The coast, villages and countryside of the Eastern Algarve and then explore the treasures of this most westerly corner of Europe.
Experience the best of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan along the Silk Road.
What does this mean?
Tour codes: 42450
Full and half day walks at a moderate pace over hilly terrain. Half day walks will probably involve about 3 hours of walking, with full day walks having around 5 hours. Expect ascents and descents of up to 600m. Some days of this holiday will be dedicated solely to sightseeing (or include an element of sightseeing). To enhance your experience, a knowledgeable local guide will accompany your small group for part (or the majority) of the holiday.
The Silk Road and the history of trade between China and Europe have come into focus recently but there is still a unique air of mystery about the route and the countries it passed through. On this holiday we explore the historic significance of the Silk Road away from the honeypots along with the beautiful countryside, mountains and people that make up one to the more extreme culturally experiences to be found.
We start in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to explore the city and also the Tian Shan mountains which rise above the city. We spend a day exploring the Ala Archa National Park. We will walk under mountains reaching up to nearly 5,000m. We drive through the mountains over 3,000m passes to reach Son Kul lake where we stay in yurts and enjoy the hospitality of local shepherds.
Further south we stop to walk in the hills around Arslanbob, home of the largest natural walnut forest in the world. Then to Osh in the fertile Fergana valley. Osh was an important stop over on the Silk Road and maintains much of its former grandeur.
Crossing the border into Tajikistan we visit the historic cities of Khujand and Penjikent. We also walk to the ‘Seven Lakes’ in the mountains above Penjikent. Finally, we arrive in Dushanbe, the capital city, with time to explore one of the lesser known of the world’s capital cities.
Click the button below for a detailed Holiday Information Sheet containing all the particulars about this trip.
NOTE: Itineraries and Holiday Information Sheets can vary by a specific date chosen
Itinerary & Travel
Whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the outlined itinerary and advertised programme, local conditions can change due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. This may mean that routes and timings need to be amended or the order of days may change, sometimes at short notice.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we may unfortunately need to withdraw a tour that is currently confirmed to operate and we therefore reserve the right to cancel your booking. We would always do our utmost to give you plenty of notice should we have to do this. Selected elements of this tour, including local attractions and restaurants, may change at late notice. Please ensure you have valid insurance cover before you travel.
We depart the UK for Istanbul to connect with our overnight flight to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
We arrive into Bishkek Airport in the early hours and transfer to our hotel for early check-in. Our rooms will be available on arrival. Nothing is planned for the morning, so we have time to rest until lunch. In the afternoon we take a walking tour of Bishkek. Ala-Too Square, the main square of the country is a highlight. The square serves as a place for state events and celebrations and includes monuments, an open-air picture gallery, the famous Oak Park, marble government buildings and theatres and Victory Square. Tonight, we eat dinner in a local restaurant. Dinner will include a folklore show.
Today we drive out about 45mins from Bishkek to Ala-Archa National Park. The park is in the Tian Shan Mountains. The name refers to the local juniper bushes which Kyrgyz people believe to have mystical properties. We will walk in the Ala Archa Gorge with mountains rising to well over 4000m at the head of the gorge. The highest mountain in the park, Semanova Peak rises to 4895m. The head of the valley is dominated by the Aksai Glacier which feeds the Ala- Archa river. We will take a picnic lunch from the hotel and have a picnic at a suitable place on the walk. Snow leopards have recently been photographed in the park but as a day hiker the chances of encountering any are minimal.
Today we leave Bishkek behind and drive out to Son Kul Lake. To be strictly accurate 'Kul' is the Kyrgyz word for 'lake' so the lake should be referred to as Son Kul. It is a long drive of about 180 miles and will take all day with stops. The roads are unpaved for the latter part of the journey. The scenery en route is spectacular as we cross over Tyua-Ashuu Pass (3200 m) and Kara-Keche Pass (3413 m). Son-Kul Lake (3016 m) is equally impressive surrounded by broad summer pastures dotted with yurts and grazing cattle. Shepherds drive the livestock up into the mountains. Here they set up set up yurt camps where they live during the summer months. There is no permanent accommodation here and the lake is inaccessible during the winter. We will arrive to enjoy traditional Kyrgyz shepherd fare for dinner and learn about the traditional lifestyle of Kyrgyz nomads.
Today is a more relaxed day at the lake. In the morning we will hike to the mountains to see the amazing panorama of the lake and surrounding high ground. We should be back at the camp early afternoon where, if you so choose, there will be a chance to get involved in cooking of the traditional dinner we will enjoy tonight.
