Kyrgyzstan PhotoVenture Tour 2018

We are very excited to announce the very first NOMADasaurus PhotoVenture Tour to Kyrgyzstan!

Just like our personal travels, this tour of Kyrgyzstan is designed to be a fun, interesting and culturally fascinating experience, with a big focus on outdoor adventures. While the tour is professionally backed by a local, licensed tour operator, it is structured to be more like a small group of good friends exploring a wonderful country together.

The concept of our new NOMADasaurus PhotoVenture Tours is simple – We seek out superb photography opportunities in offbeat locations, and mix our days up with exciting adventures. We have an incredible itinerary, but just like in real travel, things can change due to unforeseen circumstances. Perhaps we’ll come across a local kok boru match, or we encounter a phenomenal sunset and we halt the tour to capture spectacular photos. We’ll be dedicated, enthusiastic, yet also flexible.

So why Kyrgyzstan for our first tour? We’ve been lucky enough to travel to Kyrgyzstan four times since 2015, and it is honestly one of our favourite countries. The scenery, the people, the culture, the adventures, it’s a destination we love dearly, and want you to experience for yourself.

This brand new and personalised 14-day tour will have you exploring the surprisingly cosmopolitan capital city Bishkek before heading towards the second largest freshwater lake in the world, Issyk Kul.

The next stop is Karakol, on the edge of Issyk Kul. Learn about the ancient history of this Silk Road site, learn how to make traditional food from an ethnic minority family and head out onto the lake for a sunset cruise filled with good friends and a drink or three.

You’ll spend three nights in Jyrgalan, which is quickly becoming Central Asia’s adventure hot spot. There you can trek into the celestial mountains, spend a few days horse riding, get your adrenaline pumping with some mountain biking or even just spend your time hanging out with the friendly locals, learning all about their culture. We are the first international tour operator to run tours to Jyrgalan.

Afterwards it’s time to head to the south shore, stopping off at a few of the country’s most geologically unique destinations, then head to your very first yurt camp! Your days will be filled with exciting activities like yurt building and even a demonstration from one of the most famous eagle hunters in the country!

To finish off this amazing trip you will visit the high-alpine lake of Son Kul, renowned as being one of the jewels of Asia. Enjoy an authentic yurt stay with a family and spend your days horse trekking, hiking or relaxing in arguably Kyrgyzstan’s most beautiful location.

For the entire tour you will be transported in two, modern Mercedes Sprinter vans, and your accommodation will be a range of 3-star hotels, family-run guesthouses and traditional yurts. Included meals will be in reputable local restaurants or home-cooked meals with families.

Your tour leaders will be us! Alesha and Jarryd will be joining you for the entire experience, giving photography workshops, answering any questions you might have and sharing their expertise from a decade on the road. We love Kyrgyzstan, and we can’t wait to show it to you!

In addition there will be a certified, experienced Kyrgyz guide who is fluent in English. This will allow you to get an in-depth insight into the local culture, and ask any of the people you meet questions without fear of having words lost in translation.

While the itinerary is filled with exciting activities and cultural interactions, we’ve also left in enough free time so you can pursue your own interests, practice your photography or simply relax in your beautiful surroundings.

This is going to be an incredible adventure to discover the highlights of Kyrgyzstan – an offbeat nation that is truly one of the most sensational travel destinations in the world.

 

  • 1st Tour Dates: 1st-14th August, 2018
  • 2nd Tour Dates: 15th-28th August, 2018
  • Duration: 14 Days
  • Start: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • Finish: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • Maximum Group Size: 14 people
  • Fitness Level: Medium
  • Trip Leaders: Alesha and Jarryd (plus one local guide)
Burana Tower Kyrgyzstan Tour

The Burana Tower – a minaret from the Silk Road, which we will visit during our Kyrgyzstan tour.

2018 Kyrgyzstan PhotoVenture Itinerary

This is the very exciting, custom itinerary that we have put together for our first ever Kyrgyzstan PhotoVenture Tour. We are the first international tour operator to visit the village of Jyrgalan, and have structured the entire itinerary to incorporate the best adventures and photography opportunities in this part of the country.

