Essential Kyrgyzstan & Kazakhstan
Bishkek, Chunkurchak, Cholpon Ata, Karakol, Kolsai & Kaindy Lakes, Altyn Emel & Almaty
based on 10 nights & daily experiences
* Pricing is a guideline only and excludes special offers. Travel over peak periods (e.g. Christmas, New Year and other public vacations) can affect prices considerably, as can exchange rates, flight class and room type.
One dinner with folklore performance in Bishkek
Two picnic lunches at Ala Archa and Barskoon Valley
One lunch at local Kyrgyz family home
Price is based on two people sharing one room.
At a Glance
Unique yurt glamping experience at the often-overlooked Chunkurchak Gorge with rolling lush hills of galloping horses
Spectacular, untouched natural panorama of Kaindy's sunken forest lake, Kolsai's alpine lakes, Barskoon's coniferous valley and Chunkurchak's lush jailoo pastures
Surreal landscapes of Singing Sand Dune, Charyn Canyon and colorful Aktau-Katutau mountains
Authentic local experiences such as meeting an eagle hunter, lunch at local Kyrgyz family home and observing livestock bargains at Karakol Sunday Animal Market
Hike the rugged gorge of Ala Archa National Park with a picnic lunch
This Northern Kyrgyzstan and Southern Kazakhstan itinerary is best between May and September
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
In winter, the Arctic winds bring in precipitation, snowfall and cold sub-zero temperatures. As such, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan is particularly good to visit between spring to late autumn (May-September).
We design each itinerary around you, so this suggested itinerary is a starting point that we can tweak or transform into something completely bespoke to you. To start planning your vacation
Combining the very best of Northern Kyrgyzstan and Southern Kazakhstan, you will venture through azure lake of sunken forest, rugged canyon, spectacular valleys of coniferous forests, singing sand dunes, rainbow mountains, as well as lush jailoo pastures dotted with yurts and galloping horses.
Days 1-3: Bishkek
Begin your journey in Kyrgyzstan with our special welcome dinner with Folk Musical Performance, known for its storytelling elements reciting tales about nomadic lives or heroic epics.
After a good night's sleep, we make an excursion to Ala Archa National Park with its picturesque gorges filled with pine forests and snow-capped mountain panoramas. We will hike 3.3km or approximately 2.5 hours to the Tepshi Plato, where you will enjoy a picnic lunch on an open field with seasonal flowers.
From here, you have an option of either continue hiking for another 4km or approximately 2.5 hours into a waterfall, or return to Bishkek for a city tour to learn about key historical figures in Kyrgyzstan such as Lenin, Manas and Kurmanjan Datka.
Accommodation: Ramada by Wyndham Bishkek Center (2 nights)
Days 3-4: Chunkurchak
The next morning, we depart into the little-known Chunkurchak Gorge. The accessibly remote jailoo feels like a step back in time, as you gently stroll along the lush pastures of rolling green hills, galloping horses, yurt-dwelling villagers and gentle river streams.
Afterwards, we continue into Supara Chunkurchak, where you will spend the night for a yurt glamping experience. Enjoy leisure time at the yurt resort taking in the beauty of the pristine surroundings, sample mare's milk at the resort, join a Manas epic recital by prominent narrator Zamirbek Bayaliev (weekends only at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm) or enjoy a peaceful afternoon walk through the forested slopes adjacent to the resort.
Accommodation: Supara Chunkurchak (1 night)
Days 4-5: Sary-Oi, Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
As the new day beckons, we depart into the Burana Tower, an 11th century minaret where you can get a view of the surrounding Chuy Valley from the top. We continue to a local Kyrgyz family home to get acquainted with their home-cooked dishes before continuing into the Issyk Kul Lake.
Issyk Kul Lake is the second largest alpine lake in the world. Here, you will enjoy a private one-hour cruise to take in the majestic beauty of the surrounding Tian Shan mountain range.
Accommodation: Raduga Resort Center (1 night)
Days 5-7: Karakol
Today, we will visit the open-air rock petroglyph museum of Cholpon Ata, best viewed during early morning. Many of the stones are carved with scenes of Marco Polo goats, snow leopards, hunters and deers.
