Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan 13-Day Tour

13
Days
Bishkek, Karakol, Kochkor, Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, Lake Issyk-Kul

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan truly complement one another, collectively offering visitors a taste of mountains and deserts, valleys and lakes, traces of an elusive nomadic past and larger-than-life castles and mosques that bear testimony to a once-grand empire. While both countries offer ample activities to keep any curious traveler well occupied, visiting them in combination provides a richer, more balanced experience of Central Asia.
The Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan 13-Day Tour is an unforgettable plunge into these two remarkable and contrasting lands. Enjoy a mountain getaway at the quaint and colorful towns of Kochkor and Karakol on Lake Issyk-Kul. Take an exclusive tour of capital cities Bishkek and Tashkent before delving into the historical marvels of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, leaving Central Asia with your world enriched from each diverse experience.

Upon arrival in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, your driver will take you to your hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Take a sightseeing tour of Bishkek to the following:
  • Ala Too Square, Bishkek’s large central square that maintains a distinctly Soviet feel. Watch the hourly changing of the guards, take a selfie under the large Kyrgyzstan flag and pay your respects to a Kyrgyz legend at Manas Monument.
  • Old Square with the Parliament House, a regal piece of 20th century architecture supported by 16 grand columns, and Lenin Statue, relegated to its current place after being supplanted by Manas in Ala Too Square.
  • Philharmonic Hall, a stately Bishkek landmark whose courtyard is a popular meeting place for local students and youth.
  • Oak Park, where the beautiful tree-lined Erkindik Boulevard will take you to a statue of Kurmanjan Datka, a prominent 19th century Kyrgyz leader known as the “Queen of the Mountains”.
  • Opera and Ballet House, a stylish hall serving as a key center for the arts in the capital.
  • Victory Square, which honors those who lost their lives in World War II with an Eternal Flame that burns under a sizable granite half-yurt.
Drive back to the hotel. Overnight in Bishkek.
Tour duration: 3-4 hours
Breakfast at the hotel before an adventure-filled day as you leave the city and head into rural Kyrgyzstan. The first stop is the small town of Tokmok (80km, 1.5hrs) for an excursion to Burana Tower and Museum Complex:
  • Burana Tower (11th century), a 25-meter-high minaret that impresses with its intricately chiseled exterior. The only remaining structure from Balasagun city, it affords a memorable climb up its dark and winding stairwell, with a spectacular view at the top to reward you for your efforts.
  • Balbals (6th century), round stone figures used as grave markers and memorial stones of the deceased.
  • Museum containing items found in Balasagun including jewelry, pottery and religious objects.
  • Petroglpyhs (2nd century) and mausoleums (9th century).
Continue driving to Lake Issyk-Kul (190km, 2.5hrs). Arrive to Cholpon-Ata, a small town situated on the northern shores of the mountain lake. Visit the Museum of Petroglyphs (app. 500BC-100AD), a sprawling open-air museum full of grave markers and ancient drawings. Wander through this stone garden, discovering the balbals and sketches for yourself.
After the tour, transfer to the hotel in Cholpon-Ata. Free time in the evening to take in the fresh mountain air with a walk along the beach or a dip in the lake’s naturally warm waters. Overnight at Cholpon-Ata.
Continue your tour in the morning with a drive further along the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul to the town of Karakol (140km, 2hrs), a small but fascinating town peppered with traditional Russian architecture and several landmarks worthy of a visit:
  • Przhevalsky Memorial Museum - Dedicated to the life and work of Nikolay Mikhailovich Przhevalski, one of the greatest Central Asian explorers and researchers of all time. The museum grounds include his tomb, a monument to his life and a well-maintained garden.
  • Dungan Mosque (1910) - Designed by Chinese architects for the local population of Dungans, a Chinese Muslim people, it’s a functioning mosque even today. Constructed entirely without nails, it resembles a Chinese pagoda and reflects pre-Islamic Buddhist influence on the Dungan culture.
  • Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral (19th century) – Since original construction this cathedral has seen damage from an earthquake and Soviet occupation, yet through preservation efforts remains a working church and historical icon today. The mint-green roof and golden onion domes of this wooden structure make it easy to spot from a distance.
