Kyrgyzstan - Shepherd's Way
Day 1: Bishkek
On arrival our guide will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. Later in the day you have the opportunity to go on a tour of Bishkek. The principal city buildings date from the Soviet era, but you will learn the history of Bishkek from its origins to the present day. The tour includes Victory Square, Oak Park with its stone sculptures, Old Square, The House of Parliament, Ala Too Main Square, White House, Manas Hero Square, City Hall and many other interesting places.
No tour of Bishkek would be complete without a visit to the noisy, colourful Asian Bazaar where all kinds of goods are on sale. You will have about an hour to enjoy the sights and sounds, goods, fruits, vegetables, and other goods. This evening we will eat in a traditional Kyrgyz restaurant. Kyrgyzstan is the country of nomads and almost all dishes consist of meat but if you are vegetarian you will be catered for. After dinner if you wish we can go for a walk to the main Square Ala Too where there are colourful fountains and lights to enjoy.
Day 2: Bishkek - Burana Tower - Kara Talaa Bokonbaeva - Bel Tam Yurt Camp
Today we drive to Issyk Kul Lake; the largest mountain lake in Central Asia, and the second largest in the world: 180km x 60km. We have a stunning view of the pure blue water and surrounding Tien Shan Mountains with their snow white peaks. The water is about 22 degrees and many people come here in summer time. In former times the lake was considered sacred. Nobody was allowed to swim or even to touch the water. In the 19th C people started to swim and fish here. On our way to the lake we visit the Burana Tower, originally built in the 11th C, it was rebuilt in the 1970s. There was a thriving city here on the Great Silk Road, many caravans came en route from China to Rome. There are also Stone Warriors 'Balbals' here: 7/8th C statues which commemorate famous soldiers killed during war.
The road to the lake follows the Kyrgyz mountain range on into the Boom gorge leading to our yurt camp for the night. We have time to prepare the bikes for tomorrow's cycling. The views are really stunning here. This evening you will be treated to an eagle show or traditional folk concert.
Accommodation: Yurt Camp (B,L,D)
Day 3: Bokonbaeva - Bel Tam Yurt CampKara Talaa - Kochkor
This morning we transfer 69km to Kara Talaa where the cycling begins. Our route avoids heavy traffic and busy towns taking us off the beaten track. We begin our amazing journey through a stunning and mythical land, riding from a small village. The route has beautiful mountain views, far from the main roads, a forgotten path where we will pass more stone warrior Balbals along the way. We cycle on good road but it can get windy making the cycling harder. There can be few other places in Kyrgyzstan where nature has remained so unchanged. At times the road seems to disappear as almost nobody uses it nowadays apart from nomads. This evening we can visit a Kyrgyz handicraft museum.
Cycling Distance: 64 km (40 miles)
Altitude Start: 1,952m (6,404ft)
Highest Point: 2,043m (6,702ft)
End Point: 1,829m (6,000ft)
Accommodation: Homestay (B,L,D)
Day 4: Kochkor - before the Jalpak Bel Pass
Today is not as easy as it first seems, a gentle incline continues throughout the day; a good warm- up for the challenging mountain passes we encounter tomorrow. We set off from Kochkor along an asphalt road and turn to unpaved track, rarely used by cars heading deep into the heart of Tien Shan Mountains. Our route continues on winding roads along incredible gorges. Fitness will win over technical experience on this section of the ride. We pass through places where life has hardly changed in hundreds of years and encounter the nomadic inhabitants of the region. 93% of mountainous areas in Kyrgyzstan are home to nomadic people. At 3000m it will feel chilly this evening.
Cycle Distance: 97km (60miles)
Altitude Start: 1,829m (9,842ft)
Highest Point: 3,000m (9,842ft)
End Point: 3,000m (9,842ft)
Accommodation: Tent (B,L,D)
Day 5: Jalpak Bel Pass - Eki Naryn
Today our mountain adventure continues, offering completely different views of the evermore enchanting Kyrgyzstan. The highest point of the day is the Jalpak Bel Pass at 3348m. As we cycle in the Central Tien Shan mountains, along the Terskey range on unpaved road. Our route boasts some of the most spectacular mountain riding you could ever wish for, with steep climbs and descents and stunning views of the river in the valley beneath us.
Tien Shan is the Chinese name. The Kyrgyz name is Tenir Too meaning 'Celestial Mountains'. The Tien Shan Range is one of the largest in Asia, stretching across several countries although 2/3 lie within Kyrgyzstan including the highest point Victory Peak - at 7 437m.
Cycling Distance: 87km (54 miles)
Altitude Start: 3,000m (9,842ft)
Highest Point: 3,348m (10,984ft)
End Point: 2,502m (8,208ft)
Day 6: Eki Naryn - Naryn
We continue our cycle in the heart of the Tien Shan mountains, with more stunning climbs, thrilling descents and unforgettable views. We're very likely to encounter more nomadic shepherds grazing their cattle in the mountains, moving from one pasture to another. The nomads still live in traditional yurts during the summer months and keep to their unique cultural traditions.
