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30th March, 2020

Discovering Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

Discover the beauty of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on our inspiring tour: From Steppe to Mountains.

At Saga we’re always looking for new places that will appeal to our adventurous, well travelled customers – places that are culturally and scenically interesting, as well as off the usual tourist trail. That's why this tour of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan fits the bill.

Central Asia is surprisingly mid-haul. On the map it looks like a long way away, but flying to Kazakhstan is the same as flying to Cairo, so it’s much more accessible than you might, at first, think. What could be more rewarding than visiting a little known destination that has only relatively recently opened her doors to travellers; where archaeological treasures are being discovered all the time?

You'll start the tour by travelling to the south-east corner of the country where the Silk Route came through the Tian Shen mountains, and you'll go to the old capital of Almaty with its colourful markets and Russian churches.

From here you’ll visit Kazakh ethno village and learn about the fascinating age-old traditions and culture of the Kazakh people. Enjoy a tour of the city, see a theatrical performance and ride the cable car to see amazing views of the city below.

This tour doesn't just focus on the urban landscapes, but has also been designed to reveal the natural beauty of Kazakhstan. Visit the mighty Charyn Canyon within the Charyn State National Park and enjoy a jeep safari. This awe-inspiring national park has been liken to the Grand Canyon in the USA; and for good reason. Here you'll see impressive red sedimentary rock formations on a grand scale.

Cross the border and head to Karakol next, and visit the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, which sits under the Tian Shen mountains and is dubbed the Switzerland of Central Asia. The mountains are snow capped, with rushing rivers and streams, deep forests and lakes. Circumnavigate the second-largest Alpine lake in the world, Lake Issyk-Kul, which reflects the mountains sparkling in the background. See the strange petroglyphs carved into the rocks that are hundreds of years old; balbal rocks which are headstones marking ancient warriors or kings' graves.

The scenery here is simply mesmerising as the vast flat steppe stretches to the mountains rising up in the distance.

These countries don’t have a nomadic population anymore, but there is a summer pasture farming tradition that lives on. You'll find yurts pitched up in the mountains, and families will live there all summer with their horses, so you definitely get an insight into how people live. It’s fantastic to see.

The wild flowers in this part of the world are extraordinary and you can see wild geraniums, hollyhocks and tulips. In fact the Japanese go in groups in the spring just to see the wild tulips, as they originated here and they are spectacular. It is said that the mountains, such as Tian Shen which means 'Heavenly mountains', are the very soul of Kyrgyzstan.

From Bishkek you cross back into Kazakhstan and travel to Shymkent, one of the country's most modern and dynamic cities. Visit the Archaeological Museum, the Green Market and the Museum of Political Repression, which tells the fascinating story of Soviet oppression and commemorates the first decade of the country's  independence.

You'll also get a chance to visit the ancient site of the Oasis of Otrar, with the remains of its medieval city and 14th-century Arystan Bab Mausoleum, as well as the UNESCO-protected Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yawawi.

Visiting both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan together makes this tour unforgettable, a must for the adventurous at heart who want to visit a lesser-known destination.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.