Today we start early to return to Bishkek via a different but equally spectacular route through the Tien-Shan mountains crossing the Kalmak Ashu Pass (3430 m). On the way we will stop in the village of Kochkor, famous for national felt handicrafts. We will visit a local workshop and learn something of the manufacturing of traditional carpets. We can also visit the 12th century minaret, Burana tower, now part of a museum complex. We will arrive back in Bishkek later in the afternoon.
After breakfast we transfer to the airport to take a morning flight to Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second city, in the Fergana Valley. From here we transfer to the mountain village of Arslanbob. On the way we pass through the historic town of Uzgen where we will stop to visit. Arslanbob is a mountain village surrounded by the largest naturally grown walnut forest in the world. We should arrive in plenty of time to walk to the imaginatively name ‘First Waterfall’ which is venerated as a holy place by the locals. We will stay in homestays in the village.
Today we hike out to the equally imaginatively named ‘Second Waterfall’ located 5 miles from the town. We will take a boxed lunch and enjoy a picnic on the way.
We leave Arslanbob and drive the 2½ hrs. back to Osh. Osh, the oldest city in Kyrgyzstan, is situated at a crossroad of the Silk Road at the eastern end of the Fergana Valley. Evidence of the 3,000-year existence of the city can be ascertained from the rock drawings and inscriptions found on the northern slope of the four peaked Suleiman Mountain. Known as Salomon’s throne, it is located in the centre of Osh and is a unique historical and architectural monument. The site is still a popular place for local Muslims, with stairs leading up to the highest peak with a small mosque originally built in 1510. It is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. We will visit bright Osh Bazaar and Historical Museum. In the evening we will enjoy a cookery class preparing the famous Uzbek dish, Pilaf, with an Uzbek family.
Leaving Osh, we travel south west to cross the Tajik border. After border formalities we continue to the city of Khujand to arrive for a late lunch. This afternoon we have a sightseeing tour of the city. Highlights include the National Market “Panjshanbe Bazar”, the Central Mosque and Madrassa, Sheikh Muslihiddin Mausoleum and Timurmallik Museum.
After breakfast we drive to Penjikent, stopping in the ancient city of Istaravshan, one of the most ancient and beautiful cities in Tajikistan. Besides a number of mosques, museums and madrassas, it is surrounded by a region containing rich archaeological treasures including the city of Shahristan. After arrival in Istaravshan we visit Mug-Tepa, the old cultural and economic centre, Mausoleum Khazrati Shokh, Kok-Cumbaz Mosque and Bazar “Guli surkh”. Later we continue to Penjikent where we will visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sarazm and Rudaki Museum.
Today we take a bumpy ride into the mountains (2 h driving), to explore the valley of the “Seven Lakes”. It is not far from Penjikent, but due to the less than ideal road conditions the trip takes a full day. Near the fourth lake, there is a guesthouse. Those who like can stay there after lunch and relax. We will drive further up the valley until the sixth lake. From there it’s a short and easy walk of about 2 hours (both ways) to the seventh and highest lake, Hazorchashma. Later we drive back down to Penjikent.
Today after breakfast we drive to Iskanderkul Lake, one of the most exquisite lakes in the former Soviet Union nations, nestled in the Fan Mountains at 2,200m. The route is a delightful one, past rugged mountains scenery. At the shore of the lake we will have lunch and hardier souls might like to swim. We then take a short hike to a nearby waterfall (2h both way), also called the Niagara Falls of the Fan Mountains. We continue driving for another 2 hours to reach Dushanbe for dinner.
After breakfast we have a full day sightseeing in Dushanbe. We spend the morning in the Museum of Antiquities, the highlight of the museum is the great Buddha in Nirvana measuring 13m in length. We will have lunch at a local teahouse and then we drive to Hissar Fortress. We also visit the famous market “Mehrgon” and the Central Square with the second highest flagpole in the world. We have our final dinner of the holiday at a local restaurant.
After breakfast we transfer to Dushanbe Airport for our flight back to the UK via Istanbul.
Departure dates for your selected tour
12th Jun 2021 - 26th Jun 2021 (14 Nights)
10th Jul 2021 - 24th Jul 2021 (14 Nights)
21st Aug 2021 - 4th Sep 2021 (14 Nights)
Below is the accommodation featured on this holiday across all departure dates. Please refer to the Itinerary for more detail about each night's accommodation for each departure date.
