This tour starts in the beguiling city of Almaty, whose name derives from the Kazakh word for apple, and the area around the former Kazakh capital city is thought to be the origin of the apple. Explore Kyrgyz highlands with their summer pastures dotted with sheep and nomadic herders, visit a 15th-century caravanserai before driving along the ancient the Silk Road over the 12,000-foot Torugart Pass, into Western China. Browse the incredible Kashgar animal market on Sundays, spend time drinking tea with warm “bagel-like” bread in the Old Town, where mud brick buildings and historical mosques line narrow streets that were designed for camels and donkeys rather than cars!
This group tour will be limited 16 persons. Please note that these dates are subject to flight schedules.
Depart London Heathrow and fly to Almaty via Astana.
Land in Almaty and transfer to your hotel to check in and freshen up. At midday meet your local guide and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon enjoy a city tour. Visit sites including Panfilov Park and Zenkov Cathedral, also known as Ascension Cathedral and which is the second tallest wooden building in the world and built without the use of nails. On the edge of Panfilov Park is the Museum of National Musical Instruments housed in a building called the House of Officers, which in the last century was used by military officers for meetings. The museum has a fine collection of traditional Kazakh instruments - wooden harps and horns, bagpipes and the lute like two-stringed dombra. You will then visit Kok-Tobe Hill, where the 372 metre tall TV Tower is located. There is a great viewing deck offering sweeping panoramic views of Almaty, as well as souvenir shops and bizarrely enough a bronze monument devoted to the Beatles. Dinner will be at a local restaurant and overnight at your hotel. (L/D)
Travel to Medeo Gorge, a picturesque valley located some 15 kilometres above Almaty. The Kazakhs are very proud of their speed skating rink, which they claim to be the largest in the World and is an obligatory stop on any Kazakh itinerary. After lunch in a local restaurant visit the Central State Museum – walk through the history of Kazakhstan from bronze-age burial mounds to the transfer of the capital to Astana. One of our favourites is the ethnographic display, which features yurts, horse and camel gear, jewellery and exotic costumes dating back to the 18th century. Enjoy dinner in a local restaurant before returning to the hotel (B/L/D).
After breakfast travel the 250 kilometres through the Zaili Steppe to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan. At the border crossing you will need to carry your luggage through customs before meeting back up with your driver on the other side to carry on to Bishkek where you will check-in to your hotel for 2 nights. After lunch in Bishkek you will visit the Ala Archa Valley National Park. This stunning national park with its alpine meadows and flowing brooks is located some 35 kilometres from Bishkek and here you can enjoy a walk or simply rest under the shade of a tree before returning to the capital. Dinner is in a local restaurant before returning to the hotel. (B/L/D)
This morning enjoy a sightseeing tour of Bishkek. Visits will include Pobeda Square (Victory Square), Ala-Too Square, the History Museum, National Philharmonic and open air art gallery in Dubovy Park. Of course a visit to Bishkek is not complete without experiencing the colourful and noisy Osh Bazaar, where people sell all manner of goods from Kyrgyz carpets to spare car parts for Ladas. After lunch visit the Ata-Beiit memorial complex, built in 2000 in the memory of the victims of repression in the 1930’s. All the top intelligentsia were buried here and specialist excavators discovered 137 skeletons which were transferred to “Ata-Beiit” (“Fathers’ cemetery”) 100 metres away from the excavations. According to archive material there were about 10,000 people shot in Kyrgyzstan during this period of unrest. Enjoy dinner in a local restaurant before returning to the hotel. (B/L/D)
This morning you will transfer from Bishkek to Cholpon Ata on Issyk-Kul Lake. Issyk-Kul Lake is the second largest alpine lake in the world (1608m above sea level) and is a highlight of any visit to Kyrgyzstan, It offers an incredibly diverse range of scenery from verdant meadows to sandy beaches, alpine peaks to rugged dessert terrain. En-route visit Burana Tower (11th century minaret) and an open-air museum of Balbals (stone warriors). Enjoy lunch with a Kyrgyz family in Tokmok. Arrive Cholpon Ata and overnight here. If weather permits take a short boat ride on the lake. (B/L/D)
This morning visit the Open Air Petroglyph Museum, a large collection depicting mostly ibex, which is carved into large boulders strewn about the valley floor. Also visit the Regional Historical Museum, where you can learn more about History of Kyrgyzstan. There is also a visit to the Rukh-Ordo cultural centre, an ethno-religious complex of 5 temples and 5 religions: Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhism, Judaism. The main idea of the complex is unity of God and that different nationalities are all human and should live in peace with each other. In the afternoon there is free time on Issyk-kul lake. (B/L/D)
