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Apr 112018
 

Described as the world’s ‘weirdest capital city‘, the futuristic and utopian new capital of Astana was created from nothing and nowhere in the mid 1990s.

This is one of the most exciting tours we’ve yet offered – a twelve-day tour starting in Kiev, Ukraine, then traveling through Kazakhstan, and ending in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan.  The tour is in mid October 2018, with an optional pre-tour adding Chisinau (formerly Kishinev) in Moldova, Tiraspol in ‘a country that doesn’t exist’ and lovely Odesssa in Ukraine beforehand, giving you a total experience in four of the former Soviet Republics plus the non-existent country too.

This page gives you the day by day information about how we’ll spend our time on the main tour in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.  The main page explaining the tour is here.

The approximate path of our tour. Royal blue is by coach, green by air, and brown by train.  Numbers show the number of nights at each stop.

Day 1 – Arrive in Kiev (Thursday 18 October)

Independence Square, where crowds formed for the ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2004 and the more recent revolution in 2014.

The main tour starts today.  Hopefully you’ve been able to add our pre-tour option too, in which case you’ll fly from Odessa up to Kiev at some point today.

If however you’re starting the tour today, welcome to Ukraine!  You’ll probably have taken an overnight flight from North America (if that’s where you’re coming from) and will arrive into Kiev sometime late morning.

After making your way to the hotel, we leave the rest of today free for you either to wander around and get a feeling for the city or to relax after the long flight.

Note :  If not doing the pre-tour, we recommend you consider arriving a day early so as to give you some extra ‘just in case’ time and a chance to be more refreshed for when the tour commences tomorrow morning.

Day 2 – Chernobyl (Friday 19 October)

A now and then contrast of a street in Pripyat

 

Also at Chernobyl, a mysterious huge radio antenna array, possibly part of an ‘over the horizon’ radar network.

 

Today’s an interesting day.  We travel out to Chernobyl, site of the (in)famous nuclear power plant at Pripyat, best known for its meltdown  disaster in April 1986.

As a result of the release of considerable radiation, the entire town of 50,000 people was evacuated at short notice.  Many people further afield, including children even back in Kiev, were also evacuated, and radiation spread in measurable and sometimes substantial quantities across Russia, Belarus, and even up into the Scandinavian countries, too.

These days the radiation levels have subsided, and the area is safe for short visits, but still not considered suitable to permanently resettle there.  We can visit the abandoned town, frozen in time forever as it was 32 years ago, and see the site of the former (now decommissioned) reactor.

If this is of no interest, or if you’re concerned about the remaining background levels of radiation, we can suggest other interesting things to do in and around Kiev instead, of course.  But the chances are you’ll find this a fascinating experience.

This evening we’ll have a welcome dinner back in Kiev where we can all get to know each other better.

Included meals :  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 – Kiev City tour, Overnight to Astana (Saturday 20 October)

A mixture of old and new buildings in Kiev.

Kiev’s Golden Gate, originally built in 1017, and reconstructed in 1982 to commemorate Kiev’s 1500th anniversary.

 This morning we’ll enjoy a city tour of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.  Kiev is a city of almost 3 million people, and the seventh largest in Europe.

Kiev is old, and celebrated its 1500th anniversary in 1982.  It has a fascinating mix of architectural styles – some old buildings, some from the time of Imperial Russia’s grandest glory, Soviet styles (it is fascinating to get your eye in so you can see the difference between Lenin-style, Stalin-style, and Brezhnev-style, as the three main styles are sometimes termed), and now of course, modern style skyscrapers subsequent to Ukraine’s independence in 1991.

We’ll have free time this afternoon for a while, then we’ll be transferred to the airport for our flight to Astana this evening.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Day 4 – Astana Touring (Sunday 21 October)

Part of the buildings for Astana’s World Expo in 2017.

The KazMunayGaz building in Astana

Astana is as amazing at night as it is during the day.

We get into Astana at 4am this morning.  By the time we’ve gone through Customs and Immigration, got our bags, and traveled in to the city it will probably be closer to 6am, and you can decide what you would like to do at that hour – have an early breakfast and a full active day, or enjoy the fact we’ve arranged for early checkin to our hotel rooms and catch up on any sleep you missed on the overnight flight.

We’ll meet up again in the early afternoon, and see the sights of this modern city.  And what incredible sights they are.  Astana is possibly the most modern city in the world, with stunning architecture, open spaces, and uncrowded streets and parks.

We’ll admire the Khan Shatur Entertainment Center (a Norman Foster design), the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, the Bayterek Tower (we’ll go up to the viewing platform to see the city from its vantage point), the enormous Hazret Sultan Mosque, as well as, in pleasant contrast to the modernity, enjoy a peaceful stroll along the banks of the River Ishim.

You can choose from an abundance of excellent restaurants for dinner this evening.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Day 5 – Out of Astana Touring (Monday 22 October)

The Arch of Sorrow on an appropriately somber day at Akhmol

After breakfast this morning, we travel out of Astana to the village of Akhmol and the Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland in Alzhir – a place that tells an interesting story of how women were sent to a gulag here when their husbands were persecuted.

We’ll travel around the settlement and village and remains of the former gulag, and then return back to Astana this afternoon.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Day 6 – Free Morning, Afternoon by Train to Karaganda (Tuesday 23 October)

Another view of Astana.