Legend: B (Breakfast), L (Lunch), D (Dinner), S (Hot Showers), E (Electricity), W (WiFi)

August 1st/15th – Bishkek

Accommodation – 3 Star Hotel

Upon arrival at Manas International Airport in Bishkek you will be met by us in the terminal and transferred to our comfortable, 3-star hotel in the city. As everybody will be arriving at different times, today is a day of leisure. You can choose to relax in the hotel, check out one of the many lovely cafes Bishkek has to offer or visit some of the museums and gallery. There will be our first group meeting at 5pm, followed by a delicious dinner in one of our favourite restaurants in the city.

Meals Included: D

Facilities: S, E, W

August 2nd/16th – Bishkek

Accommodation – 3 Star Hotel

Have a leisurely breakfast in the hotel before enjoying a wonderful walking tour of the city of Bishkek. This will include all the highlights the city has to offer, including the famous Osh Bazaar. The afternoon is free to do whatever you want. There will be a group dinner included tonight.

Meals Included: B, D

Facilities: S, E, W

Optional Activities: Cooking class in Bishkek. Cost: TBD

Bishkek Kyrgyzstan Tour

Bishkek.

August 3rd/17th – Bishkek To Karakol

Accommodation – 3 Star Hotel

After breakfast we jump into our private transport and head towards the growing town of Karakol. En route we will stop off at the 9th century minaret, the Burana Tower, which was an important location during the days of the Silk Road. You will learn about the history and visit the museum before continuing towards the Cholpon Ata Petroglyphs. Discover more about the people that lived in ancient Kyrgyzstan, before driving the rest of the way to Karakol. Lunch in a local restaurant will be provided on the way. A group dinner in Karakol will also be included.

Note – This will be our longest drive day, and may take up to 10 hours including stops. While the road is paved the entire way, it is constantly in a state of disrepair. We appreciate your understanding and patience for this, and we will make adequate plenty of stops along the way to break the journey up.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Facilities: S, W, E

August 4th/18th – Karakol

Accommodation – 3 Star Hotel

After breakfast we have a leisurely morning to recover from the long drive day. For lunch we will be experiencing a traditional cooking class with a Dungan family. The Dungans are a Chinese-Muslim ethnic minority group that fled persecution in their homeland and settled in the valleys around Karakol. After learning about their history and visiting one of their mosques you will be taught how to make ashlanfu, one of their most famous dishes. Then enjoy one of the most amazing feasts you can imagine. The afternoon is free, then we will head off on a sunset cruise on Issyk Kul. Snacks and one drink will be provided, with more available to purchase. Dinner is optional, as many people will still be full after the Dungan meal.

Meals Included: B, L

Optional Activities: Paragliding in Karakol. Cost: TBD

Facilities: S, W, E

Dungan Meal Kyrgyzstan Tour

Enjoying a traditional Dungan meal.

August 5th/19th – Karakol To Jyrgalan

Accommodation – Local Guesthouse

In the morning we will go on a walking tour of Karakol city with a local guide and visit the famous Dungan mosque, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and other highlights of the city. We then finish in the Karakol Livestock Bazaar, which happens every Sunday in the summer. Here you will see local shepherds buying and selling animals such as sheep, goats, cows, buffalo and even camels. It’s a bustling sight and makes for very interesting photography. We will have lunch at a local restaurant before heading to the small village of Jyrgalan for the evening, where a home-cooked meal will be included by our wonderful hosts.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Facilities: S, W, E

August 6th-7th/20th-21st – Jyrgalan

Accommodation – Local Guesthouse

Welcome to Jyrgalan, our favourite place in Kyrgyzstan! You will have two full days to do whatever you like in this amazing little village of less than 1000 people. We are the first international tour operator that is visiting this magical destination, and we couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to the bucolic, welcoming village.

Choose to go on day hikes into the mountains, enjoy horse riding on unique trails or even try your hand at some exhilarating mountain biking. If you would rather spend your time taking things easy, you can take short walks to a shepherd’s summer yurt home for lunch, enjoy the amazing atmosphere in the village or cook food with your host family. For the very adventurous you can choose to spend one night camping in the mountains during a 2-day hike or horse trek.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Facilities: S, W, E (if staying in guesthouse)

Optional Activities: Horse riding, mountain biking, overnight camping (all camping gear can be supplied, as well as pack horses to carry supplies). Cost: TBD

Jyrgalan Kyrgyzstan Tour

Views around Jyrgalan Valley.

