Kyrgyz tours

Kyrgyzstan small group tours, kyrgyzstan art craft textile tours, kyrgyzstan holidays
Kyrgyz shepherd riding and speaking on his cell phone. Image: L Kas'janova
Kyrgyzstan Art and Craft Tours 2017

Uzbek Journeys offers a special glimpse into this beautiful and little known country.

These tours combine the majestic, rugged landscapes of snow-capped mountains and lush valleys with visits to textile co-operatives, design workshops and yurt makers. The tours also include eagle hunting demonstrations, a buzkashi match and a visit the Karakol's livestock market.

Overview
2017 tour dates
Itinerary
Tour costs, inclusions and exclusions
Flights to Kyrgyzstan
Health and fitness, weather and money
Terms and conditions
How to book

Overview

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The majesty of the Kyrgyz landscape. Image: Ivan Dementievsky
Kyrgyzstan is a small, Central Asian republic, almost entirely mountainous, lying within the Tian Shan mountain range. About 85% of the land is over 1500 metres above sea level. The climate is therefore cooler than Uzbekistan.

The Kyrgyz were traditionally nomads, travelling each year with their herds of cattle, sheep and horses from high mountain pastures to the lowland winter pastures. Today, Kyrgyz people take immense pride in their heritage and traditions.

If you are curious about travelling here, review 5 Reasons to Visit Kyrgyzstan written by food/travel writer Anita Breland, who travelled there with Uzbek Journeys. The publication, 100 Experiences of Kyrgyzstan, describes the unique features of the country. You can also read feedback from Uzbek Journeys clients on the TripAdvisor noticeboard about small group tours to Kyrgyzstan.

You stay in small, boutique hotels and guesthouses. Of course you have private bathroom facilities, except in Tamga.

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Aidai  Asangulova's magnificent felt piece
There is a maximum of 10 passengers per tour. The tours start and finish in Bishkek. It is a beautiful country, often called the Switzerland of Central Asia, and makes a marvellous contrast to the landscapes of Uzbekistan.

Not all Kyrgyzstan clients book an Uzbekistan tour. Some clients combine a Kyrgyzstan tour with travel to Turkey (as there are daily flights to/from Istanbul) or travel to Russia (flights from St. Petersburg and Moscow) or western China (flights from Urumchi).

If you plan to join an Uzbek and a Kyrgyz tour in 2016, please refer to the section below on flights.


2017 Tour dates 

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Tour #1: 25 May - 1 June (8 days/7 nights) Tour #1 will be led by  the excellent Kyrgyz guide and Penelope Price will accompany the tour.

Status update 4 May 2017: There sre two spaces available on this tour. Please contact Uzbek Journeys if you would like to join.

Tour #2: 7 - 14 September (8 days/7 nights)  Tour #2 will be led by the excellent Kyrgyz guide and Penelope Price will accompany the tour.

Status update 8 February 2017: This tour is fully booked. Please contact Uzbek Journeys if you would like to be on the waitlist.

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Pamir headdress - elechek.  Image: Lilya Kas'janova
Both tours follow the same itinerary.  The tour dates are based on the current flight schedule Tashkent>Bishkek>Tashkent. However, it is possible to fly to Bishkek from other destinations. Please refer to the section below about flights to Kyrgyzstan.

Please do not book your flights to Bishkek until the schedule of flights from Tashkent>Bishkek>Tashkent is confirmed.

Note: For travellers who join both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek tours in September 2017, there is a 4-night gap in Uzbekistan between tours at your own expense.  This is due to the current Uzbek Airways flight schedule from Bishkek to Tashkent.  Currently there are two flights a week - early morning Wednesday and Thursday evening. The Thursday evening flight to Tashkent coincides with the end of the Kyrgyz tour.

Tashkent is a most interesting city to spend time in, especially over the weekend. Please read the posts 48 Hours in Tashkent  and Another 48 Hours in Tashkent. Both articles provide Tashkent options not included in the Uzbek Journeys tour. They also link to many other posts about what to see and do in Tashkent 

In September the theatre, opera and ballet season opens again. The weather is good and the harvest fruits and vegetables are plentiful. Or you may consider visiting the Ferghana valley or the ancient Buddhist centre of Termez.
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Itinerary

Day 1:  25 May (Thursday) / 7 September (Thursday)   Bishkek

Because flights often arrive early morning into Bishkek, many clients prefer to arrive earlier than Day 1 and relax before the tour start. Uzbek Journeys can book accommodation and transfers for you.