Continue around the lake to Karakol. En-route visit the Przhevalsky Museum and Memorial, which tells the life story of one of Russia’s great explorers who died in Karakol in 1888. Arrive in Karakol and enjoy sightseeing including the Dungan Mosque built in 1907 as a house of worship by the local Dungan community who were escaping Chinese oppression. Also visit the Russian Orthodox Church. Wander around this pretty town with is chocolate-box cottages and shady poplar-lined avenues. Overnight in a local guesthouse tonight. (B/L/D)
This morning drive to Jety Oguz Gorge located along the south shore of Issyk-Kul, where shepherds share many legends about the famous red rocks known as “Seven Bulls” and “Broken Heart”. Continue to Naryn with a stop in the village of Kochkor where a woman’s co-operative has been set up making local, traditional handicrafts for sale such as handmade felt carpets (shyrdaks). See a felt-making exhibition before continuing to Naryn and your guesthouse for the night. (B/L/D)
Early this morning depart through the Kyrgyz steppe with its rolling green valleys dotted with animals and the occasional yurt. Stop at Tash Rabat Caravanserai which was constructed in the 15th century as a rest place for merchants and travellers on the Silk Route. Enter the Torugart Pass around 14:00 (Beijing time) and 12:00 (Kyrgyz time), where the group will clear customs and meet with the Chinese guide. Transfer to Kashgar and check-in to your hotel for 4 nights. Enjoy dinner tonight with a traditional song and dance show. (B/L (lunchbox)/D)
Today enjoy a city tour of fascinating Kashgar. Visit the old town and the Idkah mosque, which is the largest mosque in China and the symbol of Kashgar: 5,000 people gather to pray here five times a day during the week, though this increases to 10,000 on Fridays and between 50,000 and 60,000 at festivals. The tour also visits Apak Hoja Tomb, the Tomb of the Fragrant Concubine (also known as Xian Fei Mu). It is said that a total of 72 people belonging to one family of five generations were buried here and it has since been a holy place for local Muslims for more than 350 years. The construction here is really outstanding as it combines a local Uighur style with Arabic and Persian styles. This evening enjoy a visit to the bustling night market. (B/L/D)
Today travel along the Karakorum Highway to Lake Karakul. At an altitude of 3,600 metres (11,811 feet), it is the highest lake in the Pamir plateau, near the junction of the Pamir, Tian Shan and Kunlun mountain ranges. This sparkling glacial lake is surrounded by snow covered mountains, where the three highest peaks visible from the lake are the Muztagh Ata, Kongur Tagh and Kongur Tiube. En-route to the lake, pass by the village of Opal, which is a great place to stop and buy fresh fruit and breads from Uyghur stalls. After travelling a little further stop at a scenic spot to take photos of the spectacular snow-capped scenery of the Kunlun Shan, before entering the Oytagh valley and following the Gaz River to reach the first checkpoint under the sweeping shadow of Konger Shan. Upon reaching Lake Karakul, enjoy lunch by the lakeside before free time for resting or walking by the crystal clear water. (B/L (lunchbox))
Enjoy the highlight of any trip to Kashgar—the Sunday Animal Market followed by the famous Sunday Bazaar. This is a great opportunity to take photos of local people going about their day, study traditional local market culture, test-drive a horse, sample local cuisine and test your bartering skills. After lunch visit the former British and Russian Embassies and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. (B/L)
The morning is at leisure until you transfer to the airport for the indirect flight back to Almaty, via Urumqi. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to the hotel for a late dinner. Overnight in the hotel. (B/D)
Today visit one of Kazakhstan’s most spectacular sights set to a backdrop of flat steppe lands around 180 kilometers from Almaty – the Charyn Canyon. Here, walk in the valley with its extraordinary Grand Canyon-style rock sculptures and multi-colored gorges. The history of Charyn canyon stretches back 12 million years, when the river started slowly eroding the stone around it. The multi-colored geology that you can see now is the result of different stages of sediment deposition. Dark rocks at the bottom are volcanic lava rocks. On top of those, the red cliffs of the Valley of Castles came from debris flows. The plains around Charyn are covered with grey gravel and dust, which were transported there by the strong winds in the area. Downstream of the Valley of Castles is a leftover of a vast prehistoric forest of Sogdian Ash. The Sogdian Ash is a rare, endangered tree and Charyn is one of two places where it still grows in large numbers.
Return to your hotel in Almaty and enjoy dinner at the hotel. (B/L (lunchbox)/D)
This morning transfer to the airport for the direct flight back to London Heathrow. (B)
16 day tour, from £3345 per person
(Single person supplement + £495)
- Return flights in economy class with Air Astana from London Heathrow
- All airport taxes & security charges
- Accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis
- Meals as specified (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
- All transport in air-conditioned vehicles
- Boat ride on Lake Issy-Kul
- Felt making show in Kochkor
- Sightseeing and airport transfers with English-speaking guide/driver
- Flight tickets in economy class: Kashgar to Almaty (via Urumqi)
- Travel Insurance
- Tips and gratuities
- Any optional excursions as stated
- Any other items not mentioned
- China visa fees
Single room supplement £495
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