A typical view of the steppes from the road or rail line

We’ve a free morning in Astana this morning.  There are so many amazing buildings and places to visit, to say nothing of high-end shopping too.  But scratch the surface of this new city, and you’ll also find hints of traditional Kazakh culture.  Maybe search out a new restaurant choice for lunch, and even consider eating some horse meat!

This afternoon we’ll transfer to the train station and take a fast comfortable train for an approx three-hour journey south to Karagandy/Karaganda (both spellings are common).

Karaganda is the country’s fourth largest city (after Almaty, Astana, and Shymkent) and with an interesting history and cultural mix.  One cultural ingredient is probably a surprise – after WW2 Stalin relocated many of the captured German soldiers there such that as much as 70% of the population were native Germans; pressed into service in the region’s coal mines.

Many of these people returned back to Germany after the fall of the Soviet Union.

No coal mines for us!  We’ll transfer to our hotel for the evening after our train arrives.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Day 7 – Karaganda touring, then Overnight Train to Almaty (Wednesday 24 October)

The pleasant city of Karaganda

No, not the porter showing us to our hotel room! An exhibit at the Karlag museum.

Maybe a nightcap in the train’s bar carriage before enjoying your sleep on our train this evening.

This morning we’ll have a walking tour of the city center of Karaganda.  Although considered as a possible alternative to Astana to become the new nation’s capital in the 1990s, the city is totally different to Astana, without the ostentatious gaudiness and self-conscious modernity.

We expect to include a visit to the KarLag Museum, all about the Soviet gulags (where most of the Germans lived – no wonder they rushed to return back to Germany as soon as they could!), and set in the former NKVD/KGB regional headquarters, with well-preserved gulag barracks making up the adjoining village.

We have time to explore more of the city on our own in the afternoon, then after dinner we’ll transfer to the train station and enjoy a special experience – an overnight train journey in modern sleeper compartments on a fast (125 mph) train.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Day 8 – Almaty (Thursday 25 October)

The classic Russian Orthodox Ascension Cathedral in Almaty, built with no nails.

Weather permitting, we’ll take the recently modernized cable car to the 3600 ft summit of Kok Tobe mountain for dinner this evening.

We arrive into Almaty this morning.  Almaty echoes some of the classical Russian architecture of St Petersburg and Moscow, and we’ll enjoy a sightseeing tour around the city.

We’ll even visit a chocolate factory, as well as some of the bazaars, pedestrian precincts, and parks, and a ride on their metro – one of only two metros in central Asia (the other in Tashkent).

To further diversify our travel experiences, we’ll also ride a cable-car up to the top of the Kok Tobe mountain overlooking the city, where we’ll see a statue of the Beatles.  Of course – what else would you expect!  Other activities and amusements are also provided.

We’ll have a group farewell dinner up on the mountainside overlooking the city.  Yes, we know it isn’t the last day, but it seems like a nice spot to have a second shared dinner.

Included meals :  Dinner

Day 9 – Charyn Canyon (Friday 26 October)

Charyn Canyon looks similar to the US Grand Canyon.

Another dramatic landscape in Charyn Canyon.

Yesterday was a fairly urban day, so to compensate, today we go into the beautiful countryside and travel to Charyn Canyon, sometimes called Asia’s answer to the US Grand Canyon, the most notable part of the canyon being 56 miles long and part of Charyn National Park.

Charyn Canyon is a bit over two hours drive from Almaty, and get you very close to the Chinese border.  Like the Grand Canyon, it has been formed by river-caused erosion, in this case, the Charyn River.

This is an interesting tour into the countryside and then through the national park, and we include lunch as part of the day.

Included meals :  Breakfast, Lunch

Day 10 – To Bishkek, Local Touring

When this square in central Bishkek (Ala Too Square) was constructed in 1984, there was a statue of Lenin as its centerpiece.  It has now been replaced with a statue of the Kyrgyz folk hero, Manas.

After breakfast this morning it is time to leave Kazakhstan and go on to Kyrgyzstan.

We’ll make this journey by coach.  It isn’t a great distance, and depending on how long the border crossing takes, we should be in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, in the early afternoon.

That gives us time for an interesting tour around the city, and to contrast it with what we’ve just seen in Almaty.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Day 11 – To Ala Archa National Park and a Birthday (Sunday 28 October)

A scene in the beautiful Ala Archa National Park.

We travel not far out of Bishkek today to visit the beautiful Ala Archa National Park.

We have some time to explore and enjoy the beautiful trails and ambience of this beautiful alpine park, but of course won’t have time to see the entire 75 sq mile expanse, and neither will we ascend to the highest peak (the Korona summit, 16,000 ft high).

It is amazing to realize that this beautiful natural wilderness is less than one hour from Bishkek.

This evening is both our last evening on the tour together and also, coincidentally, a certain someone’s birthday.  You can probably guess who when I indicate that I’d be delighted to buy you a libation this evening to jointly celebrate what I hope was a joyous day for my parents, ummm, ‘many’ years ago.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Day 12 – Tour Ends in Bishkek (Monday 29 October)

When this square in central Bishkek (Ala Too Square) was constructed in 1984, there was a statue of Lenin as its centerpiece.  It has now been replaced with a statue of the Kyrgyz folk hero, Manas.

Our formal tour ends this morning, and you’re now free to either extend your stay any way you wish or to return home again.

Included meals :  Breakfast

We hope you might choose to join us on this varied and memorable experience, this October.  Please click here to return to the Main Quad K Tour Page and to register to participate.

Please also visit our master tours listing page for a complete listing of all currently scheduled
Travel Insider Tour opportunities.

 

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