We're climbing again today but the gradient becomes easier as the day progresses. The road is mixture of dirt and paved road and quite rough at times, we will feel the challange of the road surface on the bikes today. Naryn is a small town built right in the gorge with mountain slopes on either side of us. There will be an opportunity to do laundry today.
Cycling Distance: 47km (29 miles)
Altitude Start: 2,502m (8,208ft)
Highest Point: 2,540m (8,333ft)
End Point: 1,870m (6,135ft)
Day 7: Naryn - Kurtka
Our journey through mountain landscapes takes us further onwards on traffic-free unpaved roads with more challenging climbs and exciting descents along meandering valley and mountain. Tonight you will have a home stay with a local family in Kurtka village; and experience local life.
Cycling Distance: 81.4km (51 miles)
Altitude Start: 1,870m (6,135ft)
Highest Point: 2,357m (7,732ft)
End Point: 1,694m (5,557ft)
Accommodation: Homestay (B,L,D)
Day 8: Kurtka - Son Kul South
We begin today with a challenging uphill cycle along a snaking route to the summit; at over 3346m it is higher than any Alpine pass and a great spot for a group photo. We follow a narrow road along the top of the mountain peak which leads us to the most famous place in Kyrgyzstan - Son Kul Lake. This is a wild mountainous area with a large nomadic population.
Remote from civilization Son Kul Lake is a real encounter with unspoiled nature. At the end of the day we arrive at our camp and stay in Yurts tonight: a genuine Kyrgyz nomadic experience that will take you back in time. Made from felt and wood and held together with wooden sticks and strips of leather, it takes just one hour to collapse or to erect a yurt.
Cycling Distance: 55 km (20 miles)
Altitude Start: 1,694m (5,557ft)
Highest Point: 3,225m (10,580ft)
End Point: 3,113m (10,213 ft)
Accommodation: Yurt (B,D,L)
Day 9: Son Kul South - Son Kul North
Today we cycle around Son Kul Lake in beautiful surroundings at altitude ranging from 3016 - 3113m. All around are rolling hills as far as the eye can see and we encounter many nomadic families. You are likely to be offered Kumis, the Kyrgyz national drink. Kumis is fermented mare's milk; an alcoholic drink with an unusual taste. Son Kul is over-looked on the south shore by the Moldoo Too ridge. The lake is 59km long and 23km wide. The name Son Kul can be translated from Kyrgyz as the last lake¯. Although the winter climate is very harsh, in summer time the area is a haven for nomads and their grazing herds. Besides sheep, goats, cows and horses you may see yaks and even camels. Sunsets at Son Kul are absolutely stunning. Once seen never forgotten.
Cycling Distance: 45km (28miles)
Altitude Start: 3,113m (10,213ft)
Highest Point: 3,070m (10,072ft)
End Point: 3,034m (9,954ft)
Accommodation: Yurt (B,L,D)
Day10: Son Kul North - Kochkor
Today we make a thrilling descent from the Kalmak Asuu Pass for the 10-15km, enjoying beautiful scenery. We leave the gravelled mountain road to join newly paved road. We may face the added challenge of strong winds.
Cycling Distance: 100km (60miles)
Altitude Start: 3,034m (9,954ft)
Highest Point: 3,364m (11,036 ft)
End Point: 2,393m (7,851 ft)
Accommodation: Tent (B,L,D)
Day 11: Kochkor - Kuyurchuk
Today you will enjoy more lovely scenery. This morning we cycle up to the Kyzart Pass at 2664m and then drop down to our lunch spot. Again we are likely to encounter nomads along the way. This afternoon we have a sweeping descent to our riverside camp in a beautiful location surrounded by high mountains.
Cycling Distance: 103km (62miles)
Day 12: Kuyurchuk - Kyzyl Oi
Our final day on the bikes, we cycle to Kyzyl Oi through the Red Rocks Gorge. The day is not without its challenges; however the going does get easier as the altitudes become more 'normal' and we enjoy riding through remote mountains and small villages. It is a stunning route of dirt track, old paved road and small villages. There is plenty of time to meet and engage with the friendly locals, always quick to smile and return a Salam Aleikum¯. The rural areas of Kyrgyzstan remain unspoiled, traditional and rich in culture.
At the end of the day we reach Kyzyl Oi. Views of these red mountains are absolutely breathtaking, and there is no better way to end this fantastic, unforgettable cycling route.
Cycling Distance: 69km (43miles)
Accommodation: Tent (B,L,D)
Day 13: Kyzyl Oi - Bishkek
Today we drive to Bishkek city. The road goes up and down over the high hills before we come to the Tue Ashu pass over 3000m high and followed by a dramatic descent. The road takes us through the southern part of Kyrgyzstan with scenic views all around. This route is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Kyrgyzstan. We have a farewell dinner in Bishkek at 8 o'clock this evening, and afterwards we can go for a walk and enjoy the night scenes of the city.
Accommodation: Hotel (B)
Day 14: Bishkek
This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your journey home. Chon Rakhmat! Ak Jol - Thank you! Have a good flight!