Enjoy a unique exploration from the vast nation of Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan

Beginning in shinning cityscape of Astana, join us on this exploration through Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, , from the mysterious Russian Cosmodrome at Baikonur to the ancient city of Turkistan, the Silk Road portals of Sayram and Otrar, and the majestic, surreal landscapes of Altyn-Emel National Park and Charyon Canyon. The journey continues to the mountainous Kyrgyzstan, from the peaceful Russian town of Karakol on Isskul lake to its relaxed capital of Bishkek.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Astana, Kazakhstan
Finish
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Destinations
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
Style
Original
Code
KFSK
Physical rating
Ages
Min 16
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Kazakhstan is truly off the beaten track and sees few travellers, especially outside Almaty, and you'll feel the remoteness of Central Asia.

  • Explore Baikonur, nick named as 'Star City' where the Russian Cosmodrome is located and unveil the mystery of space explorations.

  • Discover the history and architecture of the Silk Road, visiting ancient mausoleums and mosques on guided tours in the cities of Turkistan, Sayram and Otrar.

  • Travel alongside locals and admire wild, sweeping vistas on epic train rides across the Kazakh steppe.

  • Surround yourself with the surreal landscapes of the Altyn-Emel National Park, including the mysterious singing sand dunes and don't miss out on the opportunity to visit Grand Canyon's little brother, Charyn Canyon.

  • Stroll along the peaceful Russian town Karakol and hike in the picturesque Jety Ogus Valley.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip takes you way off the tourist trail to explore just some of the vastness that is Kazakhstan. If you want to be far, far away from everywhere – and from anything you've experienced before – this trip is for you.

  • Be prepared to experience the full legacy of the Soviet era – not just in the sights and history, but also in the standards of accommodation and service! In other words, while you’ll be comfortable, don’t expect luxury.

  • In true adventure style, the trip involves some long travel days by private vehicle and trains. While tiring, this is a great opportunity to sit back, unwind and let the sweeping views roll by.

  • We’ll experience varying temperatures in the desert and out on the steppe. The days can be very hot, while at night, the mercury plummets. Make sure you bring warm, comfortable layers, drink plenty of water and take care to protect yourself from the sun. For women, we recommend bringing a scarf to cover your head and shoulders while on visits to mosques and mausoleums.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 May 2019 to 31 Dec 2019.
View the 2019 itinerary
Welcome to Astana, Kazakhstan. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm in the hotel lobby. Please look for a note in the lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be checking your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details ready for your leader.
Only made the capital city of Kazakhstan in 1997, Astana is one of the youngest capital in the world and also considered as the heart of the Eurasia continent. Similar to Washington D.C. in the US or Canberra in Australia, Astana is a planned city with the Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa as its master mind. Now Astana is one of the most vibrant cities in Central Asia.
If you arrive early, take your time to stroll in the city and take in the futuristic city skyline. Join your leader in the evening for a local dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Dinner
This morning, go on a city tour with your leader and see some of the most impressive designs of the new Astana cityscape. Visit Nur-Astana Mosque, built in 2005, it has a capacity of 5000 prayers inside and an additional 2000 outside. It is the 3rd largest mosque in Central Asia. Then you'll stop at Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, a pyramid shaped conference hall that's considered as Astana's symbolic center. You'll also visit the President's Culture Center which houses an array of exhibits that tells you the stories of the past, present and future of Kazakhstan, and of course, as its name suggesting, the achievement of the President.
You'll have some free time in the afternoon and Khan Shatyr, an extraordinary tent shaped building is well worth a visit.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Astana - city tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today, take an early morning flight from Astana to Kyzyl Orda (approx. 1.5 hrs) and from here you'll head to one of the most unique stops on this trip, Baikonur (approx. 3.5 hrs).
Located on the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, Baikonur was leased out by the Kazakh government to the Russian Federation until 2050. The town was constructed to service a huge Cosmodrome that dispatches astronauts to the International Space Station. Firstly unofficially named as Zarya (Russian for sun rise), and later as vil Leninskiy (nicknamed Zvezdograd, "star city") , it was renamed Baikonur by Russian president Boris Yeltsin in 1995.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Get ready for a full day of exploration today. Guided by your leader, visit the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s first and largest operational spaceport. Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite, was launched from here. Visit a nearby museum where you’ll see a range of space artifacts, and check out the cottage once occupied by Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to every venture into outer space.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Baikonur - Yuri Gagarin Museum & House
  • Baikonur - Cosmodrome
  • Baikonur - Space Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is another travelling day, this time by train. From Kyzyl Orda it's around seven hours to the next destination: Turkistan. Grab some snacks, sit back and relax as the alien landscape rushes by. Located in southern Kazakhstan, the city of Turkistan contains more historical relics and cultural sites than any other place in the country and the train will arrive in the afternoon. We'll visit the main attraction of the Yasaui Mausoleum tomorrow morning, but you'll have the option to see it illuminated at night today.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Head out on a city tour this morning, the highlight of which is a visit to the Kozha Akhmed Yasaui Mausoleum, Kazakhstan’s most iconic building. The stunning blue and while-tiled Mausoleum is the final resting place of a great Turkic holy man and Sufi. Built by Tamerlane, it is said that three visits here are equal to one visit to Mecca. As it is a religious site, we recommend that women wear a headscarf when entering. In the surrounds you'll find a rose garden, other monuments, an archeological museum and a mosque, which are all included in the ticket price.

