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Lyuba Tours 2007 Privacy Policy
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including Nawruz and Baikonur

Available tour dates:
20 March - 2 April 2023 (available)
This is Yuri's favourite tour, and for a reason! It retraces some of the places Yuri got to intimately know while working on his Kyrgyz doctorate. And it joins the Nawruz (Persian New Year) celebrations in Bishkek - when people of more than 120 nationalities come and celebrate together on the street!
The tour focuses on the ruins of ancient civilisations, on Soviet utopia, and on Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan's rich tapestry of ethnicities and cultures, while immersing us in glorious Silk Road nature, architecture, history, art and music.
The tour starts in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's green capital. We head east, across the fertile Chui valley, stopping at the remains of Balasagun, an ancient Silk Road city. We spend a night at the historic Aurora Sanatorium on Issyk Kul lake, then make our way to Karakol, a former imperial outpost from the days of the Great Game. We dash to Inylchek, an abandoned Soviet town in the heart of the Tian Shan, the Celestial Mountains. We stop at Tamgaly, a UNESCO Site that contains Central Asia's most stunning petroglyphs. Then we are off to Almaty, Kazakhstan's former capital, where we enjoy colourful modernist and wooden vernacular architecture, bustling bazaars and mineral baths. We catch a short domestic flight to Kyzylorda, and explore Baikonur, the Soviet Union's historic space port, which launched the first man in space. We dash to the shores of the almost dry Aral Sea, and catch a train to Mangystau, a barren peninsula on the Caspian Sea, mostly under sea level. We explore Mangystau's fascinating ancient underground mosques, the rocky Caspian shore, and end the tour in Aktau, capital of Kazakhstan's oil and gas industry.
14 days, 13 nights

BISHKEK/1 night - CHUNKURCHAK/1 night - CHOLPON ATA/1 night - KARAKOL/2 nights -
CHON KEMIN/1 night - ALMATY/2 nights - BAIKONUR/2 nights - NIGHT TRAIN TO MANGYSTAU PENINSULA/1 night - AKTAU/1 night
Day 1
Arrive in Bishkek in the morning. Transfer from airport to Hyatt hotel in central Bishkek. Some time to rest. In the afternoon we will meet for a walk in central Bishkek, having a look at the Fine Arts mu-seum, and further stopping at nearby Oak Park, Parliament, the Lenin statue, the White House (Presiden-tial Palace), the central Ala Too square, and then have a welcome dinner in town, in a fine Kyrgyz restau-rant. Welcome to Kyrgyzstan!

Overnight at Navat Hotel, Bishkek, two nights. (Brunch, dinner)
Day 2
A late breakfast at our hotel. We will then go to the main square of town, to have a look at the Nawruz festivities: this is Kyrgyzstan's largest and most colourful celebration, largest than any other reli-gious or lay holiday. We will have lunch in a restaurant on the main square. Some free time to enjoy the fes-tivities on your own. In the later afternoon we will go to an artist's studio to make our own felt rugs! Asel, the artist, uses silk and felt in her work. It will take us about 90 minutes to do the ala-kiiz (as it's called in Kyrgyz) and then another 90 for her to make it look good!! In the evening we will go out for dinner.

Overnight at Navat Hotel, Bishkek, second night. (Breakfast, lunch)
Day 3
After a late breakfast we head to Bishkek's micro districts to the south of the city, to learn more about the socialist modernist utopia of the 1970s. We will enter a private person's home, drink some fabulous local tea, eat old-style cookies and jam, and then have a walk in the micro district - where kindergarten, shop, canteen, school, and everything required was within a stone's throw from every person's home. We will also see some very interesting communist mosaics and murals. Then we head south, and enter the mighty Tien Shan mountains. We will check in at our ultra comfortable mountain lodge, where we will have lunch. For those interested, let's have a peaceful forest walk, and listen to a Manaschi (reciter of the world's longest oral poem). Or just enjoy the fire in your cabin. Dinner around the fire.

Overnight at Supara, Chunkurchak, one night. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 4
After an early breakfast we are off east, driving through the fertile Chuy valley. Our first stop will be the Burana tower, the sole remain of a once large tenth century trading town along the Silk Road. Burana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will also have a look at some of the road's curious bus shelter designs - these are among the Soviet Union's most interesting (abandoned) bus stops! Then we continue to Issyk Kul, the world's second largest high altitude lake (after Titikaka in South America). Balykchy is a desolate, windswept place, and it never (almost) rains there. We will also stop at an abandoned Soviet amusement park. Then a short drive and we are at the Aurora Sanatorium, once used by the Soviet political elite. We will have our rooms on the last floor, where once very famous Soviet citizens used to take rest. Do not expect luxury at this sanatorium! But expect to be taken back in time, to the era of 1980s socialist chic. The sanatorium's grounds include the best kept garden along the shores of Issyk Kul. Dinner at the sanatorium restau-rant.

