4 - 12
On this Kyrgyzstan cultural tour you will get to experience three of Kyrgyzstan’s most beautiful alpine lakes: Stay in yurts with views of the majestic sea-like Issyk-Kul lake, watching the local eagle hunters; Earn a view of Chatyr-Kol after hiking or horse-riding to a high pass deep in the Tian Shan Mountains along the ancient Silk Road; Ride horses alongside nomad herders in the tranquillity of Son-Kol Lake, situated in the heart of the country surrounded by a gentle crown of mountains and grazing livestock in the summer months.
(Available as a small group tour or tailor-made holiday)
Kyrgyzstan is famed for its hiking in the high Tian Shan but if you prefer a more relaxed adventure yet still with the ability to take in many of the mind-blowing views, then this is the trip for you. The nomadic way of life is still very much alive in this country – nestled deep within the Central Asian Steppe – and you will have plenty of chances to meet with the local people and learn about their timeless way of life.
Kyrgyz food is absolutely delicious and apart from gorging ourselves in the capital on the many traditional dishes, we will also experience the home-cooked meals of the family we are staying with in communal dining yurt – in Son Kol particularly – with maybe even a schnapps or two to wash it down after. Kyrgyzstan displays incredible natural beauty with horses in abundance; even if you have no previous horse riding experience the mounts are very well trained and used to having travellers ride them so this can be the perfect opportunity to try something new and get a feel for the nomad that lives in all of us.
3 star hotel
Most international airlines arrive into Bishkek early in the morning. Upon landing, you will be transferred to your hotel to check in - early-check ins with breakfast are included. You have the morning to rest after your travel.
At 12pm, you will meet your guide and embark on a walking tour of Bishkek. The capital of Kyrgyzstan, also known as the ‘White City’ – so called because many of the government buildings in Soviet times were built from the beautiful, locally mined white marble - is a fascinating city with vast plazas and dramatic monuments from the Soviet Era.
Our local tour guide will give us a welcome introduction to both the city and the history of the country, followed by dinner in one of the most well-known tea houses in the city, complete with traditional live music and dancing.
Accommodation: 3* Bugu Boutique Hotel or similar
After breakfast we transfer to the incredible Chon Kemin Valley, a protected region home to some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the country. Chon Kemin is a unique natural reserve with beautifully preserved alpine landscape. Steep glaciers are fringed with green coniferous forests and the valley is surrounded on all sides by towering mountain peaks. After the rainy season, the valley blooms with wildflowers which spread as far as the eye can see.
On the way, we stop to visit Burana Historical Complex, a large archaeological complex near Tokmok, 80 km east of Bishkek. The minaret is something to behold: built in the 11th century, the height of the tower is about 25m; in the Middle Ages, it was over 40m, part of it having been destroyed by an earthquake in the 15th century. If you can climb to the top of Burana, the views of the surrounding valley are staggering. On the east side of the tower there are the remains of mausoleums, and along the perimeter, ancient Turkic stone sculptures.
We spend the night in the village of Tarsuu, a picture of rural Kyrgyz life, at a family run guesthouse. There are plenty of things to do this afternoon: a 2-3 hours (easy) hiking tour to Kalmak-Ashuu gorge, or you could, for a small fee, go on a horse-die or take a cookery class - the local delicacy is Boosok, a traditional Kyrgyz snack.
We have a fabulous day ahead of us and make an early start to get on our way as our destination: we have a total of 6 hours of driving to do today but it will be spread out.
Our first stop is the southern shore of Issyk-Kul, a saline lake 113miles long. In the Kyrgyz language, the name means ‘warm lake’, as, despite the ring of snow capped mountains surrounding it, it never freezes due to the salt content. Our homestay is near the shores of the glistening lake – so large that its turquoise waters often look like the Mediterranean.
Our route gives us a wonderful opportunity to acclimatise to the Kyrgyz landscapes, and brief glimpses into how life plays out here. We will explore the interesting rock formations of Skazka Canyon and be treated to a demonstration of eagle hunting at Bokonbaev village by local Kyrgyz nomads. Depending on time, we may get to walk by the shore before heading 'home' and settling in.
We have some more distance to cover today (395km) to head into the more remote parts of the country, so after breakfast, we drive south, down alongside the rising snow-capped Tian Shan Mountains. Our destination is the ancient Caravanserai of Tashrabat, which lies on the ancient Silk Road, only two days travel from the Chinese border.
We break our journey in the remote village Acha-Kayindy to enjoy lunch and... a felt show. After a leg stretch and bite to eat at a local family's home, we continue on (3hrs) to reach Tashrabat in the afternoon.