After breakfast visit Aidai  Asangulova's workshop. Aidai was born and raised on the south shore of the Issyk Kul lake region to a family of yurt makers. Felt making has always been part of her life, and later, while working as an artist in Bishkek, she developed a unique technique that fuses felt and silk in her creations. Her fabulous work is sold internationally.

Later visit the studio of renown doll maker Erkenbu eje.

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Exhibition at Tumar Studio. Image: Lilya Kas'janova
Following lunch, there is a Bishkek sightseeing tour. This will include the Ala-Too square with the statue of Manas (the national hero) and the old square with Lenin’s statue.

You will also visit Tumar Studio: Tumar is a modern Kyrgyz felt atelier, which produces all manner of felt from ethnographic horse trappings to simple, contemporary shoes.

To create livelihoods in the wake of the Soviet disintegration in 1991, Tumar’s three co-founders sought to elevate the quality of Kyrgyz felt to its historic glory and at the same time incorporate contemporary design.

The quality and innovation of the items here are outstanding.  As well as felt, there are many quality items such as ceramics,  jewellery, fashion and old embroideries. (Good news - Tumar is one of the places that accepts credit cards).

Overnight Bishkek hotel.

Back to topDay 2:   26 May (Friday) / 8 September (Friday)  Bishkek to Cholpon Ata 

After breakfast, travel to Kochkor village, 260 kms from Bishkek, where you will visit a master feltmaker and her family to watch the process of felt carpet making.

After lunch at the family's home, travel to the northern shore of beautiful Issyk Kul lake, situated in the northern Tian Shan mountains. It is the world’s 2nd largest mountain lake, situated at an altitude of 1,607 metres.

Although snow-capped peaks surround it, it never freezes. Hence its name, which means "hot lake" in Kyrgyz. Overnight in hotel near the lake, where dinner will be served.

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Kyrgyz shyrdak carpet. Image: Lilya Kas'janova
Day 3:   27 May (Saturday) / 9 September (Saturday) Cholpon Ata to Karakol

After breakfast, visit a fascinating open-air gallery sometimes known  as the Stone Garden. It covers 42 hectares and contains hundreds of petroglyphs, dating from 500 BC  to 600 AD.

Prior to reaching Karakol, you will visit the Przhevalsky museum, dedicated to this famous Russian geographer and explorer, and after whom the Mongolian wild horse was named. Later transfer to Karakol, the fourth largest city in Kyrgyzstan, near the eastern tip of Issyk  Kul lake, about 150 kilometres from the Kyrgyzstan-China border.

After lunch, visit a very pretty wooden mosque built by Chinese artisans between 1907 and 1910 for the local Dungans, and an appealing wooden Russian Orthodox church, the Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was completed in 1895 and used as an officers’ club during Soviet times; it is now restored and in use again as a church.

There is also a small section of Russian colonial "gingerbread" style residential buildings.  In the evening will be a Kyrgyz folkloric dinner show with Kyrgyz national music and songs. Hopefully a manaschi - a Kyrgyz bard, who recites verses from the epic poem Manas, the centrepiece of Kyrgyz literature, will  also participate.

Overnight in a delightful guest house.Back to top

Day 4:   28 May (Sunday) / 10 September (Sunday)   Karakol's livestock market and day trip to Altyn-Arashan

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Shimmering Lake Issyk Kul ringed by the Tien Shan mountains
Early morning, before breakfast, drive to Karakol’s famous weekly livestock market. Later explore the Altyn-Arashan valley. Transport to reach this valley is by Russian military mountain truck. Possibility to swim in a Soviet era thermal spa. After a picnic lunch, there's an optional easy hike before returning to Karakol.

Day 5:  29 May (Monday) / 11 September  (Monday)    Karakol-Jety Oguz-Tamga

In the morning drive to Jety Oguz gorge (40 minutes), a lush valley with striking red sandstone rock formations – the ‘Seven Bulls’ from which the valley takes its name. Here you will watch an Eagle Hunting show. Then free time for a little hiking, followed by a picnic lunch.

Transfer to Tamga, about 90 minutes from the gorge.  Before reaching Tamga, visit famous yurt maker Mekenbek’s house in Barskoon village. Overnight in a private guest house - shared facilities.

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Day 6: 30 May (Tuesday) / 12 September (Tuesday)  Tamga to Chon Kemin Valley

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Kyrgyz boy on donkey. Image: Lilya Kas'janova
En route to Chon-Kemin stop at Kyzyl Tuu village to visit the small felt museum of Aidai Asangulova, whose Bishkek workshop was visited on Day 1. Aidai comes from this south shore side of Issyk Kul Lake.