Overnight at Aurora Sanatorium, Cholpon Ata, one night (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 5
After a simple but hearty breakfast (expect freshly baked bread, a fried or boiled egg, cheese, jam and tea), we will continue by road to Karakol, a former Russian military outpost from the days of the Great Game. We will stop to have a look at a cemetery, one of the most interesting Kyrgyz spaces, and lunch in a local Balkar village. The Balkars are people from the Caucasus, exiled to this very place in the harsh winter of 1944. In Karakol will check in at our cozy family-owned hotel, have some time to rest, and then head out to have a look at Karakol's sights: the nineteenth century wooden Dungan (Chinese Muslim) mosque, built without nails by Chinese Muslims in the Russian empire, the wooden Russian church from the same period, and some of the town's imperial Russian architecture - from the days of the Great Game. Dinner at a Dun-gan (Chinese-Muslim) home.

Overnight at Green Yard Hotel, Karakol, two nights. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 6
We get up early, have breakfast, and we hop in a convoy of modern 4WDs that will take us close to the border with China. In fact we get so close that we need special border permits to visit. We drive across a 3800m-high pass, which will be covered in snow. For the pass we will switch in vintage 1960s and 70s heavy Soviet army trucks. Then we switch back to our 4WDs and head down to the abandoned town of Inylchek.

Inylchek was once a community of 15,000, but the collapse of the USSR put an end to the ambitious plans to open mines and factories here. Inylchek is one of the most spectacular, eery places you can come across on this planet. It truly feels like the end of the world, or the end of the Soviet Union at least. A short drive be-yond the town, where the road ends, brings us to a lovely open air hot mineral pool - you are welcome to take a dip if you feel like it. We will take our picnic lunch there. The entire valley may look barren, but there is actually a lot of history and heritage in those mountains. Let's explore them together. This is the place where the Soviet Union literally ended. A bit downstream and you end up in China. In the afternoon we will head back across the mountains to Karakol. Dinner at our hotel.

Overnight at Green Yard Hotel, Karakol, second night. (Breakfast, dinner).
Day 7
Let's eat breakfast at our hotel, and then depart to back west, along Issyk Kul's southern shore. Our first stop will be the village of Barskoon, to visit the workshop of a local inventor. He makes yurts using ma-chines he built himself. Let he take us on a curious tour around his workshop! Then Kaji Say, a secret scien-tific outcrop of the Siberian Academy of Sciences. Nearby was located a top secret torpedo testing facility, and a curious closed for the public Soviet Army Chief of Staff sanatorium. The entire shore was beyond limit for ordinary citizens. We will drive to pretty Skazka canyon, where we will take a picnic lunch (if the weather allows). And then we will head to the valley of Chon Kemin, where we will stay at the Ashu guest-house, one of the most charming lodgings in Kyrgyzstan. For those interested, we will have a cooking lesson, and then dinner with what we just cooked.

Overnight at Ashu Guesthouse, Chon Kemin, one night. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 8
After an early breakfast we head to the nearby border checkpoint with Kazakhstan. We cross, and we enter the endless Kazakh steppe. We will stop at Tamgaly, Central Asia's most interesting petroglyph site (is in the UNESCO World Heritage list). Only two hours away from Almaty, but completely devoid of tourists - last year less than 7000 people visited the site (that's less than 20 a day!). We will have a look at the Bronze Age petroglyphs and then the remarkably preserved Scythian burial mounds. Lunch out in the steppe. We will drive to Almaty, and check in at the Ritz Carlton, Central Asia's highest (and most luxuri-ous) hotel, in rooms overlooking the city and the Tien Shan mountains. We will take a gourmet dinner on the highest floor of the hotel, in the highest restaurant in town.

Overnight at Ritz-Carlton, Almaty, two nights. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 9
After a stunning breakfast, with a view, we will head out to explore Almaty, Kazakhstan's former capital. We will start with Rahat, the most famous Soviet chocolate factory, then Green Bazaar - a stunning market, where you can find (and sample!) produce from all over Central Asia, and the wooden imperial Rus-sian cathedral, where we will try to get permission to climb the bell tower and ring the church bells! Lunch in a nearby Jewish restaurant. Afternoon at leisure: you are welcome to visit next door's Arasan Spa, one of the world's best spa centres. Or rest in the hotel. Or take a walk in this beautiful green city. We will try and see if we can catch a play or performance at the Opera House tonight. We will have our farewell dinner in a lovely Russian restaurant, housed in a nineteenth century wooden imperial style house.

