24 Day Silk Road Departing Bishkek

1 Sept 2022

Trip price: $8,370

Deposit $1,200

Please note: We have a Tashkent to Bishkek version (same trip, but in reverse) that will run in May 2023.

Each ‘Stan’ is special and unique, with distinct languages, cultural traditions and landscapes. You’ll be blown away. Add to that the magic of the Silk Road history and you’ve really got an adventure.

Our concept is simple – a small gang of like-minded women seeing the sights, cities, villages, deserts, and mountains worth seeing – and avoiding the tourist traps.

We’ll also make time to stop and just take it all in, and you’ll enjoy the freedom to enjoy things your way.

Special Note – this trip is for genuine adventurers only. This trip does go way off the beaten path; there will be moments where you’ll be miles away from comfortable Western infrastructure. If you bring an explorer spirit, you’ll love it.

Highlights

Kyrgyzstan: Multiple hikes through jaw-dropping mountains scenery

Taijikistan: Cook a feast with Tajik women villagers before eating and dancing

Kazakhstan: Explore the city of Almaty and its rich heritage

Uzbekistan: Take in the highlights of the Silk Road and learn the history & stories

Trip Details

Price

$8,470 AUD (twin share)

  • $1,500 AUD deposit.
  • 2 week cooling off period applies.
  • Lifetime Deposit. If you need to cancel, your deposit is transferable to other trips.
  • Twin Share: we’ll match you with a roomie if you’re travelling solo.
  • Private supplement available: $1,662 AUD

Trip length

24 days, 24 nights


Dates

Starts: Bishkek, 01 September 2022

Finishes: Tashkent, 24 September 2022

Please enquire for 2023 dates.


Meeting point

Hotel Navat, Bishkek


Ending point

Hotel Inspira, Tashkent


Group size

Maximum 12


Participation requirements

Please see our “Is this trip right for you?” section to see the participation requirements


Included

  • Airport transfers
  • Transportation: All trains, private vehicles
  • Almaty-Dushanbe flight
  • English speaking Trip Leader
  • 24 breakfasts, 23 lunches, 21 dinners
  • All listed activities and entrance fees, and accommodation

Not included

  • Visa fees – although we will help you organise them.
  • International flights
  • Travel Insurance – This must be obtained in order to join a Patch Adventures trip
  • Additional nights
  • Tips & Gratuities: Please bring the equivalent of $240 AUD for our guide & driver. (We know that tipping is not part of the Australian way of life, but it has become a de rigeur part of travel.)

Our accommodation

Every step of the way, we’ve sought out fun, unique accommodation wherever possible. We’ve also got a few stops in Western-style hotels for you to refresh and regroup for the next adventure.

You’ll sleep in:

  • a Kyrgyz yurt camp
  • a Tajik community guesthouse
  • a comfortable 4 star hotel in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

The majority of the accommodation – especially in Uzbekistan – is simple, comfortable 3 star hotels. In all cases we’ve worked hard to find the right balance of comfort and keeping the price reasonable. Just remember that when you get off the tourist trail, that means there isn’t much in the way of actual tourist infrastructure.

We think that’s a good thing, but it’s not without its drawbacks. The ‘best’ place in some of these towns can have its faults. Just come prepared!

Why Choose This Tour?

See the biggest highlights of the Silk Road and get a feel for what it was like to travel this route centuries ago

One trip leader for all countries, with local guides who speak the language in each destination!

Lots of chances to get under the tourist layer and meet real people, have genuine interactions, and eat traditional local food

Click the tabs to find out more

Itinerary

DAY 1: BISHKEK

All amazing adventures begin somewhere. For you, that’s Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The best way to arrive is to fly via Dubai; no matter when you arrive, you’ll be met at the airport by a welcoming face who will drive you to your accommodation. Meet the group in the hotel before heading for lunch, followed by a gentle walking tour of Bishkek city. The group welcome dinner will be in one of our favourite local restaurants.

Accommodation: Hotel Navat, Bishkek (or similar)
Included: Lunch, Dinner

DAY 2: KYRGYZ COUNTRYSIDE

If you want to ‘do’ Kyrgyzstan, you get out of the city as soon as possible to explore the beautiful landscapes and wonderful culture. Straight away, you’ll be interacting with history, as the group stops at Burana Tower, the last remnant of the historic Silk Road city of Balasagun.

