KYRGYZSTAN & UZBEKISTAN: Silk Road Photography Adventure
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Cost is per person, double occupancy from ()
4 - 8 Participants
8 spaces available
PRIVATE TOUR OPTION
This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.
Highlights of KYRGYZSTAN & UZBEKISTAN: Silk Road Photography Adventure
Description of KYRGYZSTAN & UZBEKISTAN: Silk Road Photography Adventure
Kyrgyzstan is located in the central part of Central Asia and represents one of the most exciting mountain areas of our planet, the Central Tien-Shan Mountains, located on the northern flanks of the Himalaya mountain range. Some of its mountains reach over 7000 meters (Pobeda 7439m) and are among the highest in the world. During this trip, we will visit this country’s most fantastic nature reserves, coming across many dazzling plants and other wildlife. This trip is assured for incredible mountain scenery, overwhelming flora & fauna, splendid birds, and large numbers of butterflies… So many fantastic opportunities for photography!
On this epic journey, you will have the support of an experienced wildlife and landscape photographer, who will teach and guide everyone on their level of performance. On the end of the trip, you’ll have an improved set of tools with a direct result in your pictures. In the field, he will coach each person to gain extra techniques or improve his/here’s approach to a subject. If you are a real ‘beginner’, you go home with a set of pictures, you would not have dreamed about, and the more advanced photographers will notice that their level is either being deepened or broadened. In both cases, your photo book for this trip will surprise you and your acquaintances!
For the non-photographers, this is a trip you will keep with you for the rest of your life. There is so much to see and discover: beautiful scenery filled with gorgeous flowers, attractive birds, bright butterflies and exquisite dragonflies – all in combination with an intriguing nomad culture. On the moments that the photographers take more time for their best shot, there will be an alternative program available.
Uzbekistan is a country steeped in ancient history. In ancient times it was a vibrant region of splendid cities and cultures based along the Great Silk Route to China – a true crossroads between east and west. The country is steeped in fabled historical sites in Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara where ancient civilisations have travelled and fought over possession of central Asia for thousands of years. Superbly intact and incredibly beautiful, extravagant ancient architecture is everywhere in our midst. There is also a short-list of exceptional birds to be found. Several species at the western edge of their range in Asia such as Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Long-tailed Shrike, Rufous-naped Tit and Pied Bushchat mix with local specialities such as Pygmy Cormorant, White-tailed Lapwing, Ménétriés’s Warbler, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Hume’s Lark, Yellow-breasted Tit, Persian Nuthatch, Finsch’s and Variable Wheatears, White-throated Robin, Eastern Orphean Warbler and Clamorous Reed-Warbler. At the top of the “want-list” is the enigmatic and curious Pander’s Ground Jay, easily found in the stony deserts of Kizzylkum.
European travelers have been enjoying these stable countries and their fantastic birds and history ever since they gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The best sites are well-established, and there is an excellent network of local guides.
Length of Tour
OVERNIGHT FLIGHTS FROM USA (depart at least one day prior to start date of tour, September 19)
Day 1: ARRIVAL IN BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN
To Bishkek Clients depart from home (one day prior) towards the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek. Clients need to be in the hotel by 4:00 PM on Day 1 for our orientation meeting with your leaders and a meet and greet with your fellow participants.
NOTE: If you like to arrive earlier, we will gladly help with additional hotel bookings.
Day 2: ALA ARCHA MACRO PHOTOGRPHY
After an early morning breakfast, we’ll drive towards the splendid Ala-Archa National Park, located only 40km south of Bishkek. Today we’ll enjoy a field workshop in macro photography. The green valley of Ala-Archa is full of meadows and streams harboring a great diversity of butterflies, dragonflies and other insects, giving us opportunities for a lot of macro photography. The evening before the workshop, your leader will hold a presentation on macro photography to discuss topics such as depth of field, equipment and perspectives.
In this spectacular park, large coniferous trees make suitable habitat for many birds, too, such as Greenish Warbler, Hume’s Warbler, Rufous-naped Tit and Azure Tits. Along the wild streaming river, we go after the most beautiful songster of the region, the Blue Whistling Thrush! Butterflies include Mountain Apollo, Banded Apollo, Clouded Apollo, three of the seven species of Apollo we can encounter in the park. In the evening, we’ll return to our comfortable hotel and discuss our results while enjoying a cold drink and a delicious dinner.
Day 3: DRIVE TO KARAKOL
We start today with a long drive further east towards the largest city in eastern Kyrgyzstan, located close to the border with China. We arrive in this former Russian military outpost, now called Karakol, in the early evening.
Today we will have our first looks over the Issyk Kol Lake. Issyk Kol is the second largest saline lake in the world, and snowcapped mountains beautifully surround it. The lake never freezes, hence its name ‘hot lake’ in the Kyrgyz language.