Overnight at Ritz-Carlton, Almaty, second night. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 10
After breakfast we head to the airport, for a short flight to Kyzylorda, in the middle of the Kyzyl Kum desert. From there we drive across the desert for approximately three hours to Baikonur, the famed Soviet/Russian space port, leased for a half a century to Russia. We will have a picnic lunch on the way. At Baikonur we will check in at the Baikonur hotel (the best of the four), and take dinner in the hotel restau-rant.

Overnight at Baikonur hotel, Baikonur, two nights. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 11
After breakfast we will head out to see the best of Baikonur: the Gagarin launch site, the Buran space shuttle, and the space city. Exact program to be confirmed. Lunch and dinner in the space town.

Overnight at Baikonur hotel, Baikonur, second night. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 12
After an early breakfast we head out of Baikonur's restricted area. We will drive along the Aral Sea shore, stopping to visit some of the abandoned harbours of the Aral sea, as well as the area where the Sea has re-appeared. Lunch in the town of Aralsk, once the capital of the Aral Sea. At lunch we will take the train to Mangystau, remote western Kazakhstan. We will pass through some isolated communities in the desert. Dinner onboard the train. We will have our own sleeper compartments.

Overnight onboard the Almaty-Aktau train, one night. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 13
At sunrise we will get off the train at the dusty, desolate Shetpe station. Notice how dramatic the landscape has become. We are now below the sea level, close to the Caspian Sea. We will have a short drive to the shore, where we will enjoy a packed breakfast with a view. We will visit Shakpak Ata, one of the most interesting underground mosques and shrines of Mangystau, in an isolated, hard to reach spot. Then we are off to Aktau, driving along oil fields and oil rigs. Aktau is Kazakhstan's oil capital: a 1970s city in a place with no freshwater supply. Aktau uses the world's only nuclear-powered desalination plant. In the afternoon we will have a walk across Aktau, and the Caspian shore. You will notice how fast the water level is moving. We will see the famous Aktau lighthouse, located on top of a Soviet residential building. Dinner in a good lo-cal restaurant.

Overnight at Marriott Renaisance hotel, Aktau, one night. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner).
Day 14
Breakfast and transfer to airport for your flight home or where the heart takes you. End of tour.
€4380 per person, sharing double or twin room, €630 single supplement.
The number of participants is limited to 10.
Price includes
  • Accommodation in Central Asia's best, most atmospheric hotels: from a cosy, warm guesthouse, to one of Soviet Union's most unique sanatoriums, to a Ritz Carlton.
  • Transport with a new, comfortable bus on the main sections of the road, and 4WDs for the bumpy detours. And not least, great drivers!
  • Driver and guide lodging and food.
  • An unusual, knowledgeable and curious guide.
  • All meals according to programme, in carefully selected places.
  • Border permit to Inylchek, for which we apply in three separate places: the Regional border force detachment command, the Regional government, and the Regional police. A real Soviet-era bureaucratic experi-ence!
  • Vintage Soviet cars and trucks up one of the highest (and most spectacular) motorable passes in Central Asia. We will go far up and beyond other tourist trails.
  • Clearing of the high mountain pass from snow.
  • Renting of a vintage Soviet train.
  • One of Central Asia's best folk bands for a private concert.
  • All taxes and fees.
  • Bottled water, refreshments and sweet treats while on the bus and while exploring sights.
  • A comprehensive information pack with maps, literature, useful knowledge and gifts.
  • Tips for pretty much everyone but guide and driver.
  • All activities according to the program: yurt making, singing, visits to various homes, and more.
  • Entry tickets to all sights that are ticketed.
  • And much, much more.
Price does not include
  • International air fares.
  • Medical and travel insurance.
  • Personal expenses such as phone calls, laundry, internet, drinks apart from those included.
Important information and booking conditions
Reservations and payment

Please fill in the Reservation Form with all details needed and send it to or A deposit, upon booking, at the amount of €500 per person is required to assure your place. The final payment is to be made no later than three months prior to the start of the tour.

Extra nights in Bishkek and/or Aktau and transfers

If you want to spend a night or two prior or after the tour, we can make a reservation for you or you can make a direct arrangement with the tour hotel or another hotel. We can also recommend a nearby hotel which is cheaper. Please note that we have included transfers in the price - advice us of your arrival and departure times. Which brings us to...

