7 Days / 6 Nights
Day 1. WELCOME TO BISHKEK – THE CAPITAL OF KYRGYZSTAN
Transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in Bishkek.
Day 2. BISHKEK – BURANA – CHON KEMIN
Driving time/distance: 4 hours, 180 km
After breakfast, embark on a city tour of Bishkek before traveling to the serenity of Chong-Kemin Valley. Along the way stop at one of Kyrgyzstan’s oldest sights, the Burana Tower, and learn about its ancient architecture – rare in nomadic culture. The territory where the tower is located was once called Balasagyn town. This town had strategic meaning for the Great Silk Road. Here you will see a small museum with exhibits found during past excavations, providing more details about this ancient settlement, including a collection of “Balbals” – Turkic grave marks. After, drive to Chon-Kemin village. Soak in the stunning scenery while exploring the village and savor a home-cooked traditional dinner. Tonight, stay in a cozy guesthouse run by local families.
Day 3. CHON KEMIN – ISSYK KUL LAKE – KARAKOL
Driving time/distance: 6 hours, 300 km
After breakfast, depart to Karakol city via Issyk Kul Lake, the second-largest alpine lake in the world after Titicaca in South America. Its length reaches 182 km and width is 58 km, the maximum depth is up to 668 meters. On the way, we will visit the Open Air Petroglyphs Museum in Cholpon Ata town. Petroglyphs are dated back to the Sak-Wusun period from the 8th century BC up to the 2nd century AD. The territory where the Petroglyphs are found lies below the Kungey Alatoo Mountains with a beautiful view of the lake. Lunch in a local restaurant. After lunch, drive to Karakol city. We will take a short sightseeing tour in Karakol city by visiting the wooden Dungan mosques and Russian Orthodox church. Dinner and overnight stay in Karakol city.
Day 4. KARAKOL – SVETLAYA POLYANA – KOK JAIYK
Driving time/distance: 1 hour, 55 km, Trekking time/distance: 6 hours, 10 km
Today we trek from Svetlaya Polyana to the scenic and lush Kok-Jaiyk valley. We will drive to the trailhead in the Svetlaya Polyana located 40 kilometers to the southwest of Karakol town – we will be at an altitude of 2500 m. A trail goes through a fir forest leading to the pass at 2725 m. You will enjoy a stunning view of the Issyk-Kul lake, the flowers and beauty of “Kok-Jayik” valley, and the rocky peaks of the Jety Oguz gorge. Picnic Lunch at the top of the pass. After lunch, we descend the Kok Jayik valley by taking a side hike to see the waterfall – Devichi Kosy. Arrive at your yurt camp.
Day 5. KOK JAIYK – KOCHKOR
Driving time/distance: 4-5 hours, 260 km
After breakfast, we will drive to Kochkor town. A one-hour side hike at Skazka Canyon (Fairytale Canyon) awaits us. Skazka is a truly incredible destination that boasts an assortment of impressive rock formations. Skazka is one of the highlights of all of Kyrgyzstan. The canyon, stunning in its array of earthen colors, also provides a magnificent view of Lake Issyk-Kul and the surrounding peaks of the Tian Shan Mountains. Here, we will see an eagle hunting demonstration with a local eagle hunter. Eagle hunting is an ancient tradition to hunt for animals with the help of specially trained eagles.
After the show, we continue driving to the Kyzyl-Tuu village where we learn how to set up a yurt. The yurts are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz nomads constructed of a multi-pieced wooden frame that is overlaid with several felt coverings of sheep wool. It takes only about two hours to put a yurt together. There are usually many colorful handmade mats, felt rugs and embroideries to be found inside. After the yurt show, our trip heads on to Kochkor town, a Kyrgyz village whose residents are known for their creation of shyrdak felt rugs, embroideries, and other handicrafts. Local ladies will share their knowledge and expertise in the making of traditional shyrdaks, through a special demonstration and workshop. Try your hand at this classic Kyrgyz art and support local entrepreneurs by purchasing handmade souvenirs from local artisans. Free time afterward to roam about the village, take photos, and enjoy the laid-back local lifestyle.
Day 6. KOCHKOR-SONKUL LAKE
Driving time/distance: 3 hours, 130 km
Today, we drive to Son-Köl Lake, one of the largest alpine-mountain lakes in the country and considered a sacred place for many Kyrgyz nomads for its best summer pastures. You can spot nomadic herders and their families tending their goats, sheep, and horses. Lunch in a yurt. After lunch, we will ride a horse along the beautiful lakeshore. Alternatively, for those who are not interested in horse riding, a simple stroll around the lake can be had. We will have the opportunity to sample fresh airan (yogurt) and kumis (the national drink of fermented mare’s milk). After, we will stay in yurts set up along the lakeshore. Sleeping arrangements are on a multi-share, mixed-gender basis with mattresses on the floor. It can get very chilly in the evenings, so there is a stove for heating and plenty of blankets. There are no bathroom facilities inside the yurts – please expect outdoor toilets. Those daring enough for a morning dip can make use of Son-Köl.
Day 7. SONGKUL LAKE – BACK TO BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN
Driving time/distance: 5 hours, 290 km
Enjoy your last hearty breakfast in a yurt. Vibrant Bishkek awaits your return today, so make the 5-hour return drive to the City of Bishkek. Enjoy a free afternoon walk around the city to spend as you wish before an optional final night dinner with your group.