Over ninety per cent of Kyrgyzia lies above the top of the UK’s highest mountain! Independent after the collapse of Soviet rule in Central Asia, this stunningly beautiful country never actually existed before the Soviet Union, rather it was invented (as an autonomous region) in the 1920s by Stalin. Perhaps not surprising then that few of us know much about this land of alpine lakes, fast-flowing rivers, rolling steppelands, conifer forests and rare walnut forests that lie between the arms of the giant snow-capped peaks of the Celestial Mountains.
Unlike neighbouring Kazakhstan it is easy to explore many high passes by road in Kyrgyzia. Paeonia hybrida forms stands by the roadside and we’ll see White-tailed Rubythroats, Bluethroats and Rosefinches as we head higher. Now it will be the turn of Aconitums, Primulas, Anemone protracta, and both Trollius dzungaricus and Trollius altaicus. Fritillaria walujewi hang their tessellated bells alongside Pulsatilla campanella and beautiful Eremostachys speciosus. A Biosphere reserve protects the truly outstanding landscapes around Sary-Chelek and flowers such Iris alberti and the cascading white Exochorda. We’ll explore the famed walnut forests of Arslanbob replete with several species of Foxtail Lily, including the immense pale pink Eremurus robustus, more delicate is Aquilegia vicaria, and the pendant blue cups of the borage Lindelofia stylosa. In the valleys are Rollers, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and Red-headed Buntings, pretty Glaucium squamigerum and Arnebia guttata. Plain Mountain Finches and Güldenstadt’s Redstart pose amongst Chorispora bungeana, Androsaces and ice-blue Trollius lilacina in the achingly beautiful landscapes above Song Kul whilst lower down are meadows with Cortusa matthioli, Codonopsis clematidea and vari-coloured Alliums. Caspian Plovers display over a landscape replete with mat-forming Dracocephalum paulsenii and yellow Tulipa heterophylla and Tulipa dasystemon.
We’ll come across many reminders of the Silk Road during our visit, most notably the wonderful 15th century caravanserai of Tash Rabat. Though small, Tash Rabat is remarkably intact, and in the most stunning landscape. Paraquilegia anemonoides blooms spectacularly on nearby cliffs and Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon and Golden Eagle soar overhead. We’ll visit petroglyphs of stark beauty whilst amongst the amazing red rock formations of Jeti-Oguz bloom Dictamnus albus, Polemonium caucasicum, Pedicularis rhinanthus, and blue Iris ruthenica. The mountains that rise to the south and east of scenic Lake Issyk-Kol are the highest and wildest in the country. Here road passes take us up close to 4000m whilst we’ve the comforts of the relatively mild climate along the lake shore at a mere 1770m at night! There are some staggeringly beautiful alpines on these high passes - Primula nivalis, Callianthemum alatavicum, Saussureas, darkest ruby Aquilegia atrovinosa, Corydalis fedtschenkoana and the fabulous Desideria flabellata, whilst by braided rivers is the avian equivalent, the elegant Ibisbill.
Alpine and Steppe Flowers. Also Birds, Mountain Landscapes, and some Archaeological Sites.
No more than three or four miles in any one day, usually much less, and always at a relaxed pace ideally suited to photographers. Though we’ll have daytime visits to passes around 3000m close to the start of the trip, and up to 4000m by the latter stages of the holiday, we stay each night at a much more moderate 1500m to 1800m so you should find no problems adjusting to the altitude.
Included in the Price
All flights. All accommodation, transport and meals in Kyrgyzia. Services of the leaders. No visas are required for visits to Kyrgyzia for many nationalities including UK citizens. Please note: Drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature such as travel insurance, are not included.
One leader for a group of up to 8, two leaders up to the maximum group size of 15.
After an early morning arrival we’ll go to a good hotel in Osh to catch up on some sleep and we’ll have our second night there too. For two nights each at Arslanbob and at Sary-Chelek we have homestays in simple but comfortable rooms with shared facilities. Next is a night in a hotel in Chichkan and then to Suusaymr where we’ve a night in unusual cabins built from shipping containers. These comfortable rooms do have windows(!), and en suite toilets and wash basins, however the showers are located in a separate block. We’ve a night at Kochkor in a private guesthouse with comfortable rooms and shared facilities, then two nights in a large guesthouse with en suite facilities at Naryn. After a night at Tamga in simple but comfortable rooms with shared facilities among flowery gardens, we’ll move to Karakol on the shores of Issyk-Kol for a two night stay. We finish with a night in a comfortable three star hotel in Bishkek. Full en suite facilities are available for eight nights of this tour, shared facilities for the remainder.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow or Manchester* to Osh, via Istanbul, returning from Bishkek via Istanbul. Indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Warm and sunny. Showers and more prolonged rain are possible in the mountains and then it can be quite cool, especially on the highest passes.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information. Flower and bird checklists are available.