August 8th/22nd – Jyrgalan To Bel Tam Yurt Camp

Accommodation – Yurt Camp

We say goodbye to our amazing hosts, drive back to Karakol and onwards to the South Shore of Issyk Kul. After a quick stop in Karakol for a delicious coffee we will make our way to Jeti Oguz, home to the famous ‘7 Bulls’ rock formation, then will continue onto Barskoon Falls for a short hike to see the cascades. We will then visit Skazka Canyon, also known as ‘Fairy Tale Canyon’ for some amazing exploration of the red-rock formations. Lunch will be in the town of Bokonbayevo. In the afternoon we will head to the superbly located Bel Tam Yurt Camp for the evening, right on the edge of Issyk Kul. This will be your very first experience sleeping in a yurt!

Meals Included: B, L, D

Facilities: S, E

Kyrgyzstan Tour Bel Tam Yurt Camp

Bel Tam Yurt Camp.

August 9th/23rd – Bel Tam Yurt Camp

Accommodation – Yurt Camp

We have an incredible day lined up for you! After breakfast head out to the small village of Kyzyl-Tuu for a hands-on demonstration on how to build a yurt. We’ll return to Bel Tam Yurt Camp for lunch, then make our way out for what may be the absolute highlight of your time in Kyrgyzstan – The Salburuun Federation Experience! Watch these elite Kyrgyz sportsmen give a fascinating demonstration on archery, horse riding, and the real crowd pleaser, eagle hunting! We’ll then spend the evening back at Bel Tam Yurt Camp.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Facilities: S, E

Kyrgyzstan Tour Eagle Hunter

A highlight of our trip – a demonstration of eagle hunting by a national champion.

August 10th/24th – Bel Tam To Kochkor

Accommodation: Local Guesthouse

We’ll set off mid-morning towards the town of Kochkor, with a stop to learn all about the amazing ancient tradition of felt making. Discover how these women create items with felt, and even try your hand at making your own master craft. Souvenirs are of course available to purchase. We’ll then head to our guesthouse for the evening, with a free afternoon to enjoy at your leisure. A group dinner is included.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Facilities: S, E, W

Felt Workshop Kyrgyzstan Tour

A visit to a felt workshop.

August 11-12th/25th-26th – Son Kul Lake

Accommodation – Yurt Camp

Today we begin our horse trek to the famous lake of Son Kul. We’ll meet our horse team in the morning and head off into the mountains through epic scenery to reach the shores of this glistening jewel in the alpine. For two nights we’ll be staying with a nomadic family near the edge of the lake. A basic packed lunch will be provided on the way, and a home-cooked meal in the evening. August 12th is a free day to enjoy a splendid hike in the mountains, milk your very own goat or just practice your photography skills. We have timed it so these nights also have a new moon, meaning if the skies are clear we can try to capture some amazing astrophotography.

Meal Included: B, L, D

Facilities: Due to the remote location of Son Kul, no modern facilities are available.

Optional Activities: If you would prefer not to ride a horse to Son Kul you can also drive up with our transport.

August 13th/27th – Son Kul To Bishkek

Accommodation: 3 Star Hotel

Enjoy your last morning in the wild region of Son Kul before returning to Bishkek. The afternoon is free to do whatever you like, such as final souvenir shopping or tasting the last of your amazing Kyrgyz meals (or even check out the growing Kyrgyz microbrewery scene). There will be a final farewell dinner to say goodbye to our amazing group of friends.

Meals Included: B, D

Facilities: S, E, W

August 14th/28th – Depart Bishkek

You will be transferred to the airport in time for your flight home.

Jeti Oguz Kyrgyzstan Tour

Jeti Oguz.

