Drive / Rest day
11 / 2
Sealed / Dirt
55% / 45%
2,500 km / 1,560 mi
Kyrgyzstan: The ultimate adventure destination, drive through a landscape of towering snow-capped mountains, lush alpine valleys, glaciers and high-altitude lakes
Kyrgyzstan offers a landscape of towering snow-capped mountains, lush alpine valleys, glaciers and high-altitude lakes, it is the ultimate adventurers’ destination and experiencing it in a 4wd allows us to get up close and personal. It is a nation of incredible untouched natural beauty; of red rock canyons dissected by glacial rivers and some of the finest remote mountain driving in the world. This region featured prominently on the legendary Silk Road Route and getting to the Tash Rabat Caravanserai is some of the finest scenery you will ever see. We stay in yurts atop lonely remote Jailoo’s (summer pastures) or scenically located high altitude lakes and drive lofty mountain passes to be greeted by our effervescent homestay hosts in remote villages, Kyrgyzstan is waiting to be discovered and offers a unique opportunity to visit somewhere that hasn’t been overrun with tourists, yet.
Dates and Pricing
Joining Day 1: Your Bishkek airport transfer will take you directly to our joining hotel, ready for the start tomorrow. Today you will meet your crew for your tour briefing and welcome dinner.
Day 2: We take delivery of our 4wds. Leaving the bright lights of the city behind we drive to the magnificent Burana Tower, an 11th Century minaret that was spared from the ravages of Chinggis Khan's armies, making it one of the oldest structures in Central Asia. We continue onto the astounding Chong Kemin National Park, a stunning park of rivers, gorges and forests located close to the Kazakhstan border before driving south to the shores of the mighty Issyk Kol (lake).
Day 3: The beautiful Issyk Kol is the second largest alpine lake in the world and bordered to the south by the lofty snow-capped Tien Shan Mountains, this region is postcard perfect. We visit a wonderful field of petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata, dating back to 1500 BC, before driving along the shoreline of Issyk Kol with distant views of the Tien Shan Mountains. We will enjoy a special section as we venture into the Semenov Gorge, a landscape of exceptional beauty with the glacially fed Aksuu River dissecting the gorge.
We drive around the eastern edge of the lake where, reputedly, the Black Plague of the 13th century had its origins, before arriving at Karakol, our base for the next few nights
Day 4: Today we explore the tracks on the western side of Karakol. We shall witness a traditional eagle hunting demonstration before exploring the red rock canyonlands including the beautiful Jeti Orghuz rock formations that lies at the head of a breathtaking alpine valley that tumbles down from the Central Tien Shan Mountains. We will enjoy a “feast” in a local yurt camp before returning to Karakol, allowing us time to explore this town. Today’s 4wd action is thrilling and scenery beyond apt description.
Day 5: Driving east toward the mighty Celestial Mountains, we are amongst giant 7,000 m / 23,000 ft snow-capped peaks that form part of the Chinese border. We will cross the lofty Chong Ashuu (Pass) through a barren landscape of high-altitude desert, before descending into the wild green Sary Jaz Valley with breathtaking views of the Celestial Mountains, and returning to Karakol. Todays drive is simply breathtaking.
Day 6: Turning west we drive along the southern shoreline of Isskyl Kol with the Tien Shan, that forms the Chinese border, in the close distance. Our overnight stop is in Naryn, a former stop on the ancient Silk Road and spectacularly located in the shadow of Naryn Too that forms part of the Tien Shan or Celestial Mountains as they are known to the Chinese.
Day 7: It’s a relatively short drive today being a mix of paved and dirt tracks as we venture south to one of the finest remaining examples of Silk Road Caravanserais, Tash Rabat. Driving the narrow valley toward Tash Rabat is utterly breathtaking, we are following the ancient Silk Road, with a lush green landscape wedged between two valley walls, dissected by a milky river that rushes past our yurt camp. We spend the remainder of the day exploring Tash Rabat and its surrounds. We spend a night here and have dinner in a large yurt, it's wonderful stuff!
Day 8: Dragging ourselves away from Tash Rabat we turn north and cross a number of 3,000 m / 10,000 ft passes including the wonderful Moldo Ashuu (pass) that has an exciting series of dirt switchbacks with amazing views of the distant valley we just ascended from. From Moldo Ashuu (pass) we remain at 3,000 m / 10,000 ft until we reach the beautiful Song Kol Lake where we enjoy a second night at a yurt camp with an epic view of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Day 9: From Song Kol we descend somewhat and drive into remote Central Kyrgyzstan. We spend the day crossing mountain passes and driving remote tracks before arriving at the old mining town of Kazarman, that is closed off for the majority of the year due to snow. We stay overnight at a homestay run by the effervescent Baktygul, the dinner Baktygul and her daughter put on is amazing considering the towns remote location and limited supplies.
Day 10: Leaving Kazarman it’s only a stone’s throw to our next destination but it will take us a large part of the day as we drive amongst the valleys and mountains of the region. Our destination, Arslanbob, is home to the world’s last remaining ancient walnut groves and is scenically located under the Babash Ata Mountain Range. This village is unique in Kyrgyzstan as it's home to the mostly Uzbek people. Tonight, we have a homestay with an Uzbek family and enjoy a traditional Uzbek meal.
