Journey from beautiful Bishkek to culture-packed Tashkent

Be entranced by the beauty and the wonder of Central Asia on this 16-day tour from the capital of Kyrgyzstan to the heartland of Uzbekistan. Take in the tranquil landscape of Song-Kol Lake; watch for wild boar and deer around Chychkan Gorge; see a three-storey yurt in historic Osh; and get your fill of mosques and museums in Samarkand. Abounding with ancient culture, divine natural beauty, intriguing relics and friendly locals, this is a journey that will leave you eager to discover more of Central Asia.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
733kg pp per trip


  • Uncover all facets of Samarkand's incredible Registan. This much-photographed public square is one of the true pinnacles of Islamic architecture
  • Experience for yourself the legend that is Central Asian hospitality
  • Marvel at the beautiful Song Kol Lake, where in mid-summer you may see flocks of sheep, goats and herds of horses watched over by nomadic herdsmen and their families
  • Stay overnight in a yurt.


Welcome to Kyrgyzstan! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Keep in mind that many flights into Bishkek arrive early in the morning, so please ensure your pre-accommodation night(s) cover the night before you arrive if you would like to check in early in the day.
Enjoy a full-day city tour of Bishkek. You'll notice a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere as you stroll around town. The centre of the city is Ala-too Square, which was known as Lenin's Square in Soviet times. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of this square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains. For those interested in their Soviet memorabilia, a larger-than-life Frunze can be found still sitting on a bronze horse facing the train station, though his name plaque has been removed. You can also still visit the museum built over Frunze's birthplace. A nice place to watch the world go by is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'll find a few open-air cafes that are great to sit at and soak up the atmosphere over a drink. The century-old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia.
Make the 350 km drive to Song Kol Lake, one of the largest lakes in the country. Keep in mind that the roads in Kyrgyzstan see little regular maintenance, so even short distances can take a full day. You will arrive at Song Kol Lake sometime in the late afternoon. On the way you'll stop at the second-largest alpine lake in the world, Issyk-Kul. This beauty is one of the biggest natural water reservoirs in the world, at 170 km long and 70 km wide. A combination of extreme depth, thermal activity and mild salinity means the lake never freezes. Next you will continue to Kochkor, enjoy lunch and explore a small local market in the centre of the village – a co-op that provides training to local women in the field of handicrafts. Then continue to Song Kol. This beautiful alpine lake is considered a sacred place for many Kyrgyz people as well as one of the best summer pastures for nomadic herders. In the middle of the summer, you'll see nomadic herdsmen and their families watching over goats, sheep, and horses. Tonight you will stay in your first yurt camp of the trip. Yurts, made of felt and tarpaulins on a round frame, are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz people. 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's a stove for heating and plenty of blankets. There are no bathroom facilities inside the yurts. Outdoor toilets are to be expected. Those daring enough for an invigorating morning splash can use the mountain stream nearby!

