Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are two central Asian countries that offer breathtaking natural beauty and unique cultural experiences for travelers. Both countries were connected by the ancient routes of the Silk Road. In Kazakhstan, you can explore the magnificent landscapes of the Tian Shan Mountains and visit Almaty, the former capital city known for its apple orchards and traditional architecture. The country’s highlighted destinations are Kaindy lake and Charyn Canyon.
Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, is a mountainous country famous for its stunning alpine lakes, such as Lake Issyk-Kul, and its nomadic culture. You can visit the vibrant city of Bishkek, and witness the Kyrgyz traditional way of life by staying with a local family in a yurt. The country’s Tien Shan Mountains also offer ample opportunities for trekking and horseback riding.
When traveling, it is recommended to be mindful of the local customs and traditions and to respect the environment by minimizing your impact on the natural surroundings. Whether you’re looking for adventure or cultural immersion, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are sure to provide an unforgettable travel experience.
Countries: Kazakhstan /Kyrgyzstan
Duration: 12 days
Season: mid of May – September
Arrival in Almaty. Transfer to a hotel. Rest. After some rest, around 11 AM, we have a full day of sightseeing ahead. Today we visit: Panfilov Park, Zenkov Wooden Cathedral, National Musical Instruments Museum, Central State Museum, and Almaty’s Green Bazaar and have a Panoramic view at Kok Tobe hill. Alma-Ata is the name of “the southern capital” of Kazakhstan. It is the largest city in the country and was the state capital during the period from 1927 to 1997. Alma-Ata is located in the southeast part of Kazakhstan near the border with Kyrgyzstan at a height from 670
to 1100 m. The main sight of Alma-Ata is Panfilov Park named in honor of the 28 heroes of the “Panfilovets”, stretched in the northeast part of the city covering nearly 18 hectares. Located in the center of the park is the majestic Sacred Voznesensky cathedral. Next, we will visit the Museum of national musical instruments named Ykylas, which was opened in 1980 and contains many types of Kazakh national musical instruments most ancient of which are dated to the 17th century. In the southern part of the city, we visit the Central State Museum – a place to see unique archeological finds telling the history of Kazakhstan from the most ancient times to the present. Museum displays over 120 thousand exhibits. After dinner at one of the local restaurants, we overnight at a hotel in Almaty.
Our day begins at 11:00 with a journey into the history and development of the southern capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty. The colors smell, and bustling atmosphere of the Green Bazaar, an Eastern market popular with local townspeople, will draw us in and make it impossible to refrain from shopping. You will find beautiful fabrics as well as Oriental sweets for sale, but do not forget to haggle!
After the green bazaar, visit one of the most popular places in Almaty – the Big Almaty Lake.
For full immersion in the national flavor, you first will have lunch in a local cafe accompanied by your guide, who will reveal some secrets of national cuisine. After lunch, you will be taken to the southwestern part of the city, passing by the Park of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. On the way, you will listen to the stories of your guide about Almaty city and its history. After a short stop at the entrance to the Ile-Alatau National Park for completing the necessary entry procedure, you will start your journey to the Big Almaty Gorge. On the way, you will know how one of the oldest water pipes of Almaty was constructed, what is preserved in the territory of the national park, and how the Japanese influenced the development of this area.
After 40 minutes of driving in the gorge through the winding mountain paved road with breathtaking views, you will see the glorious panorama of the Big Almaty Lake, the color of which is always different depending on the weather. The lake is a source of the drinking water supply of Almaty city. Because of this reason, the access of tourists to the lake is limited, so the excursion route leads a little bit higher above the Big Almaty Lake. There you will have around an hour to admire the scenery and take a walk on the banks of the lake halfway to the water’s surface which is about 300 meters down from the road. Descending to the lake is stony and covered with seasonal shrubs and herbs so comfortable shoes or boots will make the walking more enjoyable.
On the way back to the town you will visit the Falcon Farm, where you will enjoy a spectacular show with specially trained hawks, falcons, and eagles – hunting with them is one of the most unique features of the Kazakh way of life. The show is open-air and takes around 30-40 minutes. If you are very impressionable and sensitive, please take into account that real chicks (lifeless) are used for feeding the birds during the training and the show. After visiting the Falcon Farm you will have your ride back to your accommodation with an estimated arrival time of around 7:00 pm.
*Please note, Green Bazaar and Falcon Farm are not available on Mondays
Transfer to the hotel.
Departure from Almaty at 07:00. Upon arrival to Saty, you will check in at the guest house. After lunch, you will change the vehicle to one of AWD’s local cars, such as “UAZ” or “PAZ” (Russian car models), as they are fully capable to cover uneven mountain roads (12 km) Kaindy Lake.
Kaindy Lake (birch lake) is situated among magnificent pine forests at an altitude of 2000 meters above sea level and is famous for its origin. It was formed in 1911 due to the powerful earthquake that triggered the landslide that blocked the valley by the natural dam, and the water flooded the valley. The water of the lake is very cold, which is why the needles of the flooded trees are well preserved and clearly visible through the transparent surface of the water, and dry stems of fir trees overlook the water’s surface, like the masts of the submarine squadron. It is impossible to describe in words all this mystical splendor of the lake – it is necessary to go there and see everything with your own eyes.