Set on a leafy street, the Hotel Garden is a short drive from the centre of Bishkek. Rooms provide free Wi-Fi, flatscreen TV, minifridges and tea & coffee making facilities. A breakfast buffet is served in the airy restaurant/bar. A rooftop terrace features mountain views. There’s a spa area with a hot tub and a sauna, plus a gym.
Yurts are traditional tents used by the nomadic shepherds on the Steppe of Central Asia. They consist of a round wooden frame covered in animal skins. We will stay in 4 man yurt with 4 single beds. There are no curtains between beds. Yurts are provided with bed linen, toilet paper, soap but we recommend clients bring a towel. The hot water shower and toilet block is separate. Please note single ladies will not be required to share a yurt with men. We intend to have yurts for couples, single men and single ladies but this will be flexible. If you have any concerns about the accommodation please contact us!
We will stay in local house whilst in Arslanbob. We will have twin and single rooms as requested but these will not be en suite. There are shared toilet and shower facilities in each house. Depending on the size of the group we may be split between 2-4 houses. These will all be close together in the centre of the village. Clients should bring a towel as we cannot guarantee towels will be provided with the accommodation. Kyrgyz people seem to favour brighter colours in decorating bedrooms, please be prepared.
Set on a main road, the Hotel Sunrise is a short distance from Osh centre. The unpretentious rooms come with Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV and minifridges. Breakfast is buffet style. There's also a restaurant and an outdoor pool.
Khujand Grand Hotel is located downtown Khujand, near the Kamoli Khujandi park and Opera Ballet Theatre. Guests can enjoy the Omar Khayyam Restaurant which also offers national, Georgian and European cuisine. Rooms offer air-conditioned and flat-screen TV.
The Hotel Umariyon is located close to the centre of Penjikent. Rooms offer free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TV with satellite channels.
Hotel Atlas is close the centre of the city in Dushanbe. Every room offers free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TV. For your comfort, you will find bathrobes, slippers and free toiletries. There is an indoor pool.
This Grade 4 moderate holiday includes full and half day walks at a moderate pace over hilly terrain and is likely to include an element of sightseeing as well. Half day walking will probably include about 3 hours of walking, with full days having around 5 hours. Expect ascents and descents of up to about 600m. See the 'Proposed Itinerary' section for more information.
Local Transport Costs
All local transport costs in conjunction with the advertised activity programme are included in the holiday cost. There may be occasions where additional visits or excursions are added to enrich your experience, these will be paid for locally by you if you choose to participate. Local transport can be a mix of private hire coaches, taxis, local buses and ferries depending on the itinerary.
A range of local excursions and activities may be available to book at your destination through a local operator. We have no involvement in such activities or excursions which are not run, supervised or controlled in any way by us. Your contract will be with the local activity supplier and we accept no responsibility for their actions or omissions.
When budgeting for your holiday, you will need to consider drinks, any meals not included in the holiday price, non-included entrance fees, optional excursions you may choose to participate in locally and any souvenirs or additional services such as laundry. A general guideline for lunches and drinks is £10-£20 per person per day.
Although entirely at your own discretion, tipping is an important aspect of tourism and hospitality life and expectations are fairly high. In order to simplify tipping, we strongly recommend that you allow your leader to take care of making sure tips are given to hotel and restaurant staff & to local guides and drivers. This will be done using some funds provided by us together with, if you wish, a contribution from you, which he/she will collect during the holiday.
Your tour leader makes the world of difference to your holiday and ours are as passionate about discovering the world on foot as you are. They're resourceful, organised and widely travelled. They will handle all the local administration and other needs that might arise to ensure that you don't have to worry about planning your days and you can enjoy your holiday. Although leading group holidays, they won't forget that every group is made up of individuals. Each tour leader has their own individual style, talents and professional backgrounds and all are trained, qualified, experienced and dedicated to making your holiday as enjoyable, interesting and inspiring as possible.
Leader's Evening Briefing
Each evening, your tour leader will discuss with you the programme for the following day. This will be your opportunity to discuss the details and ensure the planned activities suit your walking ability. If you have concerns on clothing or equipment, this can be discussed then also. If you do not wish to join the organised group programme, please let the leader know.
Booking Your Own Travel Arrangements?
If you wish to organise your own flights from a non-UK or provincial airport or travel by rail or car to your holiday destination, 'land only' reductions are often available. Please contact us for details.