We continue to the Przhevalsky Memorial and Museum, dedicated to the works of Russian explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky whom mapped out and contributed significantly to the early-day exploration of Central Asia. Reaching to the town of Karakol, we make photo stops at the Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral and the Chinese-Islamic hybrid Dungan Mosque.
In the afternoon, we make a visit to Jeti Oguz Canyon, known for the red-colored formation of "Seven Bulls" and "Broken Hearts". Afterwards, you will meet an eagle hunter, who will share with you about his bird-keeping and hunting traditions.
The next day, you will be driven to Skazka Canyon, also known as the fairytale canyon for their uniquely-shaped sandstones where your imagination can run wild with snakes, dragons, castles or sleeping giants!
We continue to the magnificent Barskoon Valley, one of the most beautiful in Kyrgyzstan. Enjoy a picnic lunch before you hike up the trail to a waterfall. This area was used by cosmonauts for rest during the Soviet times and here you will also find the monument of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space who spent his time here after returning from his historic trip.
If your trip in Karakol happens to fall on a Sunday, we can organize an early morning trip to Karakol Sunday Animal Market, where you can observe Kyrgyzs from around the region bargain over horses and livestocks.
Accommodation: Karagat Hotel (2 nights)
Days 7-9: Kolsai & Kaindy Lakes
Today, we cross the border to Kazakhstan (opens May-September) into Saty village. A 4WD ride will bring you through the rough, but rewarding road into the postcard-perfect Kaindy Lake, also known as the lake of sunken forest. Return to your accommodation for the night.
The next day, we drive to Kolsai Lake. Enjoy a leisurely boat ride along the Lower Kolsai Lake, taking in the beauty of the clear sapphire water. For those looking for an active pursuit, a moderate 3-hour hike over 9km will bring you to the rewarding Middle Kolsai Lake.
Accommodation: Tau-Shelek Guesthouse (2 nights)
Days 9-10: Altyn Emel National Park
Bidding farewell to the Saty village, we arrive into Charyn Canyon. We take a walk along the canyon floor which opens up into a river, passing through the Valley of Castles with unique towering structures along the way.
The journey then continues into Altyn Emel National Park. This afternoon, we will visit the alien-like landscape of Aktau-Katutau mountains before returning to your accommodation for rest.
Rise early the next morning as we drive into the Singing Dune. Standing 120 meter high, you can scale the dune and as the wind blows to disperse the sand dune, you will witness a natural pipe organ playing at the heart of the desert. This is a unique, rare phenomenon occurring only in very few desert. Early morning is a good time to visit the dune as wildlife tend to rise early morning towards the Ili River. If you are lucky, you may spot gazelles, kulands, birds, etc.
After briefly returning to your accommodation to refresh, we depart into Tamgaly Tas, where you will discover the Buddhist rock paintings with exquisite Tibetan inscriptions by the Ili River. Legend has it that these paintings were left here by missionaries who encountered miracle while traversing through the area. We continue to a medieval castle replica once used on the "Nomads" film before resuming to Almaty.
Accommodation: Aigai Kum Guesthouse (1 night)
Days 10-11: Almaty
Enjoy a city tour of Almaty. Stroll through the charming Panfilov Park with the wooden Zenkov Cathedral, the exotic Green Bazaar and the Central State Museum. Afterwards, we will take a gondola ride into Kok Tobe Hill, home to the world's tallest TV tower where you will enjoy panoramic views of Almaty.
Depending on your flight times, we will transfer you to the airport by midnight for your flight home. Or you may want to stay another night in Almaty, where we can add optional experiences such as a visit to the artisanal workshop of Qazaq-Oner, the ethno-village of NOMAD Ethnic Center or a gondola ride up to the relaxing Shymbulak Ski Resort.
Accommodation: Hotel Mercure Almaty City Center (1 night)
Aktau-Katutau Rainbow Mountains
Gaze over the surreal Aktau-Katytau mountains with mars-like red-and-white coloring.