Here you will have very tasty lunch in a local home.  Continue driving to  the beautiful Chon-Kemin valley. You will have the opportunity to visit an old Soviet farm (kolkhoz) village and enjoy a short hike in the valley with green fir trees on the mountain sides.  Overnight in a lovely guesthouse.

Day 7: 31 May (Wednesday) / 13 September (Wednesday)   Chon Kemin to Bishkek 

After breakfast start driving to Bishkek. En route you will visit the Burana Tower. The tower, along with grave markers, some earthworks and the remnants of a castle and three mausoleums, is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun which was established by the Karakhanids at the end of the 9th century.

The next stop is in nearby Don-Aryk village where you will witness the famous horseback game called ulak-tartysh (also known as kupkari and buzkashi). After the game, around midday, lunch at the local house of Mukan Baike in Don-Aryk village.  Continue to Bishkek, 70 kms away.

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Manas - Kyrgzystan's national hero. Image: Lilya Kas'janova
On arrival in Bishkek visit Tumar Studio: Tumar is a modern Kyrgyz felt atelier, which produces all manner of felt from ethnographic horse trappings to simple, contemporary shoes.

To create livelihoods in the wake of the Soviet disintegration in 1991, Tumar’s three co-founders sought to elevate the quality of Kyrgyz felt to its historic glory and at the same time incorporate contemporary design. The quality and innovation of the items here are outstanding.  As well as felt, there are many quality items such as ceramics, jewellery, fashion and old embroideries. (Good news - Tumar accepts credit cards).

Farewell dinner then overnight in Bishkek hotel.

Day 8:  1 June (Thursday) / 14 September (Thursday)  Departure Bishkek

Based on 2016 schedules, the flight from Bishkek to Tashkent departs at 1900.  Breakfast is included, though you will need to check out prior to 12:00 noon. Tashkent-bound passengers have the airport transfer included. If you are staying longer in Kyrgyzstan, accommodation and transfers can be arranged.
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Tour costs, inclusions and exclusions

The tour costs below are based on a minimum of 5 people per tour. If there are fewer, the price will increase and the vehicle will differ. The maximum number of passengers is 10 persons. Kyrgyz tours include all meals and activities.

Tour pricing: Because of the volatility of the Australian dollar,  tour prices are now quoted in US dollars.

Please note that Australian dollars are not convertible in Central Asia - Uzbek Journeys can only pay partner travel agencies in US dollars. Although tour costs are quoted in US dollars, payments can only be made in Australian dollars to Uzbek Journeys. It is not possible for Uzbek Journeys to accept payments in US dollars.

Please read carefully the section on tours costs in the Terms and Conditions.

The cost per person for tours #1 and #2 are:
 
5 people: US$1590; 6 people: US$1460; 7 people: US$1410; 8+ people: US$1330 (twin share); Single supplement: US$235

Back to topThe tour cost includes:
  • Accommodation in twin share rooms with private bathroom facilities (except Tamga shared bathroom) in Kyrgyzstan.
  • All meals from breakfast Day 1 to breakfast Day 8
  • Transportation in comfortable air-conditioned Mercedes Benz Sprinter minibus
  • Services of an English-speaking Kyrgyz guide from Day 1 up to and including Day 8  plus Penelope Price's participation where specified.
  • Bishkek airport transfers on days 1 and 8 if arriving and departing Bishkek on Uzbek Airways from/to Tashkent. Otherwise US$40 per car per transfer. (Bishkek airport is 35kms from downtown)
  • Sightseeing program in all places described, including entrance fees to sights and museums
  • Visit to Altyn-Arashan valley via Russian military truck
  • Demonstration of felt carpet making in Kochkor
  • Visit to Mekenbek, the yurt maker's workshop
  • Eagle hunting performance
  • Buzkashi match
  • Karakol livestock market visit
  • Folkloric show in Karakol featuring national music
  • 1 litre of still, bottled water per person per day 
The tour cost does not include:
  • Flights to and from Bishkek.(There are regular flights from Istanbul, Tashkent, Russia, Kazakhstan, Urumchi and  Dubai)
  • Visa fee if required. (Effective 1 August 2012, the Kyrgyz parliament passed legislation allowing visa-free stays of up to 60 days for many nationalities, including Australia, USA, New Zealand and most EU passport holders. View the list).
  • Transfers to/from Bishkek airport if arriving/departing on airlines other than Uzbek Airways on days 1 and 8.
  • Thermal bath fee (about US$7) in Altyn-Arashan
  • Video and photography fees and personal beverages
  • Hotel charges for additional services and early/late check out
  • Travel insurance: comprehensive travel insurance, providing cover against personal accident, death, medical expenses and emergency repatriation is a condition of participating in this tour. It is strongly recommended that it also cover cancellation, travel interruption, personal liability and baggage loss. And, you should also consider that it is not possible for Penelope Price, operator of Uzbek Journeys, to obtain Public Risk cover for risks outside Australia. Therefore it is not possible for you to rely on any such cover. Please arrange this with your flight booking agent or insurance broker. Details of your insurance cover must be provided at the time of final payment.
  • Laundry and any other items not mentioned in ‘inclusions’ above
  • Any excess baggage charges
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Flights to Kyrgyzstan