Before reaching the lake, we stop in some fascinating dry mountains which are perfect for some landscape photography as they contrast heavily with the lush vegetation of the nearby fast-flowing river. In Balykchy, we meet local vendors selling dried fish, showcased beautifully on wooden racks. In the early evening, we arrive in a fantastic guesthouse in Karakol, which will be our home for the coming three nights.
Day 4: HON ASHUU
Today we drive up to great heights with an excursion to Chon Ashuu pass which is the highest pass we visit during this tour in Kyrgyzstan. With a dazzling 3822 meters, we go way past the tree line and look for a unique set of flora and fauna. On the way up we drive through meadows full of Veratrum lobelianum, blue Polemonium caucasicum, purple-blue Campanula glomerata, wine-red Aquilegia atrovinosa. The nearby wild river holds both White-bellied and Brown Dipper. Lammergeyers are patrolling the sky.
The lush meadows are home to one of the strangest waders of the world; the elusive Ibisbill. The higher we go, the more increasingly abundant we come across Papaver croceum and Geranium collinum. Eversmann’s Redstart together with Himalayan- and Brown Accentor are quite common up here while the gorgeous White-browed Tit Warbler needs some more time to be found, just like his colorful friend the Güldenstädt’s Redstart! Alongside this spectacular wildlife, the landscape is for sure the star of the day! In the evening, we return to our lovely guesthouse in Karakol, where we enjoy another flavorful dinner.
Day 5: YETI OGUZ
We start our day with a short drive towards the site of Yeti Oguz. The name derives from the rock formation’s resemblance to seven bulls and a legend about a khan’s (a Central Asian Lord) unfaithful wife! This unique geological formation of sheer cliffs is composed of tertiary red conglomerates. The rock formation is a well-known landmark in Kyrgyzstan and is a national symbol.
In the nearby meadows, we find stands of Dictamnus albus, Codonopsis clematidea as well as Leontipodium fedtschenkoana and Polygala hybrid. Further, into the park, we see Central Asian Marbled Whites fluttering by, and Blue-capped Redstarts are actively foraging along with some common Greenish Warblers. We return to our hotel in Karakol, where a satisfying meal awaits us.
Day 6: DRIVE TO SON KOL
In the morning we have our last exploration around Karakol, then say our goodbyes to our hosts and set sails for our first looks upon yet another gorgeous Central Asian lake, the Son Kol Lake. On our way to Son Kol, we visit an exceptionally picturesque place called Fairy Tale Canyon, which consists of convoluted multicoloured clay hills and inclined strata. The birdlife here is abundant too, with ‘phoenicuroides’ Black Redstart, Mongolian Desert Finch and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush to name a few of the species we might come across.
Son Kol is heaven on earth but the drive up to this high grassland plateau, located on 3016m, is maybe even just as spectacular! On the grasslands Steppe Horned Larks together with Skylarks are common, some rocky formations hold good numbers of cute White-winged Snowfinches and both Yellow- billed and Red-billed Chough are patrolling the sky. In the late afternoon, we arrive at the lake where we overnight in a traditional yurt. These felt made tents were the portable dwellings of the Central Asian nomads in the times when Genghis Khan’s armies roamed the steppes.
In the evening we will discuss landscape photography in preparation for the next day.
Day 7: SON KOL
Landscape photography today should offer spectacular opportunities. We wake up today surrounded by birds and gorgeous flowers in bloom in one of the most intriguing landscapes of Central Asia, or all of Asia for that matter. We will also find ourselves surrounded by large amounts of ‘calcarata’ Citrine Wagtails, a black-backed form of this stunning looking bird, which forage between grazing yaks.
We will place ourselves on a stunning spot with beautiful scenery just before sunrise. After this early morning exercise, we will get some breakfast and go back in the fields to shoot some more images of the stunning scenery. The surroundings give us so many opportunities to improve our skills and go back home with a set of brilliant images of Kyrgyzstan.
Day 8: SON KOL to BISHKEK
Son-Kol to Bishkek. Today will be mainly a transfer day back, as we retrace our steps and leave Son Kol behind us to return to the capital Bishkek. During the drive, we get familiar once more with the common lowland species such as Rose-coloured Starlings, European Rollers and Lesser Grey Shrikes. We arrive in the evening in Bishkek where the pool will welcome us for a nice refreshing dive. We prepare for our flight the next day to Uzbekistan.
Day 9: BISHKEK TO TASHKENT
Depending on the available flight schedule, we depart from Bishkek Manas airport for the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. In the afternoon, we explore the city with a local guide followed by a traditional shashlik dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants of this social capital.
Day 10: TASHKENT TO SAMARKAND
After a hearty breakfast, we will head for Samarkand. En route, we will hopefully have the localised Variable Wheatear staked out for us in addition to a nesting colony of White Storks. We should arrive in time for some preliminary exploration of this fabulous city.