From there, onto the mountain scenery this country is famous for. The valley of Chon Kemin is wild and beautiful and you’ll arrive here at lunchtime, where the group will be staying the night in a simple guesthouse. Activities may include a local horse ride and exploring the nearby village. 

Before dinner time, we learn how boorsok (deep fried bread, a speciality of Kyrgyzstan) is made and will taste it for dinner.

Accommodation: Kemin Guesthouse (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: LAKE SONG KUL

After breakfast, we start our ascent towards the high altitude (3016m) Lake Song Kul. 

The lake is not very far from Chon Kemin, but due to bad road conditions, it will still be a quite long and bumpy ride to the lake (c. 5 hours), which is where nomads pass their summer on the “jailoo” (summer pasture) with their animals. 

We will arrive in time for lunch, which will be served in the yurt camp. From there, you’ll have free time in the afternoon to go on a walk to the shore or optionally horse ride and observe nomadic life. Our local guide will be on hand to translate your questions. 

Later, sleep in a yurt camp on the lake side (where else?) as you find out what nomadic living is all about. Note: the camp is very simple, and not all mod cons will be available, but that’s part of the fun.

Accommodation: Yurt Camp
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: FELT CARPETS

The nomadic steppe culture of Kyrgyzstan is both fascinating and memorable, so a lazy morning is the perfect way to start. Take the time to walk alongside the lake or interact with the nomadic Kyrgyz staying nearby.

After lunch, we will continue our trip to Kochkor.

Kochkor is now home to artisans who specialise in traditional Kyrgyz art, and who revive the traditions of the region and make sustainable souvenirs. This afternoon is a special treat as we meet a local women’s cooperative who craft artisanal Kyrgyz ‘Shyrdak’ felt carpets. Learn how they’re made; you can even try making your own to take home (no added cost)!

Accommodation: Nomad Hotel (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: ISSYK KUL

Issyk Kul is the second largest mountain lake in the world, and that’s where you’re headed tonight. 

But first, a stop at the village of Kyzyl-Tuu, a yurt-making hub! Over a tasty lunch, a local yurt builder family will share some of their secrets with us.

The afternoon has a few surprises in store as you explore the beautiful Kyrgyz countryside on the way to the lake, where the group will stay in another Yurt Camp. This Yurt camp has a few more mod cons, with a hot shower available.

By now, it’s day 5 and you’ll be fully in the rhythm of the Kyrgyz countryside. The hustle and bustle of the West will feel like a different universe as you contemplate the spectacular countryside, miles away from any distraction.

Accommodation: Tamga Yurt Camp
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6: JETY ORGUZ

Transfer to Karakol. En route we will take a diversion into the side valley of Jety Oguz, famous for its two red rock formations called “Seven Bulls” and “The Broken Heart”. You will see these rocks and our guide will tell you the legends behind their interesting names. 

Karakol is the fourth last city in Kyrgyzstan. Here, we will have lunch and a  sightseeing tour of the town’s most interesting sights. 

These include the wooden Russian Orthodox Church, which has been standing since 1869. Dinner tonight is with a Uighur family. This is the last full day of the trip in Kyrgyzstan. Tomorrow, Kazakhstan awaits!

Accommodation: Green Yard Hotel (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: WELCOME TO KAZAKHSTAN

This morning, the group will head directly to the Kazakh border. Kazakhstan is the largest country by area of the Silk Road, and while it has a reputation for broad open spaces, you’ll start in the picturesque mountain region of the South East.

The Kolsay Lake region is one of the most beautiful in all Kazakhstan, with beautiful fir forests and lakes. By this time, you’ll have run out of adjectives to describe the scenery of these last days. 

Saty is the name of the village where you will stay before continuing on. The hotel for tonight is brand new and reflects the investment coming into the Silk Road.

Accommodation: Hotel Kolsay Grand (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 8: CHARYN CANYON

After a morning of exploring, the group will head out again, with a stop at the Charyn Canyon, pictured above (remind you of anything?) This will make for a great lunch stop as you walk down to the river (3km) for a picnic, before getting back on the road.

It’s a lot of driving – 9 hours total – so there are no plans for tonight besides dinner and a deep sleep.

Dinner in the city.