Continue the journey to Shymkent (approx. 4 hours) where the group will board an overnight train (approx. 11 hours) to travel back to Almaty, stopping at an ancient Otrar settlement on the way. It was first excavated in1969 and has a history dating back to the first century AD, and remnants of palaces, mosques and bathhouses can still be seen today. It is also where Genghis Khan's army is said to have fought heroically (though unsuccessfully) when the Mongols first invaded Central Asia. There'll be some time to explore Shymkent before boarding the train. Shymkent is the liveliest city in Southern Kazakhstan, packed with bazaars. In the evening, why
not head out for dinner with the group and sample an icy local beer, such as Shymkentskoe Pivo before the overnight train?
Accommodation
  • overnight train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Otrar - Ancient settlement
  • Turkistan - Yasui Mausoleum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
We travel in kupe class, which is 4 berths per compartment with a lockable door. There are toilets and hot water for drinks at the end of each carriage. While we aim to group our travellers together, please be aware that compartments are not segregated by gender and you may be sharing with other travellers.
Arrive in Almaty and head 240 km (approx 3.5 hours) out of town to the spectacular Altyn-Emel National Park, where the group will spend the next two days exploring.This is the largest national reserve in the country and preserves many rare plants and animals, including zheyran (goitred gazelles), argali sheep and kulan (wild donkeys), which you may be lucky enough to spot during our time here. The program may vary depending on the weather and season. Taigak Gorge houses the Kyzyl Lauyz Petroglyphs where you can make out ancient Tibetan inscriptions of the words 'Om Mani Padme Om', as well as images of hunting, farming and celebrations.There are also the Besshatyr Burial Mounds, which date from the sixth century BC when this area was a shrine of the ancient Saks people. Tonight you'll stay in a simple guesthouse within the national park where lunch and dinner is included.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Explore the sights not visited yesterday, of which the best-known is the Singing Barkhan, a sand dune extending 3 km and up to 120 m high. It gets its name as the fine sand hums in windy weather and the view from the top gives a great panorama of the surrounding Djungarian Alatau, Sogety, Boguty and other mountains. In dry, windy weather, the sand dune's song can be heard up to a few kilometres away. These mountains have revealed preserved remains of prehistoric animals including giant rhinos, crocodiles and turtles, and many compare the huge, conical mountains to the man-made Egyptian pyramids. Return to Almaty tonight after a full day in the park.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today embark on a full-day guided city tour of Almaty. The development and wealth you’ll see on display as you walk the streets comes from the country's main export – oil (Kazakhstan is one of the world's top five oil-producing nations). Visit Central Square, the colourful Zenkoff Cathedral and Medeo, a huge outdoor ice-skating and bandy rink in a valley outside the city.
We’ll also head to historic Panfilov Park, dedicated to the 28 guardsmen who died defending Moscow against German tanks in WWII, and check out the Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments and the State Historical Museum, which features a great collection of ancient relics.
Finally, summit Kok Tobe Hill for great views over the city before returning to the hotel after a long but fulfilling day.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Almaty - Central State Museum
  • Almaty - Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments
  • Almaty - Kok Tobe Hill
  • Almaty - Panfilov Park
  • Almaty - Medeu
  • Almaty - Zenkov Cathedral
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today before saying goodbye to Kazakhstan, stop at Charyn Canyon after about 4 hours' drive. The colorful formations of different shapes and sizes are no less impressive than the Grand Canyon in the US, though it's much smaller than it.
In the afternoon, continue to the border and say Hi to the mountainous Kyrgyzstan. Tonight you'll stay at the peaceful Russian town Karakol.

Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Almaty - Charyn Canyon
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This peaceful Russian town was founded on 1st of July in 1869 as Russian Military fortification on the Shore of Issyk-Kul Lake. By this time the town had a high proportion of military officers, explorers of Russian Geographical society, merchants and artisan. The town’s Soviet name was Prjevalsk after the Great Russian Explorer of Central Asia and China Nikolai Prjevalskyi whose last expedition ended here and who is buried on the lakeshore near Karakol. Stroll along Karakol streets spoting Russian style gingerbread houses. Visit the Dungan Mosque, Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, local market and Przevalskiy Museum. After lunch drive for about 1 hour and you'll take a hike (approx. 2 hours) in the picturesque Jety Oguz Valley, aka Seven Bull Valley. Your leader will take you hike through forest to a local water fall (with draw dropping panaroma view behind you). Take in the rich natural surroundings and if you feel like it, it's possible to drive to Ak Suu for a relaxing open air bath after the hike.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Karakol - Dungan Mosque
  • Karakol - Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral
  • Karakol - Przhevalskiy Museum
  • Karakol - Jeti Orghuz Canyon Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a full day drive to Bishkek along the northern shore of lake Issyk Kul - the second largest alpine lake in the world after lake Titicaca in South America. The view is just stunning along the way, especially seeing Issyk Kul lake surrounded by snow capped mountains.
On the way, you'll stop at Cholpan Ata, visit the local petroglyphs site and take a boat on the lake to enjoy its stunning surroundings.
Arrive at Bishkek in the late afternoon.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cholpan Ata - Petroglyphs
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning, your leader will take you on a trip down the memory lane to show you how the city has changed under different regime, and also share stories with you about the wounds in the country's history. You'll notice a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere as your leader takes you to different squares and parks in the city.
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. 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.In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to further explore Bishkek. A great option is to go to the Osh Market. Quite the contrast to the relaxed quiet streets, square and parks in the city center, Osh Market is noisy and crowded, but so lively and provides a great glimpse into the local life. You'll find all kinds of things on sale here from spices and fruits to clothes and carpets.
Get together with your travel mates and maybe enjoy a final dinner together to celebrate a great journey through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bishkek - City Tour
  • Bishkek - Osh Market
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
You adventure ends after breakfast today. You can leave any time from the city. Hotel checkout time is 12 at noon.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

13 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Plane, Train, Overnight Sleeper Train

Accommodation

Hotel (9 nights), Overnight Train (1 night), Homestay/Guesthouse (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Astana - city tour
  • Baikonur - Yuri Gagarin Museum & House
  • Baikonur - Cosmodrome
  • Baikonur - Space Museum
  • Otrar - Ancient settlement
  • Turkistan - Yasui Mausoleum
  • Almaty - Central State Museum
  • Almaty - Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments
  • Almaty - Kok Tobe Hill
  • Almaty - Panfilov Park
  • Almaty - Medeu
  • Almaty - Zenkov Cathedral
  • Almaty - Charyn Canyon
  • Karakol - Dungan Mosque
  • Karakol - Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral
  • Karakol - Przhevalskiy Museum
  • Karakol - Jeti Orghuz Canyon Hike
  • Cholpan Ata - Petroglyphs
  • Bishkek - City Tour
  • Bishkek - Osh Market

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available, excluding Day 6 & 7.
2. The trip visits two Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Please read the visa section in the Essential Trip Information to make sure you have the right visas for both countries.
3. Please note that you'll need to send us a colored copy of your passport info page for us to purchase the permit to Cosmodrome in Baikonur 60 days before departure. This permit is date specific and non refundable.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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 Essential Trip Information

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