable.

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