Silk Road Tours offer private tailor made journeys to Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is central to the story of the Silk Road. When Chinese general Chang Chien arrived here from China in 138 BC in search of horses ‘that sweated blood’, he discovered the Sogdian people’s love of silk and thus the Silk Road was born. The vast majority of goods that entered or left China on the newly founded ‘road’ did so over the Torugart and Irkestam passes through the Tien Shan (Heavenly) mountains.
Although the Mongols put paid to many of its Silk Road-era sites, Kyrgyzstan offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world and was aptly named the ‘Jewel of Turkestan’. The semi-nomadic roots of the Kyrgyz people are very much in evidence today, and temporary yurt camps appear in the high pastures and on the shores of high altitude lakes from summer through to early winter. This traditional culture extends to the warm hospitality shown to visitors, who are viewed as honoured guests in this friendly and beautiful country.
Tours that visit Kyrgyzstan
Stunning Son Kul Lake is the second largest in Kyrgyzstan and sits at an altitude of 3016 metres and covers an area of 270 sqkms. The lake is only accessible by 4WD vehicles from mid-June to mid-September which is when the Kyrgyz nomads take their herds to the high pastures and set up camp. Staying in a yurt amongst the nomads is a highlight of any trip to Kyrgyzstan and offers the opportunity for excellent walks or horse rides around the lake enjoying its beautiful setting surrounded by the mountains.
Located in a gorgeous setting at an altitude of 1,600 metres surrounded by the Tien Shan mountains Lake Issy Kul is the largest in Kyrgyzstan covering some 6,236 sqkms. The lake was a popular holiday location during Soviet times and today many of the lake front hotels have been refurbished offering excellent places to stay for a few days. Interesting stops around the lake include the town of Cholpan Ata located on its north shore where some 2,000 ancient petroglyphs lie in an open air museum and Karakol, on the lake’s eastern shore, where a wooden mosque built without any nails can be found.
The picturesque region of Arslanbob lies in the west of Kyrgyzstan close to the Ferghana valley and is home to 11,000 hectares of walnut forest – the largest in the world. The origins of the forest are uncertain though it appears to have already been established when Alexander The Great visited the region, exporting some back to Greece where they formed the basis of European plantations. The walnut groves are located in a larger forest of some 60,000 hectares which offer excellent walks to hidden waterfalls through stunning scenery.
The 15th century Tash Rabat caravanserai is a true relic of the Silk Road located in a high valley (3,500m altitude) on the north side of the At-Bashy mountain range. The stone built structure, which may have started out as a Nestorian church, is half buried in the hillside and in a remarkable state of preservation and the ghosts of caravans crossing the nearby Torugart Pass from China can truly be felt. With its stunning location Tash Rabat caravanserai is one of the most beautiful sights in Kyrgyzstan.
Djety Oguz in Kyrgz means seven bulls, is home an extraordinary formation of red sandstone cliffs that are said to resemble seven bulls and have become something of a national symbol. Various legends surround the formation including that they were seven raging bulls immobilised by the gods to prevent them terrorising the locals. The valley, which is located 25kms west of Karakol, is also home to a number of hot springs which are said to have therapeutic properties. During the summer nomads set up yurts offering the visitor the chance to stay and experience nomad life.