Ethnography of the Silk Road

Countries: Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

Tour duration: 13 days

Central Asian historical and ethnographic region occupies  a vast territory (about 4 million square kilometers) limited by Caspian Sea in the west and Altai Mountains in the east. From the south Central Asia is covered by an arc of mountain ranges of Tien-Shan and Pamir. Steppe plains lying in the north merge with forest-steppe of southern Siberia. This hot and arid region dominated by dry steppes transforming into semi-deserts and deserts covered by magnificent sand dunes.

From ancient times steppe areas of Central Asia were a motherland for multiple nomadic tribes and peoples. Irrigated agriculture in the foothills cut by mountains streams and the valleys of Amudaria and Syrdarya Rivers appeared in the Neolithic Epoch creating blooming oases – centers of ancient trade and handicrafts, many of which still exist. Central Asia is one of the oldest centers of civilization. Its history is an example of courageous man’s struggle with nature; its millenary history is an example of creative work and transformative power of a human.

Geographic position of Central Asia, its climatic features as well diverse nomadic and settled groups predetermined an incredibly rich ethnographic variety. As a result of countless migrations of nomadic cattle-breeding groups and unions that inhabited southern Siberian, northern Kazakhstan and east Europeans steppes and mountain regions for two millennia, their merger with communities of agricultural south has led to the formation of major ethnic communities living in the region today. These people managed to preserve their traditional lifestyle, traditions, skills and folklore and ready to share this unique experience with you.

Day 1. Arrival in Bishkek

Bishkek , formerly Pishpek and Frunze, is the capital and largest city of the Kyrgyz Republic. The city was founded in 1825 as the Khokand fortress of "Pishpek" in order to control local caravan routes and to collect tribute from Kyrgyz tribes. Bishkek is a city of wide boulevards and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks surrounding interior courtyards. Mostly outside the city center, there are also thousands of smaller privately built houses. It is laid out on a grid pattern, with most streets flanked on both sides by narrow irrigation channels that water the innumerable trees that provide shade in the hot summers. Our city tour includes: Museum of Applied Arts, dedicated to Kyrgyz folk and applied art and Russian and Soviet art, stroll trough Ala-Too Square including Oak Park and colorful open-air picture gallery and blooming Oriental Osh Bazaar. Dinner at national restaurant is accompanied by folklore show; artists demonstrate national Central Asia music instruments and playing techniques.

Accommodation:  Hotel ****

Day 2. Transfer to Bokonbaevo, 300 km

On the way to the second largest mountainous lake in world we make a stop at Karakhanid’s minaret of the 12 century - Burana. Nowadays it is a museum complex which includes the tower itself, reconstructions of mausoleums found on the site, remains of the citadel, a collection of balbals (grave stones used by nomadic Turkic peoples), petroglyphs (stone carvings) and a small Museum. Further transfer through Boom gorge and along southern shore of the Issyk-Kul Lake. The lake sits in a tectonic hollow surrounded by snowcapped peaks of Terskei and Kungei Ala-Tau Mountain ranges at the altitude of 1600 m. Issyk-Kul Lake is 180 km long, 60 km wide and 700 m deep. 134 streams and rivers flow into the lake but none flows out what is explained by underwater tectonic activity.

Our next is at the southern shore of the lake at Kyzyl-Tuu village is not visit a famous privately owned yurt production. Local masters will show and explain all stage of yurt manufacturing. We proceed to Bokonbaevo village. This day we stay with a family producing felt handicrafts and carpets. Dinner with Kyrgyz family.

Overnight: Homestay

Day 3. Transfer to Son-Kul Lake, 280 km

Today we head towards a nomadic pearl - alpine Son-Kul Lake. But first of all we make a stop at "felt making" center of Kygyzstan - Kochkor village. Shyrdak (national felt carpet in Kyrgyz) is a large, ornate  pride of  every household in Kyrgyz famile. This unique traditional method of production is highly valued by women of all generations. All shyrdaks are handmade from the shearing of the sheep until the final stitches are sewn into the felt. Making a shyrdak keeps shyrdak production as a social and economic role in  lives of women. You will have a chance to participate in the production process and buy few souvenirs. Afterwards we proceed to Son-Kul Lake (3016 m) over Kalmak-Ashuu Pass (3340 m).

Overnight: Yurt camp

Day 4. Son-Kul Lake

Son-Kul Lake is the second largest lake after Issyk Kul and the largest fresh water lake in Kyrgyzstan. It is surrounded by a broad summer pastures dotted with yurts, grazing cattle and mountains. These lands are used by shepherds of the neighboring regions as summer pastures for their flocks. Shepherds drive the livestock up in the mountains; set a yurt camp where they will live during summer months. Here you will get acquainted with traditional lifestyle of Kyrgyz nomads. You can enjoy horseback riding, easy hike to the mountains to see an amazing panorama of Son-Kul Lake and mountains, play with children or participate in cooking of national meals.