Accommodation: Hotel Kazzhol (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: ALMATY

Almaty is the cultural and business capital of Kazakhstan. In the morning, we’ll take a tour of the city, visiting Panfilov Park and the unique Zenkov Cathedral (pictured above). This is a more relaxed day and this afternoon you’ll get to meet a local artistic guide who will give you a hands-on demonstration of Kazakh quilt-making.

In each country, we will have a local expert guide in addition to our trip leader. This means that every step of the way, you’ll have someone with you who can translate any of your questions and help you understand the local culture more deeply.

Accommodation: Hotel Kazzhol (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10: ALMATY

There’s been a lot happening so far in this trip, so today is a slower day to check in with family back home, do some washing and get your bearings.

In the morning, an optional activity: visit a local mountain resort to see the local views and explore on foot the marvellous mountains of the Trans-Ili-Atau.

In the afternoon you have some free time to explore the city on your own or relax at the hotel. Your guide will be available and happy to suggest places to go/ things to see or do, such as visiting Kok Tobe Hill or prominent examples of Soviet architecture. 

This is the last day in Kazakhstan – a necessarily quick stop in order to fully enjoy the rest of the trip.

Accommodation: Hotel Kazzhol (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 11: DUSHANBE

We enter Tajikistan this morning via plane (flight included). A country that has been described as ‘mountains upon mountains upon mountains’, you won’t forget it quickly! 

Dushanbe, the capital, is a treasure of a city with just 800,000 people and a relaxed pace. A local expert guide will join the group to visit the National Museum of Antiquities, Rudaki Park and a few other sights on a city tour.

Accommodation: Hotel Atlas (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 12: NAVRYZ PALACE

Navruz Palace was conceived of as a spectacular tea house, but the owners got carried away and ended up with a monument to total excess. Described by one person as ‘opulence gone wild’, it is now the Presidential Palace of Tajikistan. 

The photo above does not do it justice. Amongst a few stops, that’s the highlight for the morning. You’ll have free time in the afternoon, so take a chance to rest and replenish your batteries in our relaxing hotel accommodation. Tomorrow you’re going back on the road for more exploration – this time of the wondrous Tajik mountains, with a chance to meet some locals and enjoy Tajik hospitality.

Accommodation: Hotel Atlas (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 13: ROAD TRIP

Road trip day today, with over 7 hours on the road!

The drive itself is a major highlight as we wind our way through the rugged valleys and mountains of Tajikistan. On the way, we’ll stop at Iskanderkul Lake (named for Alexander the Great) for a lunch stop and waterfall visit, before continuing on to Penjikant. Its name translates as “the city of five villages” and is located on the lush Zeravshan river valley. 

Dating from the 5th century, it was once a thriving regional hub on the Great Silk Road and we’ll get some time to check it out.

Penjikant is not a major tourism hub, so the hotel tonight is quite basic, but enough for a restful night.

Accommodation: Hotel Penjikan Plaza (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 14: TAJIK CULTURE

Today is a lot of fun! 

You’ll kick things off with a visit to the local market of Penjikent before driving a bumpy 2-3 hour drive to the Seven Lakes of the Shing Mountain Valley. A guesthouse in the lakeside village of Noffin is our home tonight. 

We’ll arrive early, explore on foot or unwind with a swim if weather permits. Tonight, we’re going to prepare a big feast together – all hands on deck with some local villagers. Eat your handiwork while we enjoy a night of Tajik music and laughter.

Accommodation: Local Guesthouse
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 15: SARAZM 

Say a reluctant goodbye to Noffin as we drive up to the 6th lake for a hike. Prepare your eyes for more lovely views! Then, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sarazm (pictured above) is simple, highly historic, and worth the stop. 

That’s it for Tajikistan as the group rolls into Uzbekistan, our 4th Stan and by far the longest visit of the trip.

Majestic Samarkand welcomes you! Uzbekistan is where the magic of Silk Road history is found in abundance and we’ve organised ample time to enjoy it.

We’ll go for a relaxed walk to drink in the afternoon atmosphere before dining at a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Hotel Registan Saroy (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 16: SAMARKAND

Samarkand is one of the most popular sites of the Silk Road. Conquered by both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan (amongst others), this key trading post is dripping with history.

Registan Square is the focal point of ancient Samarkand, framed by three beautiful madrassas (religious schools) – Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tillya Kori. Today will be full of exploration of the most important local sites, accompanied by your local expert guide.

Dinner is a highlight as we join the family of Farida Apa, a local primary school teacher. She’ll teach the group how to make the local dish ‘Plov’ before we eat with her family and enjoy the evening with them.