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The beauty of Kyrgyz yurts. Image: Lilya Kas'janova
Not many airlines fly to Bishkek - it is part of the allure of this remote and beautiful country. Uzbek Airways flies twice weekly from Tashkent and there are daily flights from Moscow and Istanbul. Some clients, who wish only to join a Kyrgyz tour and not combine it with an Uzbek tour, often have a Russian or Turkish holiday first.

There are also flights from Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), New Delhi, Urumqi (China), Dubai, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Passengers who wish to join both an Uzbek and a Kyrgyz tour, can take advantage of Turkish Airlines extensive Central Asian network from Istanbul. e.g. fly one-way into Bishkek, join a Kyrgyz tour, fly to Tashkent, join an Uzbek tour and then fly home (or onward) from Tashkent. Or this can be done in reverse.

Alternatively, you can fly into Tashkent and then fly on Uzbek Airways to/from Bishkek. (Uzbek Airways currently operates twice a week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays. If you do this, then a double entry visa for Uzbekistan will be required, which is US$10 more than the June 2016 single entry fee of $70 for most passport holders.

Please discuss flights with your travel agent. Uzbek Journeys does not book flights.
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Health and fitness

It is your responsibility to advise Uzbek Journeys of any pre-existing medical conditions and/or disabilities that might reasonably be expected to increase the risk of you requiring medical attention, or that might affect the normal conduct of a tour and the enjoyment of other tour members.

Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country and you gradually drive over passes as high as 2,350 metres by minibus. However, you do not spend time at those altitudes. There are also gentle hiking opportunities on this tour: passengers should be fit and have solid footwear if you elect to hike.

There are no lifts in the hotels where you stay, and sometimes staircases are narrow and steep. Hotel staff are available to assist with baggage - and a small tip would be appreciated.

Any person 75 or over at the time of travel is required to provide a Fitness to Travel certificate from his/her doctor at the time of making a booking and again just prior to final payment. Please also review the FAQ section on health.

Weather

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Ala-Archa national park, near Bishkek. Image: Lilya Kas'janova
The tours are scheduled to coincide with usually good seasons, May/June being a little milder than the peak September season. The GIS website provides reliable Kyrgyz forecasts.

 Money

Foreign exchange is handled through banks and authorised currency exchange offices. Like most of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is largely a cash economy.

Bring US dollars: only fresh, undamaged bank notes will be accepted for exchange. Notes less than US$50 will attract a lower rate than higher denominations. As of 20 June 2015 US$1 buys around KGS60 (Kyrgyz som). Very few establishments accept credit cards and travellers' cheques. There are ATM machines in the larger cities, and none in rural areas.

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Terms and Conditions 



The Terms and Conditions for these Kyrgyzstan tours are outlined in the general Terms and Conditions section. Note, however, that the maximum number of passengers is 10 persons.  By booking a trip with Uzbek Journeys (ABN: 72818242110 , Travel Agents Licence 2TA0882) you are deemed to have agreed to those Terms and Booking Conditions and, provided there is availability, your booking will be accepted on this basis.

How to book

Please review carefully the terms and conditions. Then contact me to check the availability of the tour. If available, I will forward you a pdf file containing the terms and conditions, booking form and participant declaration. The Kyrgyzstan tour is a separate tour and therefore requires a separate deposit etc.

A strictly non-refundable, non-transferable deposit of A$500 per person will secure your spot. Your deposit will be converted into US$ based on the A$-US$ Westpac bank telegraphic transfer rate of the date when the funds are deposited. You will then be advised of the US dollars balance.

Credit cards/Paypal are not accepted.

Uzbek Journeys is an online travel agency only. There is no facility to accept bookings from participants who do not have regular internet access. All documentation and updates are sent and received electronically.

I look forward to introducing you to the beauty of the Kyrgyz landscapes, craft and traditions.

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kyrgyzstan small group tours, kyrgyzstan art craft textile tours, kyrgyzstan holidays
Members of the Kyrgyz Min Kyal Foundation, which supports Kyrgyz traditions