 

What’s Included

  • Accommodation: Twin rooms in 3-star hotels and local guesthouses. Shared space of up to 5 people in yurts.
  • All meals mentioned in itinerary.
  • Transport: Two air-conditioned, modern Mercedes Sprinter vans for all passengers throughout the entire tour.
  • Airport transfers: Pick up and drop-off at the airport for your flight when arriving and departing on the designated dates in this itinerary.
  • All activities included in itinerary.
  • English-speaking, certified and experienced local guide.
  • Photography workshops and advice.
  • Two trip leaders and photography experts (Alesha and Jarryd).
  • Two litres of bottled or filtered water per person, per day.
  • Entrance fees to museums and archeological sites.

What’s Not Included

  • International airfares to and from Bishkek.
  • Travel insurance (mandatory to join our tour). We recommend 1Cover for Australians and New Zealanders, and World Nomads for other nationalities, but please do your own research on travel insurance providers.
  • Any meals or snacks not included in itinerary.
  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Optional activities.
  • Tips for drivers and local guide (Optional)
Kyrgyzstan Tour Yurt Building

Learn how to build a yurt.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a visa to visit Kyrgyzstan?

For many nationalities a 60-day visa waiver program is granted for free when landing in Kyrgyzstan. There is no need for a letter of invitation or to visit your embassy beforehand. Double check your status with this article before committing.

What is the food like in Kyrgyzstan?

Food in Kyrgyzstan is surprisingly hearty and delicious. Noodle dishes and soups are common, as are fried samosas and vegetables. The most common meat is mutton, beef and chicken.

I’m a vegetarian. Will I be ok with the food in Kyrgyzstan?

While most traditional meals are served with meat in Kyrgyzstan, all the places we will be eating at are used to serving tourists and can cater to vegetarians. Please keep in mind that the variety of fresh fruit and vegetables isn’t as plentiful in Central Asia as they are in other parts of the world, but the food will still be delicious.

If you are a vegan you will have a very hard time in Kyrgyzstan, as dairy products are used in the preparation of many dishes. Please seriously consider this before booking your trip.

Is Kyrgyzstan safe?

We are very pleased to say that Kyrgyzstan is one of the safest countries in all of Asia. Crime is low, and petty crime against tourists is very rare. Unlike some of its neighbours, Kyrgyzstan is also relatively free of political and religious turmoil. There is one region of the country that has some issues, but we won’t be travelling anywhere near it. Safety is our number one priority.

What is it like sleeping in a yurt?

The yurts we will be staying in are large, and typically sleep around 4-5 people. Large rugs are laid directly onto the earth, creating the floor. Blankets are then laid on top of each other to form a bed. They are surprisingly comfortable, but you will essentially be sleeping on the floor. If you would like extra cushioning consider bringing a sleeping pad as well, however this shouldn’t be required.

Can I have my own yurt?

While we will be offering a single supplement for all the other accommodation so that one person can have a private room if desired, please keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to secure a yurt to yourself in the destinations we will be visiting. The yurts belong to the families, and they just don’t have enough money to purchase dozens of yurts for extra accommodation. Every effort will be made to allocate as few people to a yurt as possible, but this depends on availability once we arrive. Please be willing to share your yurt with 3 or 4 other people in a worst case scenario.

What is the other accommodation like?

In Bishkek and Karakol you will be staying in comfortable, modern 3-star accommodation with twin share. In Jyrgalan and Kochkor you will be staying in local guesthouses with modern facilities, which have been personally inspected by us or our partners on previous trips.

What will the bathroom facilities be like around the country?

In all of our accommodation western-style toilets will be available, and in all other places besides Son Kul hot water and showers are available. Facilities ‘on the road’ might not be so glamorous, and if you need to use a bathroom in one of the gas stations or restaurants en route you may find they are squat toilets.

Our accommodation in Bel Tam, Son Kul and Kochkor only offers clean, shared bathroom facilities. Please keep this in mind before booking our trip.

Will there be WiFi or phone service?

Bishkek, Karakol and Kochkor will have WiFi, and Jyrgalan has minimal connectivity. 3G and 4G is available around the country, but not in Son Kul or Bel Tam. If you would like to purchase a local SIM card with data our guide can assist with this on one of your first days in Bishkek.

The tour guide, leaders and drivers will have access to phones in case of emergency.

What transport will you have organised for us?