Before finalising any independent travel arrangements, please check with us first - especially if doing so 12 weeks or more before your intended date of travel. If you do intend to join your holiday locally please do tell us at least 14 weeks in advance.
If you are joining and leaving your holiday overseas we assume, unless you advise us otherwise, that you will join and leave the holiday at your hotel.
Although airport transfers are not included for those making their own independent travel arrangements, if you wish to join the group at the overseas airport, depending on your flight arrival time, you may be able to be included on the group's transfer. Please contact us at least 5 weeks before departure for more details.
Please note that your flight must arrive within 30 minutes of the group flight to be able to join the group transfer. We also need your flight number, arrival time and departure point so that the group leader is able to meet up with you.
Luggage Allowance & Travel Documents
For all those booking a flight or rail inclusive holiday, details of your travel arrangements and baggage allowance will be confirmed in your travel documents, sent to you approximately 10 days prior to departure.
Personal Details Check
To ensure that we can accurately administer your holiday arrangements, please confirm that the personal details we hold for you are up to date and that you have provided the information we need to secure your holiday travel and accommodation arrangements. Please check your passport details, date of birth and any other important details necessary for us to properly manage your holiday booking. You can view and update information already provided, and add details not yet asked for, by using the Manage My Booking facility on our website www.ramblersholidays.co.uk, or by calling our Sales and Reservations team on +44 (0)1707 331133. When you receive your booking confirmation please check the details as soon as possible.
General Passport Advice
It is a good idea to carry photocopies of the personal details pages of your passport. Should you lose your passport, this may assist with the issue of replacement documents and your return to your home country.
Passport and visa requirements can change at any time. It is your own responsibility to ensure that you inform yourself from a professionally qualified source on, and comply with, such requirements.
Visa Information for Tajikistan
British nationals require a visa before travel. The Tajik Embassy in London offers an online e-visa service. Tourist visas are valid for a period of up to 45 days. This can be accessed at:
Please note this website performs best using Google Chrome as your web browser.
The application is straightforward. You will need to scan in a copy of the photo page of your passport so please have a scan ready before you start.
Question 3 asked GBAO Permit. This refers to visiting Gorno Badakstan Autonomous Region in Tajikistan which we do not visit. Please tick ‘No’
Leave the ‘Group Indentifer’ Box blank. It is not necessary to fill this in.
Address in Tajikistan. Please use the address of the hotel in Khujand taken from the Holiday Information Sheet.
Payment can be made by credit or debit card and at time of writing costs US$ 50.
Visa Information for Kyrgyzstan
British passport holders do not require a visa to visit Kyrgyzstan. The entrance stamp you receive on arrival is valid for a period of 60 days only. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Kyrgyzstan.
The hotel(s) listed within this document are examples of standard only. Whilst we strive to deliver the hotel(s) listed within this Holiday Information Sheet, there will be times throughout the year when they change. If this occurs, we will advise you as such. From time to time hotels will change near to departure and you will not be advised until after arriving into the destination. We always aim to provide a replacement of similar standard and location, although we cannot guarantee similar facilities such as pool or bar.
This holiday runs on a full board basis with breakfasts, lunch and dinners included in the holiday charge. Meals start with lunch on Day 2 and finish with breakfast on Day 15. Some dinners and lunches will be provided by a local family, meals will be eaten in an area which is an extension of a local’s home and more of a private, intimate restaurant. The hospitality provided is one which you are likely to experience as a guest in someone’s home. They will have the necessary licenses and certificates to trade as a restaurant. Lunches will usually be taken in restaurants or as packed lunches. Please note that only a breakfast will be included on our day of departure. The meals are good, plentiful and interesting throughout the holiday. Some meals will consist of two or three courses, while some will be of the mezze variety and contain various courses (usually include various salads, or soups and bread). Green tea is provided with most meals for no extra charge.
Please note that vegetarian eating is not widespread in Central Asia and some tolerance or patience may be needed at mealtimes. However the provision and quality of vegetarian and vegan food is improving continuously.
Lightweight waterproof walking boots with a good moulded sole (such as Vibram or similar) and a deep tread and which provide ankle support are strongly recommended and may be essential for some walks.
General Kit List
Outdoor activities are always safer and more enjoyable if you are prepared.
If you have not travelled with us before the following list might be of use:
This list is not exhaustive and every walker is different and may have their own preference.