After walking around the lake you will return to Saty settlement to take a shower, have dinner, and rest. Overnight in the guest house.
After breakfast, you will leave a hospitable family and depart to Charyn Canyon at 08:00. It will take about 2 hours to reach the canyon. Upon arrival, you will admire the grand panorama and go down to the bottom of the canyon to walk around 2 km through the maze of the Castles Valley.
Charyn Canyon is a natural complex, unique in its kind not only in Kazakhstan but also worldwide. It was formed during Paleogene and reminds the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River in North America, although inferior to it in size. The height of the steep slopes of the canyon is up to 150-300 meters. The extraordinary dissection of the terrain is striking: the numerous ravines form a dense, chaotic network. Wind and water have created the beautiful “Valley of Castles”, where you are always surrounded by fancy towers composed of sedimentary rocks. The length of the valley – is more than 2 km, width – is 20-80 meters. For millions of years, nature has been creating unique architecture, erecting magnificent castles carefully and slowly. You can spend hours walking among the strange towers and columns, being surprised by the wild imagination of nature.
The bottom of the Canyon has a slight descent to the end of the walk, where you will get to the fresh oasis on the bank of icy cold Charyn River, where also located eco-park with several yurts (traditional dwellings) and a small open-air café, working in the summertime. After some rest walk back and drive to one of the observation points for another breathtaking panoramic view.
Transfer to the Kazakhstani – Kyrgyz border (116 km) and meet with your Kyrgyz driver and guide at the border for the drive to Jyrgalan or Karakol via the Karkara Valley. Overnight at the guest house /hotel.
Travel to Altyn-Arashan mountain gorge. You will reach the place with a special off-road truck adopted for passengers (Ural). The road goes along the river Arashan and up the hills, and you will get to the Arashan hot spring thermal bath valley. Enjoy the natural beauty and take lunch in the wild! In the Afternoon, you will hike down to Ak-Suu. The terrain is easy to hike and it takes about 4 hours, walking at average speed. The vehicle will follow you behind in any case, to pick up the tired or because of sudden changes in the weather conditions.
For evening Dungan cuisine dinner.
Having enjoyed breakfast at Karakol. On the way visit of the Jeti-Oguz Gorge (Seven Bulls) for 1 hour. Visit the Kok-Jayik area (Valley of Flowers), 2-3 hours. Picnic lunch en-route and driving on to the southern shore of Issyk-Kol Lake. After join to see the Eagle Hunting show and following the road on the south lake shore of Issyk-Kol lake, take a direction to Bokonbaevo village. Dinner and overnight stay at a guest house in the village.
Morning drive to Kochkor Village (Naryn region, about 3 hours). Learn how “ala kiyiz” – Kyrgyz felt carpets – are made. Lunch upon arrival. Start trekking to Ters- Tor (9 km). Arrival at the yurt camp. Dinner, bed, and breakfast at a yurt camp.
Morning trek up to the lake Kol-Ukok (4 km) and Kol-Tor Lakes (9 km). Lunch. Trackback to the yurt camp. Dinner and have a rest.
Trek down to Kochkor. Lunch in a guesthouse. Afternoon rest and free time in Kochkor. Optional: Village tour to local bazaar, museum and handcrafters association Altyn-Kol (Golden hands)
Transfer from Kochkor to Kyzart pass. Arrival at Kyzart pass, meet your guides team and start the tour. Within sight of the road, cross Kyzyl-Kiya jailoo, an enormous, relatively flat sea of grass. Continue over the Chaar-Archa Pass (3061 m) into the Chaar-Archa Valley and eat a tasty lunch by the racing river, with views of holy 4400 m Baba-Ata Mountain. Sated, ford the river and follow the trail over verdant hills to Kilemche Jailoo. The name means “like a carpet,” and this swathe of grass covers whole mountain ranges, with shadings as subtle as any shyrdak (shyrdak is a Kyrgyz felt carpet). Dine and sleep in a yurt, naturally. Horse time: 4-5 hours
After breakfast at Kilemche, spend the morning climbing to Jalgyz Karagai pass (3400 m), over the Song-Kol Mountains, and into the lake’s basin. The morning climb affords wonderful views of Kilemche jailoo, and the pass itself is rocky and exciting. From the pass, Song-Kol is still distant, but as you traipse down the slopes, it gets larger and larger; the mountains on the other side get higher and higher until finally, the lake fills most of your field of view and the southern mountains tower above it. After lunch at Jaman Echki, follow the lakeshore east to the yurt at Batai Aral. Upon arrival meet your host family of Kyrgyz shepherds. Meals and overnight are in a yurt of shepherds. Horse time: 4-5 hours
After breakfast transfer to Bishkek (6 hours). Arrival in Bishkek, check in to hotel. Free time in Bishkek.