Day 11: Descending from Arslanbob we hit the main Osh – Bishkek Highway that hugs the border with Uzbekistan. Turning off the highway we reach the UNESCO listed Sary Chelek Biosphere Reserve mid-afternoon allowing us time to explore this stunningly beautiful region of lakes and forested mountains. We will spend two nights in the village of Arkit at the gates to the nature reserve.
Day 12: Often referred to as the most beautiful place in Kyrgyzstan, and that’s really saying something, we spend a full day exploring the lakes around Sary Chelek and take a boat trip out onto the lake affording us amazing views of the 4,000 m peaks of the Chatkal Range that form part of the Western Tien Shan Mountains
Day 13: We make our way through this epic landscape back to the highway, and into an incredibly barren landscape that winds and twists its way to Toktogul. We get wonderful views of the incredible azure-coloured waters of Toktogul Reservoir before arriving at Chychkan Gorge where we spend a night at a lodge with a remarkable balcony that hangs out over the raging Chychkan River, just below!
Day 14: Continuing north we cross our last significant pass of the trip, the 3,500 m / 11,500 ft Too Ashuu before descending into the capital of Bishkek. We will enjoy our final dinner where we can reminisce on what has been an extraordinary 4WD adventure to a remote part of the world rarely visited by the tourist hordes
Departure Day: Spend a couple more days in Bishkek or fly home, the choice is yours.
- Airport Transfers
- Rental of 4WD (if self-drive option has been requested)
- Fuel & tolls (if self-drive option has been requested)
- 14 nights’ accommodation in yurt camps, homestays & hotels
- 14 breakfasts
- 12 lunches
- 12 Dinners
- Services of Compass Expeditions leader and support staff
- Access to Compass Expeditions App / Chock full of tour info, route maps & what to expect
- Pre-departure material
- Access to satellite phone, pay per minute
- Compass Expeditions tour shirt
- Entrances to all attractions & excursions mentioned in the itinerary
- Restricted border area permits
- International Flights
- Visas (if required)
- Personal Health/Travel Insurance
- Tips and gratuities
All accommodation is in twin, double or family share, if you would like a single room there will be a single supplement:
US$ 1,500.00. Please note that you will be required to share bathrooms on this trip while in the yurt camps.
55% of this tour is on pavement, some sections of pavement can be severely potholed, narrow and have tall rough shoulders. Road signage is rudimentary at best and non-existent, at worst. Some roads are very mountainous with some switchbacks while other roads, particularly in the Ferghana Valley and around Bishkek can be busy.
45% of this tour is on dirt roads, some of these tracks ascend / descend mountain passes via hairpin bends . Some sections can be corrugated and rocky, have washouts, and limited sections are narrow with unprotected drop-offs. While other sections can have wandering stock and occasionally locals or children walking on the tracks.
Tour Start: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Tour End: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
It's summer in Kyrgyzstan, the only time a lot of passes are open. In the mountains (the majority of the trip) expect temps in the mid to high 20° Celsius / 70° Fahrenheit but to drop considerably once the sun sets. Around Lake Karakol and the Ferghana Valley is can be very hot, up to 35° Celsius / 95° Fahrenheit during the day cooling to a pleasant 18 Celsius / mid 60s Fahrenheit in the evenings. Little to no rain should be expected but of course this can change quickly in the mountains.
- All drivers must have a valid driver's license and at least two years driving experience.
- It is a requirement that all travelers have appropriate insurance for this type of expedition.
- Our 4WDs are insured and a damage excess of US$ 300.
2,500 km / 1,560 mi
Sealed / Dirt
55% / 45%
14 nights accommodation.
Our accommodation ranges from small family run yurt camps and homestays through to 4-star hotels.
A flexible attitude is needed as standards are not always what we are accustomed to.
All accommodation is on a twin, double or family share basis. If you are traveling alone we will pair you up with another solo traveler. However, if you prefer single accommodation a single supplement is available: US$ 1500.00
Yurt camps will have shared bathroom facilities.
- On every day of the tour, we include breakfast: 14 Breakfasts
- On mentioned travel days we provide a picnic lunch that we prepare ourselves form our mobile kitchen or at a local restaurant: 12 Lunches
- We include mentioned dinners in reliable restaurants and yurt camps we have used many times before: 12 Dinners
4 Wheel Drives
Toyota Land Cruiser
Seating Capacity on our tour: 4 (1 driver & 3 passengers)
Now celebrating over 70 years, the Toyota Land Cruiser has become an iconic 4WD selling over 10 million worldwide. These vehicles set the benchmark for durability, ruggedness, reliability and flexibility. They are perfectly suited for the terrain encountered on this tour.
Nissan Patrol Y61
Seating Capacity on our tour: 4 (1 driver & 3 passengers)
Celebrating over 70 years, the Nissan Patrol has long lived in the land cruisers shadow, however with it's incredible off road racing pedigree, this vehicle is more than capable of taking on the terrain encountered on this tour.
The Kyrgyzstan trip is absolutely amazing! Simply awesome!
Accidents happen, luggage is lost and tour or flight cancellations can occur, so it is our policy that all participants of Compass Expeditions tours have an appropriate level of travel insurance to cover the unforeseen. This is not only compulsory when joining our tours, but it makes sense.
If choosing your own insurance – for motorcycle tours it is crucial the insurance policy you choose will offer a policy for riding a motorcycle OVER 250cc (including our bikes). This is a critical point to ensure when purchasing a policy.
Our experienced In-house travel team are happy to help with getting you the right insurance for your tour and for any other travel you might be doing before or after. Contact our in-house travel team.