Tour Program

Day
1
Day 1: Arrival in Bishkek
Itinerary
Before the Soviet Union, Bishkek was a trading post where nomadic people would gather to exchange goods. Once the Russian Empire arrived in the area they built a garrison called Pishpek from which they controlled and collected tributes from nomadic tribes. After the Soviet Revolution in 1917 everything changed. The Kyrgyz people were forced to settle in cities and follow Soviet law. However, the Soviets invested heavily in Kyrgyzstan and especially in Bishkek, building the greenest city in the Soviet Union, lining all the streets with trees. It’s a very pleasant city to explore on foot. After we’ve transferred you to your hotel and given you chance to settle in, that’s exactly what you will do. On a guided tour of the city, you’ll see the area’s major sights including the ruins of the Kokand settlement on a tributary of the Chuy River where the ancient Silk Road once stood. At a central bazaar you can barter for some locally produced dried fruits and nuts to take with you on our tour. Bishkek has changed a lot over the years, but it still has a charm like no other city in the world. In the evening, you can try Kyrgyz food at a local restaurant; we’ll outline the tour itinerary and give you plenty of opportunities to ask questions as well as to get acquainted with your guides and fellow tour participants.

Transport: Minivan/bus with A/C for transfer and city tour. Accommodation: Interhouse Hostel, 4-share, western toilets, showers, laundry, 900 metres above sea level.

Meals
B L D
Accomodation
Hostel

Day
2
Day 2: Bishkek-Burana Tower-Karakol
Itinerary
We’ll leave Bishkek today in search of an 11th century minaret that’s found in the ancient city of Balasagun, once part of the feudal state of Karakhanid. One of many legends of this timeless city comes from a local shaman; it’s believed that the shaman predicted that the Khan’s daughter would die from the bite of a very poisonous Karakurt spider. The Khan was so worried about his daughter, he forced her to live inside the minaret for her own protection. You’ll learn the outcome of this story while you’re there. The area is famous for its ancient balbals, grave markers used by the nomadic Turkic people who resided here from the 6th to the 10th centuries. These standing stones have fascinated historians for many years and there are many conflicting theories as to their meaning. Later in the day you will have lunch at Boom Gorge on the wild Chuy River, the life blood of northern Kyrgyzstan. After lunch you will be guided to Cholpon Ata where you’ll see petroglyphs which date from the 8th to 10th centuries BC, relocated from various sites across Kyrgyzstan. Finally, we’ll take you to your overnight base, Karakol, translating as “black hand”. It will be there that you’ll begin your introduction to nomadic life as you spend your first night in a traditional yurt.

Transport: Minibus with A/C, 420 km, 6 hours driving. Accommodation: Happy Nomad’s Village, western toilets, showers, laundry, 1,700 metres above sea level.

Meals
B L D
Accomodation
Hostel
Day
3
Day 3: Karakol
Itinerary
The bustling animal bazaar at Karakol is this morning’s first visit and we’ll be up early to catch the market in full swing. It’s chaotic, frenetic and above all, photogenic with snowcapped mountains forming the perfect backdrop to your shots. The local herdsmen will invite you to buy many different types of animals such as yaks, horses, donkeys, cows and maybe even a camel. The animal bazaar is the best place to start your training as a nomad in Kyrgyzstan. After the animal bazaar you will be guided on a walking tour of the city where you will be able to see the local Dungan Mosque, the Russian Orthodox Church and see the pictures from Ella Maillart, a Swiss traveller from the 1930s whose work is displayed at the Karakol Historical Museum. Lunch will be shared with a local horseman’s family near the mountains of Karakol. The place offers a fantastic panorama of Karakol and the Issyk-Kol region. After lunch you will be brought back to your yurt village in Karakol for some much needed rest and to get ready for the next day’s adventures. Dinner will be prepared in typical Kyrgyz style over an open fire and shared with a local family.

Transport: Minibus with A/C, 40 km, 2 hours. Accommodation: Happy Nomad’s Village, western toilets, showers, laundry, 1,700 metres above sea level.