Overnight in Karakol guesthouse.
After breakfast drive to Jeti Oguz Canyon (25km, 30min), a picturesque gorge adorned with a coniferous forest and large red-stone formations. Stretch your legs with a one-hour (round-trip) hike to the most recognizable formations, known as “Seven Bulls” (Jeti Oguz) and “Broken Heart”, for their resemblance to said features.
Transfer to Kochkor Village (170km, 2.5hrs). Stop en route for a short hike at Skazka Canyon (Fairytale Canyon), a truly magical destination of crazy rock formations that will spark your imagination. The canyon, stunning in its array of earthen colors, also provides a magnificent view of Lake Issyk-Kul and the surrounding peaks of the Tian Shan Mountains.
Complete the drive to Kochkor, a Kyrgyz village whose residents are known for their creation of shyrdak felt rugs and other handicrafts. Local ladies will share their expertise in shyrdak, a traditional technique for felt carpet production, through a special demonstration and workshop. Try your hand at the classical art and support village artisans by purchasing handmade souvenirs. Free time afterwards to roam about the village, take photos and enjoy the laid-back local lifestyle. Dinner and overnight in a Kochkor guesthouse.
After breakfast at the guesthouse, return to Bishkek (200km, 3hrs). Upon arrival to Bishkek, head to the airport for a flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan (472km, 1hr 10min).
Arrive in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. Transfer to the hotel and have a rest after your flight. Overnight in Tashkent.
Your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel to begin your Tashkent city tour. Your private tour will include:
  • Excursion to the Old City, including the Khazret-Imam Architectural Complex, which holds the oldest known Quran in the world.
  • Visit to Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent’s oldest bazaar that includes a large selection of traditional Uzbek ceramics, jewelry, handbags, garments and more.
  • Ride on the Tashkent Metro, an immaculate subway system with each station decorated in colored mosaics and ceramics to depict a specific theme.
  • Walk through Amir Temur Square, with a massive statue of none other than Tamerlane himself at the center.
  • Independence Square, including the touching World War II Mourning Mother Monument and the Eternal Flame.
  • Drive to the Sacred Heart Cathedral, a 20th century Roman Catholic Church with beautiful stained-glass windows and Gothic-style architecture.
  • Tour of the Applied Arts Museum, an informative collection of Uzbekistan’s finest handicrafts housed in an ornately decorated villa.
Overnight in Tashkent.
Tour duration: 4-5 hours
Transfer to the local airport in the morning to catch a flight to Urgench (1093km, 1hr 40min). After landing in Urgench, a driver will take you to the hotel in Khiva (35km, 45min). Your guide will then meet you at the hotel to begin your walking tour of Khiva’s architectural complex Ichan-Qala, the city’s historical center and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city complex, which has been almost completely preserved for the past 1500 years, includes:
  • Kunya-Ark Fortress, the inner citadel of Ichan-Qala.
  • Kalta Minor Tower, which would have been the tallest minaret in Central Asia had construction been completed; its name literally means “Short Tower”.
  • Muhammad Amin-Khan and Mukhammad Rahimkhan Madrasah, the largest medieval madrasahs in Khiva.
  • Juma Mosque, built with 212 wooden columns and a minaret 32.5 meters high.
  • Tash-Hauli Palace (Stone Courtyard Palace), which resembles a fortress with high battlements, towers and fortified gates.
  • Necropolis of Pahlavan Mahmud, ancient religious center of Ichan-Qala.
  • Residence of Islam Khodja, personal advisor of the last khan. The complex consists of a madrasah and a minaret whose top platform has a height of 45 meters, the highest observation point in town.
Overnight in Khiva.
Tour duration: 6-7 hours
After breakfast, head to the railway station for your morning departure to Bukhara (390km, 7hrs 30min). Your train will take a similar route as that of the Great Silk Road, which also ran through this desert between Khiva and Bukhara. Arrive in Bukhara in the afternoon, where your driver will meet you at the station to take you to your hotel.
