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We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarah@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.


Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in the Autumn at Harvest


October 10-21, 2018 • $5160 based on double occupancy
beginning and ending in Almaty, Kazakhstan
Single supplement $770

Dear Serious Traveler,

Join us for a tour that is short, but packed with sights and activities.
This tour is a wonderful introduction to contemporary Kyrgyzstan - and a touch of Kazakhstan. It focuses on the ruins of ancient civilisations, on Soviet utopia, and on Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan’s rich tapestry of ethnicities and cultures. We will immerse in glorious Silk Road nature, architecture, history, art, music and culture.

Yuri Boyanin, our guide, has a PhD (Melbourne) in modern Kyrgyz history. He’s traveled, numerous times, to every village of Kyrgyzstan and every corner of Central Asia. He’s also traveled to 116 other countries on this planet and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, New York.

Discovery Highlights

  • Marvel at four out of the six World Heritage sites in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan
  • Ride the Soviet rails - feel the might of the Tian Shan Mountains looming above us, while taking one of Asia’s most breathtaking train journeys and listening to one of Kyrgyzstan’s most enchanting folk bands.
  • Enjoy not only gorgeous Central Asian food, in settings to match, but learn how to prepare some of the most famous Central Asian staples like lagman and ashlyan fu.
  • Experience scenery as varied as glaciers, (frozen) waterfalls, alpine meadows and sand dunes; we will have gentle walks across mighty scenery.
  • See the best in culture and entertainment Bishkek and Almaty have to offer, including an opportunity to sample some Soviet-Central Asian ‘high culture’, an underground theatrer in Almaty, and a new hip winery. 
  •  Have the opportunity to forage for our own food, as ancient peoples did. You’ll be surprised how much a seemingly barren land yields: wild carrots, onions, rhubarb, mushrooms and more.
  • Visit the place where the Soviet Union literally ended: a once booming mining and industrial town tucked deep in the Tian Shan mountains, now in ruins. Our journey goes so remote and so close to the Chinese border that we will need special border permits.
  • Learn about Uzgen’sFerghana Valley’s ancient rice farming: the type of rice, plump and with red streaks, expensive and sought after throughout Eurasia for making the best plov or pilau..
  • Wander through old markets: Osh’s ancient market alleyways (where we will also learn how to bake bread and sams), and Almaty’s Soviet Green Bazaar. 
  • For those up to the challenge and adventurous, there will be an opportunity for a short hike to enjoy spectacular scenery and hidden bronze age petroglyphs, ancient rock carvings, previously unvisited by other tourists. 
  • Take part in the walnut picking season in the world’s largest walnut grove amidst the foothills of the western Tien Shan mountains.
  • Travel in unparalleled comfort in Central Asia. We will ride new, modern vehicles (and a few vintage Soviet cars and trucks) and will sleep in Kyrgyzstan’s best, most atmospheric, and warmest lodgings. The highest altitude where we will spend a night at is 5500 ft (1700m). The highest pass we will drive across is 13,000 ft (about 4000m). Those roads are normally kept open in early autumn. But just in time for the walnut picking season. There we will try the famous walnut jam an walnut soup.
  • No visas required for U.S. citizens to either country!


Preliminary Day by Day Itinerary

October 10        Arrive Almaty, Kazakhstan

Welcome to Almaty, Kazakhstan. We suggest arriving on a Turkish Airways by 5:35 AM or another flight, landing most likely in the early morning. Transfer is included from airport to hotel. Check in at Ritz Carlton Hotel. Free time to take a nap or rest after the flight. Late breakfast or brunch in the hotel, depending on when the flight lands. 

After breakfast/brunch, meet to do an introductory short walk of Almaty, and take the cable car to Kok Tobe Hill which provides glorious views of the town! We have free time in the afternoon. Welcome dinner with some fine modern Kazakh food, introducing you to spices and flavors you will sample over the next ten days. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Almaty: Ritz-Carlton

October 11        Almaty
After breakfast, we will head to northern Almaty, to have a look at the Ascension Cathedral, one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings, dating to the early twentieth century, when Almaty was a Russian imperial outpost. Then we will walk just a short distance to the Rahat chocolate factory, one of the Soviet Union’s best (it was recently acquired by the South Korean Lotte); we will try some of their curious chocolate flavours. The chocolate-coated plum is a must-try! Then we will do a tour of Almaty’s Green Bazaar, with its bewildering variety of Kazakh tastes: nuts, dried fruits, spices, pickled watermelons, and so much more. Lunch we will grab in the Green Bazaar: a simple but tasty bowl of plov or lagman. In the afternoon we will head out to learn more about the famous Kazakh apples (Apples are from Kazakhstan!). We will visit an orchard and see how people use apples for their cooking: in deserts, in pickles, in jams, in juices. Then we will be back in the hotel for some free time for rest or perhaps to explore another part of Almaty if you feel full of energy after all the chocolate we had. In the evening we will see a special, private play of Kazakhstan and Central Asia’s only underground theatre and then have dinner in a Jewish restaurant just next door. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Almaty: Ritz-Carlton