A 'caravanserai' is a roadside inn with, typically, a central courtyard for travellers in the desert regions of Asia. The Caravanserai of Tashrabat was just such a place: it's easy to imagine the traders and travellers of old stopping in this place to rest when journeying between the countries of Central Asia. The thick stone walls of the buildings of Tashrabat still stand and endure the elements, almost lost in the vast open plains surrounding them. Believed to have been used by traders since the 1400s, it is likely that there was a Christian monastery here as early as the 900s.
We will stay in the yurt camp and explore the Caravanserai itself, imagining how traders throughout history would have holed up to protect themselves from bandits or bad weather on this lucrative but perilous trade route. Tonight we are treated to a fantastic dinner prepared by the lodge.
Yurts sleep 2 - 4 people: single accommodation is not available. Shower and toilet facilities will be shared. Electricity and mobile connection is not available - do not expect wifi either!
A mix of riding (additional cost for optional activity) and walking is the ideal way for us to travel up the winding valley trails to the top of a high pass (4000m), where, weather permitting, we will have an incredible view of Chatyr-Kol (Lake). It is a there & back route, and we have all day to enjoy it, so there is no rush - we will be travelling at a leisurely pace with plenty of time for photo stops.
We suggest riding the flatter sections to and from the base of the climb (14km total), and then hiking (8km with 950m ascent). Riding will be suitable for beginner riders also.
If you would rather, you can just stay and explore the foothills around the Caravanserai, but the views are absolutely worth it if you are even a teeny bit tempted!
We stay at the Caravanserai yurt camp for a second night tonight.
We will take the winding road up into the very centre of Kyrgyzstan’s hidden plateau (249km), to the majestic Song-Kol (“last lake” in Kyrgyz), in the Naryn Province, up at 3016m. It is probably - at the very least, arguably - the most picturesque lake in the country.
It is a popular ground for nomadic shepherds who bring their flocks here in the summer months. Wildlife is diverse and the experience of nature, pristine.
We will stay in a beautiful traditional nomad yurt camp on the southern shore, with the family who run it, play with the innumerable children, and sample the delicious local cuisine.
Yurts sleep 2 - 4 people: single accommodation is not available. Shower and toilet facilities will be shared. No mobile signal. Electricity is from 18:00 until 22:00.
Today we have a complete day of leisure in these beautiful surroundings. Choose to hike, horse ride, grab a book or do nothing apart from breathe in the clean air and revel in the wilderness! It really is an amazing place just to spend time. Lucky visitors may see deer, foxes, marmots, Marco Polo sheep, birds of prey, or even leopards and wolves on the plains.
Rest under a never-ending sky, viewing incredible sunrises and sunsets, not to mention impeccable views of the Milky Way in clear skies. Take the golden opportunity to spend time with the local people in ours and other yurt camps dotted along the shores.
We stay a second night in Son-Kol yurt camp.
3 star hotel
Reluctantly leaving our yurts and the striking plains behind, we will drive (360kms, taking 5-6hrs) back to the capital for our last group dinner in the city and to celebrate our adventure in this unique and beautiful country. We pause for lunch at the house of a family in Kochkor before continuing onto the capital. Some will miss the simplicity of the Yurt life... others will look forward to returning to some home comforts...
The journey starts where it began, and we enjoy a group meal together in the city, celebrating a memorable journey together.
You will be transferred to the airport for your flight home. Leaving the stunning landscapes of Kyrgyzstan is going to feel all wrong but ‘normal life’ awaits you. Time to plan your next escape!
Extra night's stay before or after the tour at the same hotel at the start / finish of the tour.
Carbon Compensation is not the perfect solution, and it is important to first reduce our carbon emissions as much as we can, yet trees remain an excellent natural technology to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to slow global warming.
For every client and guide who attends a YellowWood Adventure, we donate £30 to our partner charity WeForest to plant 15 trees to (over) compensate for the carbon footprint of the tour.
We also invite our clients to match this with an optional additional £30 for another 15 trees to be planted to help compensate for the carbon footprint of their international flights.
WeForest run many tree planting and tree maintenance projects such as this seedling nursery in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil and many other projects in other countries including Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania & India.
Click Here to find out more about their amazing projects around the world.
We fully believe in, and practice, Responsible Tourism, using hotels run by locals. We put time and effort into building our relationship with them to ensure you have a a great trip.
We choose hotels based on cleanliness, comfort, safety, proximity to our route (to avoid unnecessary extra travel), and a warm client welcome, as well as reliability in their service to us. Some hotels will be basic, and in modern buildings and or in towns. Wherever we can, we will choose smaller more characterful, individual hotels, but in areas where tourism is still developing, this may not be available.
An aspect of our adventures is to escape the ‘trappings’ of modern Western lifestyles and to experience new things which is exciting and memorable, and reflects the countries we are visiting.