Day 11: SAMARKAND
Today many wonders are in store for us, with a day based in and around the ancient city of Samarkand. We will commence with an early morning start, driving out of the town to rocky, scrub and bush-covered hills of the Takhtakaracha Pass lying between Samarkand and Zarafshan, where Tamerlane roamed in centuries past. High on the wanted list will be White-throated Robin along with Eastern Orphean Warbler and the obscure Hume’s Lark. Also, here are Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Turkestan and Yellow-breasted Tits, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher and White-capped Bunting. Back in time for lunch, we will wander from our hotel into the quiet, small ancient city area to explore its historical treasures. The massive Bibi Khanum mosque (once the largest in Central Asia), The Registan, Timur’s Mausoleum, the Street of Tombs and the local bazaar present a stunning and memorable “visual overload” of exquisitely elaborate tiled, painted and carved buildings.
Day 12: SAMARKAND TO BUKHARA
We can opt for an early start to nearby wetlands on the outskirts of Samarkand for such specialities as White-crowned Penduline Tit, or spend more time immersing ourselves in the historical delights of Samarkand. Later in the morning, we continue our journey along the Silk Road to Bukhara (also known locally as Buxora). Formerly one of the most important trading cities anywhere in Central Asia, there is a vibrant and colourful history and an overwhelming number of historical sites of interest. The turquoise-blue domes and towering minarets of Bukhara provide a magnificent backdrop to our stay here. At the same time, the markets and covered bazaars are bustling, a great place to barter for a vast range of very inexpensive souvenirs such as jewelry, spices and the famous Bukhara rugs. We plan enough time to explore this beautiful city.
September 29, Day 14: Bukhara “So much to do – so little time”! We will have an early start to spend much of the morning exploring close-by wetlands, which surround the oasis city of Bukhara. These oases can be extremely attractive to a wealth of water and marsh-loving species, and we hope for plenty of Pygmy Cormorants, Dalmatian Pelicans and Glossy Ibis. An abundance of herons and egrets, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater plus perhaps scarcer finds such as Marbled Duck, while elegant White-tailed Lapwings are easily found. The extensive reed beds, marshy and dry scrub cover is home to many additional smaller species of interest: Menetries’s Warbler, Clamorous and Eurasian Reed Warblers, Rufous-tailed Bush-Robin, Pied Bushchat and Long-tailed Shrike; (the latter two at the furthest west of their Asiatic range). Returning to the city, by late morning, we will be able to spend more time discovering the historical delights of Bukhara. The Ark (the fortified citadel of the Emir within the immense city walls), the Bolo-Hauz Mosque, the 10th century Ismail Samani Mausoleum and the Char Minar with its four elaborately tiled minarets.
September 30, Day 15: Bukhara to Tashkent. Today’s birding will be perhaps one of the most memorable? A very early start must is made into the Kizil-kum desert, where we expect to arrive just after dawn. This extraordinary region is home to one of the most sought-after of all the birds that occur in Central Asia – the legendary Turkestan (Pander’s) Ground Jay. They are best located in the cool of the early morning when they are regularly found along the roadside. We will return to Bukhara for lunch, followed by further opportunities to take in some last sights of Bukhara, including the historic town centre with its surrounding old madrassahs, the Kalyan Minaret – a 150-foot-tall tower built in the 12th century, and also the Miri-Arab Madrasa and Trade Domes. In the evening we will take a bullet-train from Bukhara arriving back in Tashkent in time for dinner.
October 01, Day 16: Chimgan Hills. We plan to spend our final day in the Chimgan Hills. These lush green hills will provide a perfect ending to our fantastic trip to Central Asia. Even on our last days we still will be able to show you some gorgeous little gems. Both Yellow-breasted Azure Tit and Rufous-naped Tit are the main attraction for this region, and we will do more than our bests to show you these birds. Overhead we might see European and Oriental honey- buzzards. After a lovely final day, we return to Tashkent for a grand dinner.
October 02, Day 17: Tashkent to home. After a splendid holiday in Central Asia, it is time to depart home. We say goodbye on the Astana Airport from where everybody flies home.
** The tour schedule depends closely on internal flights, which may change from the itinerary listed. If so, the itinerary will be altered, with all of the unique regions still being visited.
Cost is per person, based upon double occupancy, from (Airport code .
This trip ends in same as arrival city (Airport code ).
If a single hotel room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of will be assessed.
NOTE: For boat-based tours, see pricing options for single cabins. Single cabin cost includes the single hotel cost above.
If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.
A $1,000 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.
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For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.
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NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.
This trip includes standard hotels.
Activity Level Rating: 3 (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)
Although walking will be somewhat limited, we will have many days at higher altitudes.
Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.
Detailed Trip Information
Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.
Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.
As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.
Passport & Visa
US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.
Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.
The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.