Enjoy free time as you explore the old streets of Bukhara, whose alleyways resemble a living depiction of “A Thousand and One Nights”. Overnight in Bukhara.
Have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before your private walking tour of the Old City’s most impressive sights:
  • The Lyabi-Hauz Ensemble holds the largest artificial reservoir of medieval Bukhara (14th-17th centuries). This ensemble includes some of the largest madrassahs in Bukhara: the Khanaka Madrassah, Kukeldash Madrassah and Nadir Divan Beghi Madrassah (all 16th century).
  • The Magoki-Attori Mosque is the oldest mosque in Bukhara (12th century).
  • Walk through the four Trade Domes (15th-16th centuries), where you can join your traveling predecessors in purchasing carpets, jewelry, fabrics, ceramics and other handmade souvenirs.
  • Continue your city tour of Bukhara to the Poi Kalyan Ensemble (12th-16th centuries), consisting of the Kalyan Minaret, Kalyan Mosque, Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah and Miri-Arab Madrasah.
  • Explore the relatively untouched Ulugbek Madrasah (15th century) and Abdulazizkhan Madrasah (17th century).
  • Head to the Ark Fortress (4th century), the ancient center of Bukharin statehood and currently home to a small museum.
  • Stop by the Bolo-Khauz Complex, consisting of an artfully decorated 18th century mosque, a minaret and reservoirs that once provided water for the entire city.
  • Complete your city tour of Bukhara at the Samanids Mausoleum (9th-10th centuries), the most ancient brick building in Central Asia, and the Chashma Ayub Mausoleum.
Overnight at the hotel.
Tour duration: 6-7 hours
Check out of your hotel after breakfast and drive to Gijduvon (50km, 1hr), a small town whose traditional crafts and ceramics have been sought after in Central Asia for centuries due to their quality and colorful, decorative style.
Continue driving to Samarkand (240km, 3hrs 30min). Along the way, stop by the Rabat-i-Malik Caravanserai ruins and Sardoba, an ancient reservoir.
Arrive in Samarkand, the capital of Tamerlane's Empire. Check in to the hotel and have a free evening to rest or explore the neighborhood. Overnight in Samarkand.
Breakfast at the hotel before beginning your private tour of Samarkand to the following sites:
  • Gur Emir, the imposing burial site of Tamerlane and Mirzo Ulugbek.
  • Registan Square, the commercial center of Samarkand for centuries and Samarkand’s most famous site today. The square includes three madrasahs: Ulugbek Madrasah (15th century), Sher-Dor Madrasah (17th century) and Tilla-Kori Madrasah (17th century).
  • A boulevard lined with workshops, souvenir stores and ice cream stands.
  • >Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane for his favorite wife.
  • Siab Bazaar, a multi-level complex where you can shop for souvenirs and sample sweets, fruits and Samarkand’s famous bread.
  • Shakhi-Zinda, a burial complex built between the 9th-14th centuries. Climb the blue-domed path and explore more than 20 small mausoleums that line the broad alleyway.
  • Ulugbek Observatory, where you can see the remains of a 14th-15th century sextant and tour the Ulugbek Museum.
Overnight in Samarkand.
Tour duration: 6-7 hours
Breakfast and check out of the hotel. Your sightseeing tour of Samarkand will continue with trips to these culturally significant sights:
  • Visit to the excavation site and museum of the ancient city Afrosiab.
  • Tour of the Khodja Daniyar Mausoleum, believed to be the tomb of the prophet Daniel, whose remains were brought here by Tamerlane.
  • Drive to Konigil Village to observe the traditional way of making Samarkand paper from mulberry leaves.
  • Excursion to the Oriental Silk Carpet Factory to see firsthand how top-quality carpets are created. You can even learn basic skills from the masters and try carpet-weaving yourself!
Transfer to the railway station to catch the afternoon train to Tashkent (330km, 2hrs 30min). You’ll be met at the Tashkent station and taken to the hotel. Overnight in Tashkent.
Tour duration: 4-5 hours
Check out of the hotel by noon. Your driver will take you to the airport for your departure flight. End of Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan 13-Day Tour.

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