Our main tour of Kazakhstan ends on the morning of Friday, 26 October. You can of course return home at that point or do whatever else you wish.
We are suggesting an interesting and varied post tour option, that you can accept for one, two, or three days. The first day takes us to an area of extraordinary natural beauty in Kazakhstan, and the second day has us traveling on to Kyrgyzstan. The third day has local touring in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan is very much smaller than Kazakhstan (about the same size as South Dakota), and was under Russian and then subsequently Soviet rule from 1876 through to 1991. The native people are generally descended from Russian tribes in the Tuva area (bordering Mongolia) and a nomadic culture remains prevalent. During Soviet times, appreciable Russians moved there, too.
The country has its own language, although Russian remains a second official language. It is landlocked and very much more mountainous than is the case for Kazakhstan, and not nearly as prosperous (GDP per capital about seven times lower), with an economy based on mineral extraction and agriculture, and getting 25% of its GDP from remittances sent home by citizens working abroad.
We mean the country no disrespect when we observe that it is closer to the image of Kazakhstan shown in the Borat movie than is Kazakhstan itself. You’ll definitely notice a very different lifestyle when you cross the border.
Here’s the day-to-day information about our optional post-tour activities.
Day 1 Charyn Canyon (Friday 26 October)
|Our formal tour ends this morning. If you are choosing to stay on, today we’ll experience one of the scenic wonders of Kazakhstan by traveling to the 50 – 60 mile long Charyn Canyon, more than slightly reminiscent of the US Grand Canyon.
This is about four hours from Almaty, and after traveling long stretches of open plains, it comes as a sudden surprise. It is a long day, but most people consider it a very worthwhile experience (TripAdvisor rates it as the number one thing to do in Almaty Province).
We’ll walk a small stretch of the canyon, and see its amazing colors and rock formations. We then return to our Almaty hotel for another night.
Included meals : Breakfast, Lunch
Day 2 Traveling to Bishkek (Saturday 27 October)
|Why not add another ‘stan to your itinerary and today travel from Almaty to neighboring Kyrgyzstan (happily also a country with a liberal no-visa policy for most visitors). It is about a four-hour journey, up, over a mountain pass, and then down the other side and a short distance from the border on to Bishkek. The time of course depends on how long it takes to cross the border.
Our destination for the night is Bishkek, the country’s capital. It has been described as being reminiscent of the Eastern Europe of 30 years ago, except with mobile phones and internet access.
It is certainly true that with the country’s comparative lack of prosperity (unlike Kazakhstan), Bishkek is indeed more or less a museum relic of the former Soviet Union Bloc. Happily, and despite Kyrgyzstan’s poverty and the decay of its infrastructure, Bishkek remains a relatively safe, clean, functional city.
Bishkek is not an old city and possesses no ancient landmarks, but it nonetheless has its own kind of charm, which often arouses nostalgia in people who knew the old Soviet Union. This feeling is greatly enhanced by most of the streets and places retaining their Soviet names.
All in all, expatriates who call Bishkek home generally consider themselves lucky to benefit from its easygoing lifestyle, open-minded spirit, party culture and low-cost of living.
Included meals : Breakfast
Day 3 Bishkek City Tour (Sunday 28 October)
|Although on one of the several historic Silk Road routes (and now slated to be added to China’s new ‘Silk Road’), Bishkek is a relatively modern city, dating to 1826.
After being taken by the Russians in 1862, it was rebuilt in Russian and then Soviet style, and was known as Frunze during its time in the Soviet Union. As a result, there’s a curious mix of Tsarist, Soviet, and modern architecture, and a cosmopolitan feel to the city of not quite one million people.
We’ll enjoy a tour around this city, including a trip to one of the city’s renowned great bazaars – either the Osh or Dordoy Bazaar. These are places where you can buy almost literally everything, from fresh fruit to electronics, from pirated CDs and software to souvenirs. They are chaotic, jumbled, crowded, and teeming with life, character and personality.
Depending on how we are going for time today and yesterday, we will include a visit to the beautiful Ala Archa National Park a short distance south of Bishkek on either Sunday or Monday.
Included meals : Breakfast
Day 4 Extension Ends (Monday 29 October)
|Unless you choose to extend your stay further, our extension ends this morning.
Flying to anywhere from Bishkek is not always easy, and your strategy will of course be influenced by how you first flew to Astana and where you want to go next.
Here is a Google listing of nonstop flights from Bishkek as an idea generator, and some of us may probably take a late night flight on Monday to Almaty, and then a very early Tuesday morning flight from Almaty on to either Frankfurt or Kiev, and then fly on from there as appropriate.
Included meals : Breakfast
Please now click to return to our main main tour itinerary for information about our time in Kazakhstan, or to the Main Triple K Tour Page for more general information and to register your interest in joining the tour.
Please also visit our master tours listing page for a complete listing of all currently scheduled
Travel Insider Tour opportunities.