This is adventure travel and on occasion the advertised services at a hotel, guesthouse or camp (eg wifi, or hot showers!) may not be functional on our arrival. This tends to occur in the smaller, more remote places. Very rarely a hotel lets us down and we are required to find alternative suitable accommodation that might not be our first choice.
This accommodation on this adventure involves both hotel stays and camping in Yurts. The list below gives information on our first choice of accommodation for this adventure. Where hotels and refuges are fully booked or unavailable, we will use an alternative of a similar standard, and equally well situated. We will provide you with an accurate list of accommodation, with contact information to leave with relatives, prior to departure on your adventure.
Bishkek (3 nights): 3* Navat Boutique Hotel, or similar
Yurt Camping (5 nights): A yurt is a large felt tent made from sheeps wool, which results in a warm, cosy and waterproof shelter. The centre of the yurt houses a metal wood burner with a chimney for all smoke to escape through the roof.
The yurts house either 2 or 4 simple but comfortable beds with plenty of extra blankets to pile onto your sleeping bag (please bring a winter season bag), should you feel chilly. If you are travelling with a group of friends then we are happy for friends to share a yurt (4 people), or YellowWood can arrange the rooming for solo travellers to share with others of the same gender.
Toilet facilities are shared and in a separate ‘hut’. There are taps and running water in the camp for washing. We use traditional nomadic yurt camps where electricity is available between 18:00 and 22:00 and there is no mobile signal. Please note that part of this adventure is to escape the ‘trappings’ of modern Western lifestyles.
Unless you have booked a single room (where they are available) and paid the single room supplement for those nights, you will be sharing a twin room with another client (of the same gender).
Supporting you on your holiday will be an experienced, approachable and knowledgeable English speaking local Kyrgyz guide, who will be with you for the duration of the holiday.
This ensures you the perfect balance of information and support on your trip, offering insight into local life and customs, as well as routes during hiking.
Your group will be any number from our minimum group size of 4, up to a maximum of 12 clients. This number works really well with the ratio of guides, and ensures an optimal level of service to you during your adventure.
We get clients booking alone, as couples and in small groups of friends. If you have a larger group of friends or family who are interested in having their own customised trip, then please let us know and we can cost it out for you. Our links with in-country travel experts often mean that we can assist you in developing a personalised itinerary.
You are visiting the Tian Shan mountains and your itinerary involves some walking over rough terrain and some optional trekking (see the Itinerary for Day 5 for further details).
To get the most of out of this adventure, you therefore need to be a regular walker and in good physical condition. You do not need to be experienced in trekking, however. Any hiking is undertaken at the natural pace of the group, with regular stops.
You will be carrying just a day pack and bottle of water.
As with all active holidays, the fitter you are, the more you can relax and enjoy the stunning route, and the better you can cope with challenges such as the outside elements.
Clients are advised to get into a regular walking pattern before the trip as convenient.
NB: If you have bought new hiking boots for this adventure, this is the right time to wear them in, not on the trip! itself.
Your YellowWood adventure starts at the airport in Bishkek. We understand that arriving into an unfamiliar airport can be very daunting, so we aim to give you as much information here as possible, to help you prepare.
Flights are not included in the cost of your holiday, and whilst we are happy to help advise you, responsibility for booking the correct flights rests with you. We recommend that you use a comparison tool such as www.momondo.co.uk or www.skyscanner.net when searching for flights. We will send you a Flight Information Sheet with further pointers on which flights to book for your adventure.
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. We also receive notifications direct from the FCDO so we are always aware of the ‘status’ in our destination countries.
Manas International Airport is the main international airport in Kyrgyzstan, located 25km NW of the capital, Bishkek. It is a small, though fully functioning, airport with 2 ‘terminals’ that you may arrive into, at different ends of the same building.
You will be met at the airport by your YellowWood guide and a local driver for transport to the Silk Road Lodge (approx 40mins)
It is not necessary to fill out any visa forms on the plane, but on disembarking, you have a couple of jobs to do.
Toilets can be found in the arrivals lounge.
On arrival at the Silk Road Lodge, you will be welcomed and have time to settle into your room.
Once the group have all arrived (they may be on a variety of different flights), you will be heading to a local restaurant for lunch and a trip briefing. This will be followed by a very interesting City Tour of Bishkek to kickstart your holiday!
Holiday insurance is essential for all Yellow Wood Adventures. Unfortunately anyone without insurance is not able to take part in the holiday, so please make sure you arrange cover. We recommend sorting your insurance when you book so that if you have problems during the run up to your holiday, and need to cancel, you are covered, particularly in the light of effects that the pandemic has had on travel.
Prior to the holiday, we will ask you to send us details of your insurer, policy number, 24 hr emergency assistance contact details and the name, address, and telephone numbers of your NOK or persons to be notified in the event of an emergency.