Back in the city once more, Registan Square is resplendent in the evening and we’ll go to bed with hearts and bellies content.

Accommodation: Hotel Registan Saroy (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 17: MYSTERY DAY

At Patch, we like to think that not every detail needs to be listed in an itinerary. 

That’s why today is going to be a mystery day. 

Yes, there’ll be exploration of Samarkand. And yes, you’ll meet some locals, and try some local food, too. That’s all you need to know, for now!

We finish the day with a high speed train to Bukhara. You’ll get 3 nights here. These two cities are the crown jewel of the Silk Road and this extended stay is the best way to do it.

Accommodation: Hotel Registan Saroy (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 18: BUKHARA

Bukhara is another jewel on the Silk Road trade route.

This morning, we’ll visit famous sights such as the Samanid Mausoleum (one of the most important monuments in Central Asia) and the Bolo Hauz Mosque, before stopping to have tea and lunch at a local tea-house. In the evening we’ll meet with Makshuma Niyazova, a local historian and archaeologist who received her PhD in 2007. During a short walk and over dinner, she’ll explain the rituals and history of this ancient Silk Road city.

Accommodation: Hotel Devon (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 19:  BUKHARA

The Ark of Bukhara awaits you this morning. It’s a citadel which has been a symbol of power for more than a millennium. The Poikalon complex, pictured above, is today’s centrepiece. Despite its religious origins, the highest minaret is nicknamed the ‘Tower of Death.’ See if you can figure out why! (Hint: it’s a long way down.) 

After lunch, we’ll visit a famous 6th generation embroidery artist before free time to explore on foot. Dinner will be in the private room of a restaurant, where a local musical group will give us a special treat of song and dance.

MEALS INCLUDEDBreakfast, Lunch, Dinner
ACCOMMODATION: Hotel Devon (or similar)

DAY 20: KHIVA

Drive through the Kyzylkum desert to Khiva, with a lunch stop on the way. 

This 5 hour journey is a relaxed way to zoom through the Uzbek countryside before arriving in the early evening to our destination.

Note: The major cities of the Silk Road – Samarkand, Bukhara and to a lesser extent Khiva are very much discovered. The Silk Road is quite popular! We’ll do our best to time our visits to avoid crowds but just be aware that we’re not going to be the only show in these towns.

Accommodation: Hotel Zarafshan (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 21: KHIVA

Khiva is a UNESCO destination and a favourite of many Silk Road travellers. Smaller in scale, with just 80,000 people, it has an exceptional atmosphere (despite its history – it was a local slave market hub). This is a reminder that the Silk Road may be magical today, but it hides many skeletons in its shadows.

You’ll love this place; a labyrinth of alleyways and blue mosaics.

Accommodation: Hotel Zarafshan (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 22: TASHKENT

The second last day of the trip. Your journey is almost over, and there is one final city: Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. This morning, you’ll fly there and once settled in, the group will head to the craftsmen section of the city to meet a family of ceramics experts and see their process of making the beautiful ceramics that Uzbekistan is famous for. Then the chance will come to have a walk through the centre of the city, which is the largest of Central Asia.

The final hotel of the trip will be one of the most comfortable – Hotel Inspira.

Accommodation: Hotel Inspira (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 23: TASHKENT

Tashkent has a different vibe to most Central Asian cities, due to a huge earthquake in 1966. The city was rebuilt in the Soviet style as a result, designed to be a reflection of the best of Soviet town planning and architecture.

Not all buildings were ruined in the quake; some did survive and the group will visit some highlights today, before taking a ride on the famous Tashkent Metro – one of the most beautiful in the world. If you thought metro stations had to be dirty and boring, well, the Uzbeks would like to have a word with you!

The afternoon will be free for you to do some shopping, perhaps take a spa, or for you to do one final walk.

And then it will be time for a farewell dinner, where the group will reminisce over a memorable trip.

Accommodation: Hotel Inspira (or similar)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 24: SAY GOODBYE

Kyrgyz yurts. Kazakh steppes. Tajik mountains. Uzbek history. You’ve lived it for yourself and now have dozens of stories to tell. You will have witnessed  each country’s  precious culture, rich history and unique heritage.

And whenever anyone mentions the Silk Road, you’ll be able to say… ‘I’ve been there!’

Transfer to the airport is included.