Meals
B L D
Accomodation
Hostel
Day
4
Day 4: Karakol-Saruu-Issyk-Kul
Itinerary
Today, you should be ready to spend sometime in the saddle! You will be transferred to the Saruu Kok-Boru training grounds near the shores of Issyk-Kul Lake. Kok-Boru is an authentic nomadic team sport that has been played for generations in Central Asia. It’s played with two teams on horseback where the teams fight over a goat carcass in order to throw the carcass into their own barrel or kazan. The roots of this sport originate from the shepherds who lived in the high mountains, and their need to protect their sheep from the very real threat of wolves. These shepherds would see a wolf pack coming in and attempt to save the sheep that were in danger by grabbing the wolf and throwing it as far away as possible. Are you ready to earn your own place in Kyrgyz history by joining the best team in the Issyk-Kul region and play Kok-Boru yourself? First you will receive some basic instruction on how to ride a horse and then there will be plenty of time to learn and practice. Who knows, you might even score a goal! After the game, you will share lunch with the Kok-Boru team, before saying your goodbyes. The rest of the afternoon can be spent down by the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, a huge Alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks and the perfect place to relax after your energetic morning. You could take a walk by the lake or jump in for a swim. An early dinner will be provided and then you will head into the mountains to relax at some magical hot springs. Your final destination for the day will be a local guesthouse on the beaches of Issyk-Kul Lake where we know you’ll get a good night’s sleep.

Transport: Minibus with A/C, 45 km, 1 hour. Accommodation: Apricot Guest House, western toilets, showers, laundry, 1,600 metres above sea level.

Meals
B L D
Accomodation
Guest House
Day
5
Day 5: Moving like a real nomad
Itinerary
Before the sun rises over the snowcapped peaks you will be busy loading all your things onto the backs of our horses and preparing to ride deeper into the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. A true nomad has to move from one land to another in search for fresh mountain air, pure water and abundant grass for their sheep to graze. This is called “goch” where the whole tribe will move from one pasture to another. Once you arrive in your new home you will build your own yurt village. Yurts are the traditional felt homes, common to any nomad family. The locals live a semi-nomadic life and you will spend the next few days with them. They live in a summer pasture called a “jailoo” where their cattle graze and their family grows; this makes it a perfect training ground for aspiring nomads like yourself. A real nomad knows how to prepare all necessary food and survive on their own. Today you will be able to cook with your hosts and get to know each other.

Horse Trek: 18 km, 900 metres’ elevation gain, 4 hours. Accommodation: Yurt Village, drop toilet outside, no shower, 2,200 metres above sea level.

Meals
B L D
Accomodation
Yourt Camp
Day
6
Day 6: Kyrgyz games and Epic Poem “Manas”
Itinerary
Every Nomad needs to get up early to take care of the animals and get equipped for the day. You will be educated in the Kyrgyz way of milking cows and maybe even a horse. Together with the villagers, you will prepare your own Kyrgyz meals today, a day full of legends and fairy tales from the Silk Road to the modern day. You’ll hear the first legend as you trek up the valley into the higher mountains where you will see the actual Silk Road. There, you’ll see where the Kyrgyz people fought back during the time of Urkun. Urkun was a tragedy that was felt throughout Central Asia, but the Kyrgyz people were the most affected by the invasion of the Russian Tsarist soldiers that colonised the lands belonging to the nomadic tribes of Central Asia. In the winter of 1916, the Kyrgyz people ran away from the Russian Tsarist soldiers deep into the Kyrgyz Mountains from where they escaped into China in order to evade conscription into Russia’s army. Failure to do so would have meant being sent to the Russian front of the First World War. Lunch will be at this historic spot which affords panoramic views over Issyk-Kul Lake. After the trek, you will be invited to play “Upai”, a traditional game played with the bones from the sheep knee joint, known as “chuko”. Also you will learn how to compete in wrestling and tug of war challenges to see who is the strongest among you. Then you will collect wood for the camp to get ready for a night of storytelling which will dig deep into Kyrgyz history and culture. A Manaschi will join you for dinner and he will open your eyes to the legends and stories of Kyrgyzstan. You will be able to practice this art for yourself and learn how to become a Manaschi. “Manaschi” are highly honoured Kyrgyz people who can speak and sing the national epic of Manas by heart. The epic poem contains almost a half million verses and has been passed down by word of mouth for centuries. It features Manas, a mythical hero who fought against the Uighur people. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it was first written down. You will spend the night in the yurt village with your local friends.