October 12        Almaty-Kegen
Friday                 Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
After an early breakfast, we check out of our hotel and head out of town, skirting the mighty Tien Shan mountains just to the south. On the way we will stop at one new hip Kazakh winery to do a short tour of their grape varieties and production. We can sample wines, but if it’s too early, we can grab everything they have and continue on our way (we have a cooler for the white wines). We will have our lunch in the breathtaking Charin canyon: either on top of it (if the weather is pleasant), or on the bottom, next to the fast flowing river (if it’s too warm, too cool, or too windy). Then we continue towards Kyrgyzstan. We are only 150 miles from Almaty, yet it feels as remote as it can get in Kazakhstan. We cross the peaceful Kegen checkpoint and we enter Kyrgyzstan at the Karkara valley. We will have a chance to stop on the way and sample and buy honey from some old Russian beekeepers - who’ve been doing this trade for three to four generations now (the earliest coat of arms of Karakol town had a bee). We will get to Karakol in the early evening. Dinner at our hotel. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Karakol: Green Yard

October 13        Karakol    
Breakfast at our hotel: we are staying at a gorgeous guest house owned by a hard working, friendly mother and her hard working son. Breakfast here is a feast: try their home made cakes (the only such in Karakol and most of Kyrgyzstan) and their jams! Then we are out to have a walk in town, stopping at the Dungan wooden mosque and Karakol’s wooden church. We will learn the history of this imperial outpost, which for most of its past was named Przhevalsk, after the nineteenth century Russian explorer and spy Nikolay Przhevalsky, a key figure of the Great Game. We will grab a Dungan lunch in town, learning about Dungan culture and heritage. The Dungans are ethnic Chinese who converted to Islam. They are refugees from Xinjiang in the nineteenth century. They still speak old Chinese - with a twist. In the afternoon we will quickly visit a local felt manufacturer (not the touristy staff, which we all hate, but rather very artisty and unusual), and then have some free time to rest or wander Karakol’s wide streets. In the late afternoon we will head, onboard old Soviet limousines, to a nearby village to have another fascinating ethnic encounter: with Balkars from the Caucasus, exiled here by Stalin during World War Two. We will sample some great Balkar food and hear songs and legends from the heart of the Caucasus. They are incredibly friendly people. We are the first tourists, ever, to be their guests. In the evening return to Karakol. Somewhere on the road to the village today we also hope to catch a glimpse of traditional horse games. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Karakol: Green Yard

October 14        Karakol
Sunday              Inylcheck-Karakol
For those who are curious, we can start slightly before breakfast to have a peek at Karakol’s animal market, Central Asia’s second largest after the one in Kashgar, China. Then have breakfast and depart towards Inylchek, in the heart of the UNESCO listed Tien Shan mountains. The area is so remote that we will need a special border permit to enter. We will drive in a convoy of assorted Soviet 4WD trucks: Zil, Ural, Uaz, Gaz and Kamaz. Actually, since we are hiring for vehicles anyway, we will help the local community too: transport hay and perhaps a cow or horse or more from the animal market up to the mountains. This is autumn, and shepherds up there are already preparing for the long hard winter. At the high pass we will have tea and then continue by normal 4WDs down to the town. We will have a walk along the empty streets of what was once a 15,000 soul town. This area is incredibly dry (and cold). We will visit the hot thermal springs nearby - for those adventurous this is an opportunity to have a bath; have lunch either outside, if the sun warms up the air, or inside a house, and see where the Soviet Union literally disappeared. Those who want can separate from the main group and hike (roughly 2-3 hours return walk) to a little known site of petroglyphs, bronze age stone paintings, at the spectacular confluence of two rivers. Those who chose to hike will arrive in Karakol roughly an hour or hour and a half after the main group. Dinner will be kept warm for them! Dinner at our hotel in Karakol. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Karakol: Green Yard

October 15        Karakol
Monday             Lake Issyk Kul-Balykchy-Chon Kemin
We grab a late breakfast and check out from our cosy, friendly hotel. We head west, along the scenic southern shore of lake Issyk Kul, the world’s second largest high altitude lake after Titikaka in South America. We will stop in the village of Barskoon, to meet the home and workshop of a local inventor. He makes yurts, but he makes them using machines he invented. He also makes carpets, bricks, and pretty much everything village people need. We will see how yurts and (some) carpets are made. After this we continue further west. We will grab our lunch either on the lake shore, if the weather permits, or in the rather sheltered Skazka canyon. In the early afternoon we will be in Balykchy, a former key transport and trade junction, at a picturesque place on the westernmost end of lake Issyk Kul. We will do a quick tour of the city’s deserted harbour, grain silos, rusting ships and numerous Lenin busts and statues (still maintained meticulously by local residents). From Balykchy we will catch a train across the Boom Gorge. Onboard the train we will enjoy the music of Kyrgyzstan’s most enchanting folk/jazz band. And after about two hours ride we will be at our hotel for the night. It’s a clean and cosy place, Kyrgyzstan’s best guesthouse. Those who are curious, we can learn to make lagman, one of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia’s staple foods. Dinner with what we just prepared. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Chon Kemin: Ashuu Guesthouse