Your insurance needs to cover you for hiking /trekking (and horse riding if you are likely to do this) with the following fairly standard inclusions:
We would also recommend that you have cover for the following optional items:
For information on Kyrgyzstan, such as climate, weather, language, social norms, food & drink etc, please have a read of our Country specificinformation.
Our family of 4 (including two teenage kids) had a fantastic adventure in Kyrgyzstan organised by YellowWood Adventures.
Every question was answered before the trip greatly reducing our concerns.
Both our guide and driver were very friendly and would go out of their way to ensure had a great trip. The mini bus was always clean, waiting and ready to go. Hotels were always clean but ranged from basic to luxury.
Absolutely loved the country, the views and the people especially, who were super friendly
Footsteps of Nomads, 2022
Although this was a group tour Sam provided a very personalised service, particularly through the booking process and through his obvious concern during the trip that all within the group were enjoying the experience. The opportunity to stay with a local family in their yurts and eat food prepared by them was really special. When I think of this trip I am recalling great times in enormous empty landscapes that brought exhilaration and tranquillity in equal measure. Highly recommended.
Footsteps of Nomads, 2022
In the Footsteps of Nomads (prev. Great Lakes Adventure), 2019
Kyrgyzstan is a spectacular country with snow capped mountains always on the horizon and sweeping plains between, with herds of livestock and wonderful flora.
In the Footsteps of Nomads (prev. Great Lakes Adventure), 2018
A very enjoyable and varied tour to an unusual destination with a good balance of trekking, riding, culture and relaxation. Yurt hosts were excellent...
In the Footsteps of Nomads (prev. Great Lakes Adventure), 2019
Footsteps of Nomads (prev. Great Lakes Adventure), 2018
All adventures can be tailored as private bespoke trips.
Please contact us for more information:
+44 207 846 0197
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We will be in touch as soon as we are able, to confirm your booking or discuss any availability limitations. Do not book transport/flights until we have emailed you to confirm your booking (receipt of your booking form is not confirmation). We will change the status of your final invoice from 'Pending Approval' to 'Outstanding', when it becomes payable online.
This payment is due 56 days before departure date (we send reminders).
Contact us with any questions about your adventure or booking.
+44 207 846 0197
To help you choose the right adventure for you, we have given each itinerary a grading that relates to the level of Walking / Trekking you will experience during the trip. This grading can be found on the Yellow map on the adventure page of the website.
All of our trips involve a level of general activity so are designed for people who are in good health, enjoy the outdoors, and have a taste for adventure and some level of fitness. As will be clear from our destinations, the climate (and altitude) may be different to that which you are used to, so please take this into consideration when choosing the most suitable holiday.
Please read our Adventure Itinerary & Essential Information for more information and don't hesitate to contact us if you would like to chat through whether you have found a suitable adventure for you.
You need to be in good physical health to enjoy your active holiday, but you don’t need to be an experienced hiker. These itineraries offer a mix of sightseeing and easier walking for around 2-4hrs a day, with the emphasis on sights and cultural experiences.
Walks will be well marked or on defined pathways, and often around sites of interest. The expected amount of descent/ascent will depend on the landscapes of the destination, but will not exceed 400m/day, and will often be much less. Walks are at low altitude (below 3000m).
You will not be required to carry more than a day sack with water and essentials. Ensure you are aware of the weather conditions likely in the destination you are visiting and have a pair of comfortable and worn in walking shoes/boots.
You need to have a good level of fitness and be a regular walker for these adventures, with ideally some trekking experience. You can expect to be walking for 3-6 hours per day, not including rest stops, normally on good trail paths but with some uneven surfaces at times.
You will not be required to carry more than a day sack. You may be walking in more challenging temperatures. You will generally be walking at low altitude (below 3000m) but may walk at altitudes up to 4000m. The amount of ascent could be up to 800m in a day but will frequently be less. You may walk on consecutive days.
Ensure you are aware of the weather conditions likely in the destination you are visiting and have suitable clothing for this adventure.
You need to have a good level of fitness with previous experience of trekking. Extra training before your trip will ensure that you get the most out of your adventure. Areas will be remote and terrain uneven.
Expect to walk for 5 – 8 hours a day, not including breaks, with some very steep ascents and descents. You will be walking at altitude (over 3000m but not higher than 5000m).
Ensure you are aware of the weather conditions likely in the destination you are visiting and have suitable equipment/clothing for this adventure (see the packing list for your adventure).
Please check individual itineraries for details of what you will need to be carrying with you.
Get in touch via our Enquiry form to check our availability, discuss the adventure and check we can meet your needs.
Complete our Enquiry Form; contact details, additional requirements (eg diet or health requirements) & questions you may have. Include as much information as you are able to, so we can help you with the detail you are looking for
Click on 'Send Enquiry' (receipted).
We will be in touch as soon as we are able, to answer your questions and help you plan your adventure.
+44 207 846 0197