Ala Archa National Park Hike
Enjoy an excursion the explore the great Kyrgyzstan's outdoors at Ala Archa National Park. You may hike to the Tepshi Plato, or if time and energy permits, to the waterfall.
Almaty City Highlights
Get a taste of the very best of Almaty, including the charming Panfilov Park, the exotic Green Bazaar, Memorial of Glory and Eternal Flame, the Central Mosque and Central Sate Museum.
Explore the beautiful Barskoon Valley and walk to a waterfall and Yuri Gagarin monument.
Bishkek City Tour
Explore Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital and largest city. Learn about famous historical figures and delve into Bishkek's vibrant art scene. Visit highlights including Ala Too Square, Manas Monument, Kurmanjan Datka monument, Lenin statue and Victory Square.
Boat Ride at Issyk Kul Lake
Enjoy a private one-hour cruise through Issyk Kul, the second largest mountain lake in the world.
Boat Ride at Lower Kolsai Lake
Enjoy a leisurely boat ride along the Lower Kolsai Lake, taking in the beauty of the clear sapphire water and the surrounding forested mountain slopes.
Visit Burana Tower, a minaret completed in the 11th century and take the stairway up to the top for a view of the Chuy Valley.
Known as the little brother of Grand Canyon, Kazakhstan’s Charyn Canyon is spectacular at 154km long and 300m deep. Visit the famous Valley of Castles with its unique towering structures.
Enjoy some leisure time to stroll around the Chunkurchak village with its yurts, galloping horses, rolling green hills and gentle river stream.
Fairytale Canyon of Skazka
Visit Skazka Canyon, renowned for uniquely-shaped sandstones where your imagination can run wild.
Folk Musical Performance
Let our professional musicians entertain your ears with Kyrgyz melodies as performed on traditional musical instruments.
Hike to Middle Kolsai Lake
If you are looking for active pursuit, a moderate 3-hour hike over 9 kilometer will bring you to the rewarding Middle Kolsai Lake at 2,250 meters above sea level.
Jeti Oguz Canyon
You will be driven up to the hill top to admire the view of Jeti Oguz. Afterwards, enjoy a short walk at the top of Jeti Oguz with picturesque rolling hills before you are driven back down for a brief photo stop by the river.
Visit Kaindy Lake by 4WD, known as the lake of sunken forest created from a strong earthquake circa 1911 which created a natural dam over the gorge.
Karakol City Tour
Explore Karakol's unique religious heritage: Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral, Dungan Mosque and the insightful Przhevalsky Memorial and Museum.
Karakol Sunday Animal Market
On every early Sunday mornings, observe locals bargain over horses and livestocks at one of Kyrgyzstan's biggest animal markets.
Kok Tobe Hill with Gondola Ride
Enjoy panoramic views of Almaty from Kok Tobe Hill, home to the world’s tallest TV tower.
Lunch at Local Kyrgyz Family Home
Get acquainted with delicious Kyrgyz dishes on a local family house.
Meet the Eagle Hunters
Enjoy a demonstration of traditional hunting with berkut (eagles). A berkutshi (eagle keeper) whose ancestors were hunters as well, will tell you about birdkeeping and about different hunting traditions.
Picnic Lunch at a Valley
Picnic lunch is one of the best ways to slowly take in the natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan valleys. Enjoy a selection of sandwiches, fresh and dried fruits, chocolate bars and boxed juices.
View rock petroglyphs dating from 1500 BC in Cholpon Ata.
Scale around the Singing Barchan Dune and hear first-hand the music of the desert.
Tamgaly Tas' Buddhist Petroglyphs & Nomad Fortress
Discover the Buddhist paintings of Tamgali-Tas, the medieval "Nomads" castle and attractions from ancient Zhetysu. On the Ili River’s shore, unravel the mystery of over 1,000 ancient rock paintings including five images of Buddhas.
Bishkek, Chunkurchak, Cholpon Ata, Karakol, Kolsai & Kaindy Lakes, Altyn Emel & Almaty
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