Trekking: 10-15 km, 1000 metres’ elevation gain, 3.5 hours. Accommodation: Yurt village, drop toilet outside, no shower, 2,200 metres above sea level.

Meals
B L D
Accomodation
Yurt Camp
Day
7
Day 7: Party like a nomad
Itinerary
Today is going to be a bit rough and dirty, but by now you are already becoming a nomad so we think you won’t mind. You’re also going to be responsible for making dinner for the whole village. You will need to host the villagers at your yurt camp as if you were Kyrgyz. Hospitality is a central part of Kyrgyz culture and it will be an important test of your skills as a nomad. First, you’ll need to herd all your newly-acquired sheep from one mountain valley to another and learn the tricks of the trade in managing a whole herd at once. In accordance with local tradition, it is very important to pick the fattest sheep to share with your guests. Once you catch the sheep you must clean it and cut the wool off its skin. This can be a very dirty and challenging experience because the sheep are not easy to catch or easy to clean. Afterwards, you will be taught the Kyrgyz method for humanely slaughtering a sheep for a meal. Once the sheep has been killed that’s when you will be very busy preparing everything for the “toy” (party) that evening. Don’t forget that it’s very important in Kyrgyz culture to be clean and well-dressed so you will need to pay a visit to the natural hot springs close to the yurt village to wash up. It’s going to be a traditional party with a lot of Kyrgyz toasts, much celebration and excitement. A local Komuz band will come to perform and to teach you how to play these typical national instruments. Don‘t confuse “Komuz” meaning a traditional three-stringed instrument with “kymyz”, the fermented milk from a horse, though! This will be a night you will never forget looking at the stars though the “tunduk”, the window on the top of the yurt.

Accommodation: Yurt village, drop toilet outside, no shower, 2,200 metres above sea level.

Meals
B L D
Accomodation
Yurt Camp
Day
8
Day 8: Day 8: Relax on lake Issyk Kul
Itinerary
Today will be a day of moving like nomads from one area to another. Everyone will share one last meal together before dismantling their yurts and moving on. You will be guided along the southern shores of Issyk-Kul Lake to a fairytale canyon, a place featuring in many local legends. You will be able to explore this area and enjoy a delicious lunch on the lake’s beaches. Afterwards, you will be able to go for a swim in Issyk-Kul Lake and relax at the beach. Those who are interested can visit a handicraft maker’s home and see a felt making shop from which you can buy slippers, scarves and Kyrgyz traditional “shyrdaks” (felt carpets). Additionally, you can watch the centuries-old tradition of hunting with an eagle. Real huntsman will demonstrate how the eagle hunts, a chance to take some impressive photos. This night will be spent on the beaches of Issyk-Kul Lake at a lovely yurt camp called Bel Tam.

Transport: Minibus with A/C, 90 km, 1.5 hours. Accommodation: Bell Tam, western toilets, showers, 1,600 metres above sea level.

Meals
B L D
Accomodation
Yurt Camp
Day
9
Day 2: Transfer to Bishkek
Itinerary
After breakfast, you will leave for Bishkek where lunch will be waiting you at a traditional café. This afternoon you can choose how to spend your free time. You maybe want to buy some locally produced souvenirs for your friends and family back home or take a walk through the city’s famous parks. In the evening, you will join a farewell party where you will be shown a Kyrgyz movie. Since you are almost a real Kyrgyz nomad you will understand and enjoy the movie with a much greater understanding.

Transport: Minibus with A/C, 275 km, 4 hours. Accommodation: Interhouse Hostel, 4-share.

Meals
B L D
Accomodation
Hostel
Day
10
Day 10: Farewell
Itinerary
A very early morning transfer to the airport will be provided for you.
Meals
B - -
Accomodation
- - -