Notes: The pass to Song-Kol is not open all year round. When the road is impassable, an alternative destination will be arranged for this day of the trip.
Enjoy a full day of exploring your surroundings. There are many beautiful lake trails to hike along. Alternatively you might like to visit some ancient petroglyphs in the local area, or visit a nomad camp for a first-hand look at nomadic life. A great way to spend the remainder of the day is to read a book on the shore of the lake, or simply sit and take in this beautiful corner of the world.
Suusamyr Valley is one of the more remote and rarely visited regions of Kyrgyzstan. It is a high steppe plateau situated at around 2,200 metres above sea level, and the mountainous, lush surrounding landscape is dotted with yurts. Just when you think the road couldn't possibly climb any higher, you will arrive at your guesthouse for an overnight stay. In the Jalal-Abad Region is Chychkan Gorge. Stop here and soak up the amazing scenery. Surrounded by mountains and rivers flowing below, Chychkan is simply stunning. Spot a wild boar or deer, go for a short hike or pick wild blackberries. With no cities in the vicinity, and the only electricity coming from a nearby hydroelectric dam, the night sky is stunning on a clear night here. Be sure to enjoy some stargazing before you retire for the evening.
After breakfast, drive to Arkyt Village (approximately 6–7 hours). This UNESCO World Heritage-listed network of nature reserves is located in the Sary-Chelek National Park, about 15 km before Sary-Chelek Lake. The reserve was founded in 1959 to preserve the flora and fauna of the walnut-fruit forests and alpine landscapes. You will make a small detour to drive around a section of the Toktogul Water Reservoir which supplies electricity and water to 90% of the Kyrgyz population. The Toktogul Dam and hydroelectric power station in fact features on the 100 som banknote. Tonight you will stay in a local homestay and enjoy more of that warm Kyrgyzstan hospitality.
A morning drive (approximately 5 hours from Sary-Chelek Lake) brings you to Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan. Located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country, Osh is often referred to as the 'capital of the south'. It is is one of the truly ancient Central Asian towns, dating back to the 5th century BC. While you are here, be sure to pay a visit to the Jayma Bazaar, a nice little marketplace where you might pick up an interesting local handicraft. Also pop your head into the famous three-story yurt, or perhaps venture to the Suleiman-Too Mountain which looms over the lovely Fergana Valley.
Travel to Tashkent, Uzbekistan today (approximately 8 hours). Central Asia's largest city is a mix of Russian and Uzbek styles, an indication of the fact that for many years it was a key city of the USSR. Extravagant mosques, both ancient and new, sit alongside modern highways and Soviet monuments.
Explore the city on a full-day guided tour that covers its key sights. You will stroll around the maze of dusty streets with their small mosques and mud brick houses in what's left of Tashkent's Old Town. With free time afterwards, you might like to visit the Applied Arts Museum and see its impressive collection of carpets, ethnic costumes, embroidery and other traditional artefacts of the region. Also worth a look is the Amir Timur (Tamerlane) Museum, which depicts the story of the national hero's life and curiously displays what are claimed to be his actual eyebrows. You might also like to check out Independence Square or, later on, the Opera and Ballet Theatre where there might be an evening performance.
Travel to Samarkand, one of the most attractive Central Asian cities. It's also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Despite a history of war and earthquakes, it retains its striking profile. Keep your camera at the ready, as this destination is a photographer's dream, with colourful domes and minarets gracing the skyline. Enjoy some free time, perhaps strolling around or simply relaxing in preparation of your more in-depth explorations tomorrow. History and art enthusiasts might like to visit the State Museum, near the beautiful Registan.
Join a local guide for an in-depth tour of Samarkand's sights. First you will head to the incredibly extensive Shah I Zindah Mausoleum complex, a holy site for local Muslims, where the Prophet Mohammed's cousin is buried. From there you will walk to the massive Bibi Khanum Mosque, which is no longer functioning but is impressive in its proportions and extravagance. You will cover the short distance to the Guri Amir Mausoleum by taxi to see Amir Timur's final resting place, then finish at the most spectacular spot of all – the Registan.
This public square holds what are probably the most recognisable of all Central Asian monuments. The facades of the two medressas facing the central square are decorated in exquisite mosaics, tiles and intricate geometric brickwork, with lovely domes of soft blue on either side. The interior of some of the buildings are equally impressive. You will visit some of the main rooms, then enjoy some free time to explore on your own.
Travel by private transport to the town of Shakhrisabz (approximately 3 hours). Shakhrisabz is the birthplace of Tamerlane, aka Timur, the legendary 14th-century Persian military leader. While it's not as spectacular as Samarkand in terms of sights, the ruins of the Ak-Saray Palace offer a fascinating window to the past. Written above the entrance is the proud statement, 'If you challenge our power, look at our buildings', which gives you an indication of the palace's stateliness. You can climb to the top of Ak Saray's remaining entrance portal for views of the neatly-laid city that stretches into the distance. Staying in a local guesthouse, you'll have the chance to walk around the shady streets and get a feel for typical Uzbek town life.
Take a private van further to Bukhara (approximately 4 hours), a favourite Silk Road city for many travellers. After you check into your hotel, your leader can give you tips on what to do with your free time today, as your walking tour with the local guide will take place tomorrow. In the evening, perhaps join the locals and other travellers around Lyabi Hauz, a pool of water surrounded by ancient mulberry trees in the Old Town's centre. Here you can have a meal of shashlyk (roasted meat on skewers) with non bread and green tea; head to the charming puppet show in the theatre nearby; or see tradition meet contemporary culture at the nightly fashion show across the plaza.
Enjoy a walking tour with a local guide. You will have plenty of free time while in Bukhara to explore the artisan shops and wander the narrow, twisting streets and alleyways at your leisure. This is one of the best places to pick up some local handmade souvenirs such as embroidered hangings and cloth, silk, carpets, pottery, woodwork, miniature paintings and jewellery. Don't expect it to be cheap, though, as each item takes hours of painstaking labour to create, and many of the merchants are the artists themselves. While you're here you also might like to stop in at the Ark, the old royal fortress that's Bukhara's oldest standing structure. Inside you can find the Zindon jail where spies of the Great Game era were imprisoned. Perhaps get soaked and scrubbed in a traditional hammom (traditional spa).
Take a local train to Tashkent (approximately 6 hours). Arriving late afternoon, the evening is free to spend at your leisure. This is a great chance to do some of the activities you didn't get around to the first time.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Speak to your leader if you need to store any luggage at the hotel.
View trip notes to read full itinerary


15 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 5 dinners
Private Bus, Train
Guesthouse (7 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (5 nights), Yurt (2 nights)
Included activities
  • Bishkek - City Tour
  • Song Kul Lake - Hike
  • Osh - Bazaar
  • Osh - Solomon's Throne
  • Samarkand - Bibi Khanum Mosque
  • Samarkand - Guri Amir Mausoleum
  • Samarkand - Shakh-I-Zinda Mausoleum Complex
  • Bukhara - City Tour


There are currently no departures for this trip.

{{departure_day.departure_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}} {{departure_day.arrival_date | date:'EEE d MMMM yyyy'}}

Style: {{}}

Boat/Ship: {{departure.vehicle_name}}
On sale Hot deal Departure guaranteed On request
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.base_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
{{product.currency_code}} {{room.discount_price | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}
Fully booked Bookings closed

Total price per person {{room.room_type | lowercase}}
Includes {{departure.kitty_currency_code}} {{departure.kitty | noFractionCurrency:departure.kitty_currency_symbol}} kitty
Includes {{extra.extras_code}} {{extra.extras_symbol}}{{extra.extras_value}} in local payments Single supplement available from {{product.currency_code}} {{departure.single_supp | noFractionCurrency:product.currency_symbol}}

Contact us to arrange an alternative departure for you

Book {{departure.places_left}} spaces left! space left!

Important notes

1. Some destinations visited on this trip do not have consulates in Australia and New Zealand. Please see Visa section of the Trip Notes for more information and allow sufficient time to obtain your visas prior to travel.
2. A Single Supplement is available on this trip, excluding nights in yurt and homestays
3. In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's local ground representative Fantastic Asia can be reached on +996 555 30 30 25 and +86 13279717711.
4. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
5. Your leader will change at the KGZ/UZB border

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes


Our Central Asia Explorer trips score an average of 4 out of 5 based on 3 reviews in the last year.

Central Asia Explorer , June 2016

Central Asia Explorer , June 2016