Country Specific Kit
Wildlife and scenery viewing experiences are always improved with binoculars. For seeing a bird in the treetops or picking out some detail on the horizon they are invaluable. If you have a pair, please bring them with you on your holiday. On some holidays it will be appropriate to have them with you all the time. Sometimes you might prefer to avoid carrying the extra weight. Your tour leader will always be happy to advise which days it will be particularly useful to take them.
Travel Documents Checklist
Documents and Information to take with you:
Water To Go
An alternative to bottled water from single-use sealed water bottles is filtered water from a refillable bottle containing its own water filter such as a Water-to-go bottle available from www.watertogo.eu. Just fill up from any water source and save the environment from disposable plastic bottles.
We have negotiated an exclusive 15% discount with our partners Water-to-Go for you as a thank you for helping the environment. Please go to their website at www.watertogo.eu and enter the code RWH17 when ordering. In addition, Water-to-Go will match the discount with a donation to our charity, Heart & Sole, which will allow us to continue to make a difference in the countries you visit on our holidays.
The Map Shop
Maps and guidebooks relating to the areas you will be walking in may be bought before your holiday from The Map Shop at www.themapshop.co.uk
Health requirements can change at any time. It is your own responsibility to ensure that you inform yourself from a professionally qualified source on, and comply with, such requirements at least 6 to 8 weeks before departure. Advice on vaccinations is available from your GP.
Further Travel Advice
For further advice please visit:
You might wish to take a small bottle of antibacterial hand gel with you for times when you're unable to wash your hands.
You must be adequately insured to join our holidays. We do not insist that you insure with us but we require that you are adequately insured for the nature of your holiday. You will be unable to participate in our local walking and other activity programmes without being able to demonstrate that you have valid travel insurance.
Please ensure that as a minimum your travel insurance policy covers you for travel to your holiday destinations (country and geographical region) and for medical expenses, mountain rescue (including helicopter rescue) and emergency repatriation to your home country in the event of illness or injury. Your policy should also provide adequate cover for the activities, included and optional, you are likely to participate in during your holiday.
See our brochure or website for further advice regarding holiday insurance.
Whoever you insure with, please ensure that you take full details, and ideally the policy itself, with you on holiday and provide our tour leader with your insurer's name, the policy number and emergency assistance contact numbers.
Please note that it is very difficult to obtain travel insurance once your holiday arrangements have started.
The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office provides up to date information on security and local laws for travellers, together with current passport and visa information, at www.gov.uk/travelaware. Please take a few minutes to look at the current advice on your planned destination.
Please be aware of what's going on around you, take sensible precautions with your credit cards and passport and avoid displays of wealth such as wearing expensive jewellery or watches. Do not carry more cash on you than you will need for each day, and we recommend that a money belt is used.
We're committed to ethical tourism in all our destinations. Our holidays are designed for you to discover the essence of the country you are visiting. Travelling in small groups not only gives you an up close and personal experience of your destination, but minimises your impact on the immediate environment. We feel that the most important starting point to protect the environment is to be out in it. For more details visit our website.
The Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust
Unlike many tour operators we have our own trust through which RWH Travel’s profits are channelled back into a variety of outdoor, walking-related or environmental conservation projects in the UK. The focus of the Trust’s financial support is Britain’s leading walking charity, The Ramblers, and their role in promoting the benefits and importance of walking to the British public. In addition the Trust welcomes applications for small grants from local organisations in the UK who need support for walking-orientated activities. This includes the establishment of footpaths and bridleways, funding for rebuilding bridges and renovating huts, as well as bursary funding for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for children who could not otherwise afford to do it. Please visit the ‘About Us’ section of our website and click on the Charitable Trust link for more details.
Heart and Sole
We appreciate that we are in a fortunate position to be able to use our profits to help make a difference to people's lives. Heart & Sole is a venture managed by our office staff, whose aim is to reach the heart of the communities in the countries we visit. Through Heart & Sole, we hope to make more of a long term, direct impact to these communities, particularly in less developed countries where even a small amount goes a long way. See our website for more information and details of some of the projects we support.
Please do provide us with a mobile phone contact number. We will only use this to contact you with important information relating to your holiday arrangements.
Do keep your mobile phones switched on and readily available when travelling to the airport or if delayed in transit so that we can contact you with any last minute information relating to your travel arrangements.
As a matter of courtesy, please switch off your mobile phone during walks, or endeavour to minimise its use. Please also try to minimise the use of mobile devices during group meals.
View Dates & Book
Can't find what you're looking for?
Call for help or regional flights on 01707 331133