Overnight: Yurt camp

Day 5. Transfer to Jalal-Abad, 350 km

Our journeys continues to the third largest town in Kyrgyzstan - Jalal-Abad over breathtaking Moldo-Ashuu (3486 m) and Kok-Art (3350 m) Passes, through wide and mountain-edged valley of Kazarman and along Naryn River fed by the glaciers and snows of the central Tien Shan  merges further with  Syr Darya River feeding Aral Sea at the end point. The river contains many reservoirs which are important in the generation of hydroelectricity.  Picturesque panoramas of central Kyrgyzstan won't let you be bored.

  Overnight: Hotel Roza Park ***

Day 6. Transfer to Arslanbob, 65 km

Arslanbob is a mountain village with the largest naturally grown walnut forest in the world. In the afternoon we take a hike to the local waterfall which is venerated as a holy place among people. During the hike you will see a prayer “cave of forty angels”. The fairy-tale walnut forest will open a scenic view of entire valley. The area is a year-round destination for hiking, backcountry skiing and horseback riding. Arslanbob is just a wonderful place to be, to sit on the doorstep and watch time pass by with a pot of tea. Dinner with Uzbek family.

Accommodation: Homestay

Day 7. Transfer to Osh, 165 km

The road to the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan – Osh goes along impressive scenery and endless rice fields. On the way we make a stop in Uzgen. It used to be an important center of the Karakhanid Empire in 11th century. The Karakhanids were Islamic Turkic people - masters of striking brick structures. You will visit three mausoleums and a minaret. In addition, you have an opportunity to see a famous rice market in Uzgen. Further transfer to Osh. Osh is believed to be one of the oldest towns in Central Asia. Excursion to Suleiman Mountain and local museum in a cave.  The mountain is also known as Salomon’s throne. The site is still a popular place among locals with a small mosque originally built in 1510. The mountain is included in the World Heritage list of UNESCO. In the late afternoon we drive back to Jalal-Abad city. Dinner with Uzbek family is accompanied by folklore show.

Accommodation: Hotel Osh***

Day 8. Transfer to Tashkent, 440 km

After early breakfast departure to Kyrgyz/Uzbek border. En route city tour in Kokand:  visiting of ceramics workshop and museum of ceramics in Rishtan. Rishtan is known today as one of the largest centers in Central Asia of unique glazed ceramic manufacture. Tea drinking in a house of local craftsman.

Accommodation: Hotel Arien Plaza ***


Day 9. Transfer to Samarkand, 310 km

The historic town of Samarkand is a crossroad and a melting pot of world's cultures. Founded in the 7th century B.C. as ancient Afrosiab, Samarkand received its most significant development in the Timurid’s period from the 14th to the 15th centuries. Visiting of Registan Square which used to be a heart of Samarkand in ancient times. Afternoon city tour includes: Museum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan that will tell a lot about rich ethnographic history of Uzbekistan, other excursions include: Mausoleum of Gur Emir, Registan square, Mosque Bibi Hanum & Oriental Bazar.

Accommodation: Bek Samarkand or Registon Hotel ***

Day 10. Transfer to Bukhara, 260 km

This morning we continue our tour in that marvelous town: Observatory of Ulugbek, Afrosiab Museum, Necropolis Shakhi Zinda and Siab Bazar.

Afternoon transfer to ancient Bukhara. Bukhara was one of the great trading centers at the Silk Road. The history of Bukhara stretches back millennia. Humans have inhabited the region around Bukhara for at least five millennia ago and the city exists for half that time. Located at the Silk Road, the city has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture and religion.

Accommodation: Salom Inn Hotel or Sasha & Son ***

Day 11. Bukhara sightseeing tour

Our city tour in Bukhara includes: architectural complex Poi Kalon with the Kalon Minaret, Complex Labi Haus, Traditional covered bazaars including Toki Zargaron Trading Dome (1569-70); Toki Telpak Furushon Trading Dome, Toki Sarrafon Trading Dome (16th c.), Mausoleum of Samanid Dynasty. Folklore Show in the Nodir Devon Begi Madrasah.

Accommodation: Salom Inn Hotel or Sasha & Son ***

Day 12. Flight to Tashkent, sightseeing tour

Morning transfer to the airport and flight to Tashkent (HY 22, 09:50 – 11:20 AM).

This wonderful city is a real embodiment of the modern elegance that is inherent in many world capitals. At the same time it remains an oriental city.  Enjoy a discovery tour through the capital of Uzbekistan, which will take you to the ancient squares and buildings as well as modern part of the 2,000 year old city. First visit is Kukeldash Madrasah, which still serves as a Koran School. You will also see the Khasti-Imon Square with the beautiful Barak Khan Madrasah, the Tillya Sheikh Mosque and the Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum made of simple brickwork. Here you can also take a look at the Koran written by the third Caliph Osman (644 - 656). A stroll through the huge Chorsu bazaar will let you experience the everyday life with all your senses.

Accommodation: Hotel Arien Plaza ***

Day 13. Departure

Transfer to the airport and departure. End of services


Tour price and list of services - on request