We have organised two modern Mercedes Sprinters with a capacity of 17 people each to transport the group around. This ensures we won’t be overcrowding the vehicles and will have room for luggage. This also allows us to have one van available in case of emergencies.

What is the weather like in August in Kyrgyzstan?

While temperatures around 40 degrees are possible in Bishkek, up in the mountains of Jyrgalan and Son Kul the temperature can drop to below freezing at night. Please bring adequate clothing for any conditions. We will be sending out a complete packing list to confirmed participants on this tour.

Will we be at altitude during this trip?

Yes. The highest altitude we will be reaching on this trip is in Son Kul, which is just over 3000m above sea level. If you choose to do one of the optional treks in Jyrgalan you may reach heights of 3700+m. If you have ever had any issues with altitude sickness before please seek medical advice before booking this tour. If you do experience any altitude sickness during the trip we will immediately take you to lower elevations.

Can I charge my electronics during the tour?

In all of the hotels and guesthouses except for Son Kul and Bel Tam there are electrical outlets to charge your devices. Bel Tam also has limited electricity in some of the yurts and dining area. We recommend bringing a USB power bank to keep your accessories charged.

What is involved with the photography aspect of the tour?

We will be on hand at all times to answer any questions you may have about photography, whether it is about settings, composition, lighting, technical gear, editing, etc. We will also be holding informal workshops throughout the tour such as how to use Adobe Lightroom, how to shoot astrophotography, and more.

Can I take pictures of the people in Kyrgyzstan?

Yes! In general the people in Kyrgyzstan are very friendly and open to having their pictures taken. Usually all it takes is a smile and to ask if you can, and they’ll happily pose for you. In some places like the markets and bazaars the vendors prefer not to be photographed, so always ask before pointing a camera in their face. Our local guide can always assist when communicating with people.

What kind of fitness level is required to join this tour?

While this tour isn’t high-impact, you will need an adequate level of fitness to join. Even if you don’t sign up for any of the optional activities, you will be required to walk over uneven and rocky terrain, and be standing for a few hours at a time. Please ensure you are fit enough to take part in this trip.

If for any reason you feel uncomfortable with some of the adventure activities you can choose not to do them, and other, lighter alternatives will be found for you.

Is there an age limit for this tour?

There is a minimum age of 18 to join this tour. There is no maximum age limit to join, but please keep in mind the fitness levels as specified above.

How much spending money should I bring with me?

ATMs that accept foreign debit cards like Mastercard and Visa are available in Bishkek and Karakol, so you can choose how much spending money you want once you are in the country. As a general rule though USD$200 in addition to any of the optional activities should be plenty for snacks, alcohol and souvenirs for the 14 days.

 

Kyrgyzstan Tour Salbuurun Demonstration

Book your place today!

Tour Cost – USD$1950 Per Person

(Maximum 14 People)

  • A non-refundable deposit of USD$500 is required to secure your position on this tour.
  • The remainder of the cost is required by 1st of June, 2018
  • Single supplement of $200 is also available if you would like private accommodation for one person where available.
  • Payment can be made via PayPal.

As places are limited we will be sending out payment details in order of when the registration forms have been received. The earlier you complete the form, the sooner we will send you the payment information.

Once you receive the payment information you will have 24 hours to pay the deposit before we forward details to the next person in line. For this reason we recommend only completing the registration details once you’re ready to pay the deposit. Thanks very much for your understanding.

Cancellation Policy

If for any reason you need to cancel your position on this tour you will forfeit your deposit (unfortunately we will be using the deposit to pay for accommodation and activities as soon as it is received. We strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance with trip cancellation options.)

If you have already paid in full this is the percentage of refund available:

  • Before 28th February 2018 – 100% of total trip cost (minus deposit)
  • Between 1st March and 31st March 2018 — 70% of total trip cost (minus deposit)
  • Between 1st April and 30th April 2018 – 50% of total trip cost (minus deposit)
  • After 1st May 2018 – No refund available.

If we cancel this tour for any reason, whether it is personal or political, you will receive 100% of your money back, including deposit.

August 1st Tour: SOLD OUT

August 15th Tour: 4 Places Remaining

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