October 16        Chon Kemin     
Tuesday             Bishkek
We head further west, to the city of Bishkek. On the way we will stop to have a look at the Burana tower, a remnant of a once mighty Karakhanid trading outpost, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For lunch we will stop at a Canadian-Kyrgyz orphanage-farm. And then, using some back roads, we are in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s sprawling capital. Free time to rest in the afternoon. A short welcome walk around our central hotel. Dinner in Bishkek: we will try some good Russian food for dinner. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Bishkek: Hyatt Regency

October 17        Bishkek
In the morning, we will have a walk around Bishkek’s central part: Fine Arts museum for a quick overview of old Kyrgyz carpets and early socialist-realism art (the museum is just across from our hotel), Oak Park and Soviet Revolutionary Mikhail Frunze’s house, Parliament, White House, History museum, Erkindik avenue. We will grab lunch in a Korean-Kyrgyz restaurant. The food here is different from what the usual (south) Korean fare is: it is made by descendants of Korean deportees, send to Central Asia by none other by Stalin. They too made their home here. In the early afternoon we will head to the nearby micro districts to learn about the utopian Soviet plans to build the perfect working class community, not least influenced by Le Corbusier’s ideas. We will have tea inside a private home. Free time in the afternoon. Dinner in Bishkek: let’s pick a more unusual restaurant. And perhaps sample Kyrgyzstan’s first craft beer, in a tiny little brewery owned by two friendly ladies. There may be an opportunity for a ballet or opera tonight. The State Opera House is just next to our hotel. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Bishkek: Hyatt Regency

October 18        Bishkek-Osh    
After breakfast we catch a flight to Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city in the Ferghana valley. Here it will be much warmer and drier than in the north! Check in at our hotel, and after some free time, do a walking tour of Osh: Suleiman Too, the ancient sacred mountain, UNESCO inscribed, right in the heart of Osh. Then we will go to the old bazaar, where we will learn how to bake bread the Uzbek way and make samsy. This is where we will take lunch, too. In the afternoon we will have free time: to wander the old town, the new Soviet town, or relax with a cup of tea in the garden of our hotel. Dinner in town. Our hotel for the next two nights a friendly, cozy guesthouse owned by very honest, hard-working and friendly local people. We will probably have the entire guesthouse to ourselves. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Osh: Ethno Hotel

October 19        Osh 
Friday                 Uzgen-Osh
After breakfast, we will depart to nearby Uzgen (roughly an hour’s drive). On the way we will stop at rice plantations to learn about the making of the ancient Uzgen variety of rice. Then visit the mausoleum and minaret of Uzgen, remnants of another medieval Karakhanid city. Around noon we will depart to the world’s largest walnut forest in the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains. We are here right for the walnut harvest! We will share lunch with families picking walnuts, learning about their life during the walnut picking season, and sample the different varieties of walnut. We will try the famous Uzbek walnut jam. Return to Osh in the late afternoon. (B-L-D)

Overnight in Osh: Ethno hotel

October 20        Osh
Saturday            Bishkek-Almaty        
Breakfast before we depart by morning flight to Bishkek. Then drive across the border to Kazakhstan, stop at the Tamgaly petroglyph site, inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage, and then on to Almaty. Farewell dinner, this time perhaps the last - unless you decide to stay for even longer! (B-L-D)

Overnight in Almaty: Ritz-Carlton

October 21        Depart Almaty  
Breakfast and departure home or where the heart takes you. (B)

B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner



Although our itinerary indicates air via Turkish Airlines, we understand that you may prefer a different routing for your air. In this case our tour can be taken as land only and an alternate airline used.

What's best for you is best for us!


We invite you to call Sarah or Gwen at 1-800-762-4216 to request the full brochure. The brochure will include Important Traveler Information (and answers to most questions) and a Reservation Form. We can send the brochure through the Postal Service or as a PDF attachment. If you would like to receive a PDF, probably the best way to keep the message from going into a SPAM filter is to send a message to sarah@serioustraveler.com. If you are already on our mailing list, no need to complete the entire brochure request form.



© 2018 Travel Concepts International, Inc. CST 2005743-40

Travel Concepts International, Inc.
Cultural Tours to Better Understand the World and Its People

5500 Bucks Bar Road • Placerville, CA 95667 U.S.A. • Voicemail/Telephone/Fax 1-530-621-3007
Voicemail/Tollfree in U.S.A. 1-800-762-4216
wen@SeriousTraveler.com • Web site www.SeriousTraveler.com