Hiking & Fitness

Fitness

You’ll need a reasonable fitness level to participate in this trip, regardless of whether to choose to hike.

If you can walk for 4-5 hours – ie 10-14km – at a moderate pace on undulating terrain, you’ll be fine. All activities are optional, meaning that if you don’t feel like it, you can skip it but it will be impossible to enjoy this trip if you’re not able to do a walking tour that lasts for a full afternoon, for example. (better to be honest!)

The longest hiking day involves 5.5 hours of walking. It’s not a race, though, and we’ll take as long as needed. If you’re not confident with your fitness, we’d recommend doing training hikes in your local area so you come to this trip ready to rock!

Frequently Asked Questions
This is the most frequently asked question we get!

Nearly everyone is in their 50s and 60s, with some people above and below (but of course, everyone is welcome!)

Most Patchies come alone and are matched with a room-mate. Remember, you don’t need to pay for a single supplement if you come solo. We will place you with a similarly-aged roommate.

The typical Patchie has travelled a LOT, is a well-seasoned adventurer, and is not easily thrown by small things. However, many Patchies tell us that this is their first ever group tour. Many of our guests have avoided tours to this point as they’re not attracted to being herded around in large groups.

Oh, and one last thing:
Patchies are warm, generous, and kind. We knew it would be like this, but we weren’t expecting it to be *quite* like this. We’re so blessed as a business to have the customers we do; we consider ourselves to be some of the luckiest people in the world.

Bookings have a 14 day cool-off period, where booked 110 days in advance.

Deposits are non-refundable but are transferable to other trips without penalty, right up until the start day of the trip.

Final payment is due 95 days before. Please refer to our terms and conditions for full cancellation policies.

You can pay with Card (fees apply) or with Bank Deposit. Note: prior to the payment of your full balance, the final price may change if there is variation in the AUD:USD exchange rate. Please refer to the full terms and conditions.

Airfares are not included. We recommend Flight Centre!

Yes, there are two available. If you come by yourself, you will be matched with a roommate. Booking a private/single supplement is not necessary unless you want a private room.

Don’t try to bring local money. If you want to bring cash, don’t bring AUD; USD is preferred.

Our guide will assist you to change money while on the ground. In all major cities, there are ATMs where you can easily take money out! The exceptions is Tajikistan, but you’ll have ample opportunity to get cash before entering.

We’ll regularly communicate with you to let you know when you’re headed into an area without much money available.

 

Private transport, specifically designed for Central Asia-like conditions, will be our primary mode of travel.

They are modern, spacious, comfortable, air-conditioned.

Our hand-picked local drivers are safe, experienced, and friendly.

There’s no need to wear hijab, but we do encourage you be a bit more conservative in general. Our typical recommendation is to cover shoulders and knees. Tajikistan is more conservative than the other countries. You’ll be provided with a headscarf if you need one.

Feel free to bring your bathers, as there will be limited opportunities to be swim.

Some days do involve long stretches of driving and you need to be the kind of person who enjoys road trips. Any such necessary long drives are offset by photo stops, picnic lunches, roadside pitstops, tea/coffee breaks, and of course seeing points of interest, leg-stretching walks.

Our vehicles are comfortable, well-maintained, and not prone to breaking down.

You’re visiting the Stans at the perfect time, with warm days and cool evenings. The potential for days over 30 is real, however, so be ready with layers. Rain showers are not uncommon; please come prepared.

On the long driving days, it’s recommended to wear blouses with long sleeves and pants for your comfort. For cool mornings and evenings, we recommend you bring at least one warm jacket or sweater, and a light sweater.

Comfortable hiking shoes are fine, no need for boots. Please be ready to dress conservatively in general but on hiking days, dress how you please.

Fixed Line Internet & Wi-Fi Internet access will be available in nearly all hotels. However, in Kyrgyzstan, it’ll be restricted to larger towns and villages which you will have the opportunity to pass through every few days. In the countryside, you’ll have little access. If you must stay in reach, speak with your guide about getting a local sim card.

YES! We can accommodate vegetarian, vegan and gluten free diets no problems, or any variation of the above. Just let us know in advance. Note: this food is often very simple and may get repetitive. We cannot cater for those with severe nut allergies. Any other medical conditions get in touch.

We recommend flying through Dubai. If you join the Iran trip, you’ll need to organise flights to Tehran.

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