Enjoy a unique exploration of Central Asia, across the vast nations of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Beginning in the futuristic cityscapes of Nur-Sultan (until recently, Astana), join us on this exploration from mighty Kazakhstan to mountainous Kyrgyzstan. From the space port of Baikonur to the ancient city of Turkistan, the Silk Road ruins of Sayram and Otrar, and the majestic, surreal landscapes of Altyn-Emel National Park and Charyon Canyon, the sights along the way are unlike anywhere else on earth. Continue your journey to the seldom visited Kyrgyzstan, skirt the vast waters of Issyk-Kul and end in the relaxed capital of Bishkek.


Start
Nur-Sultan (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 and Kyrgyzstan are truly off the beaten track and sees few foreign travellers, especially outside Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Bishkek, and for much of this trip you will truly feel the remoteness of Central Asia.

  • Unveil the mysteries of space explorations in Baikonur, where the Russian Cosmodrome is located and launches to the International Space Station take off.

  • 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, then visit Grand Canyon's 'little brother', Charyn Canyon.

  • Stroll through the peaceful Russian town of Karakol and hike in the picturesque Jety Oguz 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 and Kyrgyzstan. 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 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.
View the 2019 itinerary
Welcome to Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm in the hotel lobby. Recently renamed Nur-Sultan in honour of the long serving first president, the city was purpose built to become th capital city of Kazakhstan in 1997. Similar to Washington D.C. in the United States or Canberra in Australia, Nur-Sultan is a planned city with the Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa as its master mind. Now, Nur-Sultan is one of the most vibrant cities in Central Asia. If you arrive early, take the time explore and admire the futuristic city skyline. Join your leader in the evening for an included local dinner tonight.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
This morning, head off on a city tour with your leader and see some of the most impressive designs of this ambitious new city. Visit Nur-Astana Mosque, built in 2005 – with its capacity of 5000 worshippers inside and an additional 2000 outside it is one of the largest mosques in Central Asia. Then you'll stop at Palace of Peace & Reconciliation, a pyramid shaped conference hall that's considered to be Astana's symbolic center. You'll also visit the President's Culture Center which houses an array of exhibits that tell of the past, present and future of Kazakhstan, and of course, as its name suggests, the many achievements of it's President. The rest of the day is free to spend as you wish.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Nur-Sultan - City tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today, take an early morning flight from Nur-Sultan to Kyzyl Orda (approximately 1.5 hrs) and from here you'll head to one of the most unique destinations on this trip, Baikonur (approximately 3.5 hrs). Located on the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, Baikonur has been leased to the Russian Federation until 2050. The town was originally constructed to service a huge space base that dispatches astronauts and supplies (and during the Soviet Union, cosmonauts) to the International Space Station. Firstly named Zarya (Russian for sunrise) it was renamed Baikonur by Russian president Boris Yeltsin in 1995. We will have some free time this afternoon and evening before our in depth tour of the sights tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Get ready for a full day of exploration today. Visit the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s first and largest operational spaceport. Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite, was launched from here. Stop in at the 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 ever 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. Drive back to Kyzyl Orda and from there it's around 7 hours to the next destination – Turkistan. Grab some snacks, sit back and relax as the epic 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. Your train will arrive in the late 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 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 entry ticket. Continue the journey to Shymkent (approximately 4 hours) by private vehicle, stopping at the ancient settlement of Otrar on the way. It was first excavated in 1969 and has a history dating back to the first century AD. 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 spend in Shymkent before boarding the overnight train (approximately 11 hours) to Almaty.
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, grab some breakfast and drive the 240 km (approximately 3.5 hours) out of town to the spectacular Altyn-Emel National Park, where you 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 your 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 3km and up to 120m high. It gets its name from the way 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 in the world. Visit Central Square and the colourful Zenkoff Cathedral in historic Panfilov Park, dedicated to the 28 guardsmen who died defending Moscow against German tanks in WWII. Check out the fascinating 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 spectacular Charyn Canyon (approximately 4 hours' drive). The colorful formations of different shapes and sizes are no less impressive than the Grand Canyon in the United States, (though it's much smaller!). Continue to the border and enter the mountainous nation of Kyrgyzstan. Tonight you'll stay in the peaceful town of Karakol.

Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Charyn Canyon - National Park
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This mainly Russian town was officially founded on 1st of July in 1869 by the military. At this time the town already had a lage population of military officers, explorers from the Russian Geographical society, merchants and artisans. The town’s Soviet name was Przhevalsk after the Great Russian explorer of Central Asia and China, Nikolai Przhevalsky. His last expedition ended here and he is buried on the lakeshore near Karakol. Stroll along Karakol's streets spotting Russian-style 'gingerbread' houses. Visit the Dungan Mosque, Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, a local market and the Przhevalsky Museum. After lunch, drive for about 1 hour for a hike (approx. 2 hours) in the picturesque Jety Oguz Valley, aka Seven Bull Valley. Your leader will guide you through the forest to a waterfall (with jaw dropping panaromic views). Return to Karakol for the night.
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's drive to Bishkek along the northern shore of Issyk Kul – the second largest alpine lake in the world after lake Titicaca in South America. The views are lovely along the way, especially seeing Issyk Kul surrounded by snow capped mountains. On the way, you'll stop at Cholpan Ata, visit a petroglyph's site and take a short boar ride onto the lake to enjoy its sheer size and scale. Arrive in Bishkek in the late afternoon.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cholpan Ata - Petroglyphs
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take a trip down memory lane today with a city tour showcasing the country's fascinating history. The centre of the city is Ala-too Square, which was known as Lenin Square in Soviet times. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of this square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains. A great place  for a wander is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'll find a few open-air cafes. 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. Quite the contrast to the relaxed quiet streets, square and parks in the city center, Osh Market is noisy, crowded, and a perfect peek into 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 enjoy an optional dinner together tonight to celebrate a great journey through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bishkek - City Tour
Optional Activities
  • Bishkek - Osh Market - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
You adventure ends after breakfast today and you can depart at any time. Hotel checkout time is 12 noon.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

13 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Plane, Train, Overnight sleeper train

Accommodation

Hotel (9 nights), Homestay/Guesthouse (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Nur-Sultan - 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
  • Charyn Canyon - National Park
  • Karakol - Dungan Mosque
  • Karakol - Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral
  • Karakol - Przhevalskiy Museum
  • Karakol - Jeti Orghuz Canyon Hike
  • Cholpan Ata - Petroglyphs
  • Bishkek - City Tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available, excluding Day 6 (overnight train) & Day 7 (guesthouse).
2. Please note that you'll need to send us a scanned, color copy of your passport info page and the application form for us to purchase the permits for Baikonur, no later than 60 days before departure. This permit is date specific and non-refundable. Please request the application form with your agent.
4. As the schedule is subject to frequent changes and cancellations, this trip is not scheduled to coincide with any space launches from Baikonur.

Essential trip information

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