... flights

We love arranging flights, but in this case, we won't. You are responsible for booking your flight ticket. We can always help you with an advice. We've flown on all the airlines, and we've made all the airport connections, so we can share some tips, if you need them. Also, we are happy to share tips on stopovers, if you decide to take one on the way to or from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Stopovers are fun!

For this journey we recommend Turkish Airlines, flights from various American cities connecting via Istanbul, and Aeroflot, connecting via Moscow. But there are other connections, too. Drop us a message, we will advice.

Tour information

Once we get your deposit, us folks at Lyuba Tours will immediately send a confirmation of space by e-mail. We will also send reading materials, music and more information about the country: what to bring, what to
expect, money, weather, food and other wise. We will send all this by snail mail or email.

About a month before the tour, we will send you hotel and rooming lists, emergency numbers and any last-minute notes. We will be happy if you meet payment and document submittal deadlines to insure we have time to post your materials. Upon arrival in Kyrgyzstan, you will find even more stuff awaiting you: maps, phrasebooks, postcards, and more.

Customs and entry requirements

For this trip you require a passport with validity six months beyond the last day of the tour. That passport should have a blank page for a stamp.

No visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for up to 60 days. If you don't happen to be a U.S. citizen, please make sure you have whatever documents are necessary to enter (and exit) Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. We can help with this as well. Regulations are subject to change, and we will try to inform you of the latest changes.

Travel insurance

We strongly, strongly, strongly advise you to have a travel insurance for the trip. Situations may arise, voluntarily or involuntarily, in which the traveler cancels. We can recommend a comprehensive travel insurance plan, if you don't have one already. Insurance should cover trip cancellation, lost or damaged baggage, medical needs, and certain travel-related accidents. We highly recommend trip-cancellation insurance. Although please do read the insurance company's fine print, especially the section on 'pre-existing conditions'.

Ground transportation

We will travel across Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in comfortable, air-conditioned private minibuses. For some sections we will use 4WD and 6WD vehicles. Smoking is NOT permitted on any of the vehicles.

Health regulations

You are adviced to get a Hepatitis A and B vaccines. Please see the CDC's website for recommendations: We suggest you check with your doctor for medical advice regarding the trip and your health. It is also suggested you discuss updating your tetanus and diphtheria booster.

Health considerations

To get the most out of a tour, a traveler should be in good physical and mental health, able and willing to walk, climb steps, and participate in group events. This trip requires moderate walking, sometimes over un-even streets or paths. If assistance is needed, a participant should travel with a companion. You must also be able to carry your own hand luggage, so please go light! Any physical or mental disability requiring special help or assistance must be noted in writing on the reservation form.

Opportunities for adventure

This tour is designed for those interested in learning everything about Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. We will present you with all sorts of perspectives, and you will see many shades of Kyrgyzstan.

Also, this is a moderately active program ('soft' adventure). Since some of the travel will be in remote areas, travel participants need to be flexible concerning time schedules, food and weather. Roads may be bumpy. No! Roads will be bumpy. Don't expect to find things exactly as they are at home! If that were the case, why travel? Occasionally, we may experience delays, alterations in the plans, some discomforts and inconveniences. But we will also experience a different culture and our minds and souls will be expanded! A spirit of adventure and tolerance is absolutely fundamental to participation in any of our tours.

Wandering Policy

We encourage everyone to partake in all the sightseeing and special activities. We've spent months research-ing and preparing a full and exciting program. However, if you would like to venture out on your own, or take personal time for rest or shopping, you may do so. This is your trip! We only ask that you alert our group leader and guide when you will be separating and rejoining the group. Please take extra security pre-cautions with your belongings and yourself.

Changes in itinerary

Every effort will be made to operate this tour in accordance with the itinerary shown, including all activities as advertised. Museums and features are subject to scheduling. Occasionally, changes are made to improve an itinerary or enhance a certain feature. Unforeseen local conditions beyond our control may prevent the completion of an itinerary or require alterations in an itinerary. These local conditions can include inclement weather, seasonal variations in climate, changes in airline schedules and equipment, government appropriation of hotel space, and other events beyond our control that would jeopardize the traveler's comfort, safety, health, or enjoyment. In these cases, the right is reserved to substitute hotels, and to alter the itinerary for the comfort and safety of the travelers. The right is also reserved to cancel the tour prior to departure.

Cancellations and refunds

Should Lyuba Tours cancel a departure for the reason of insufficient number of participants to operate the tour with no increase in cost, a full refund of all monies paid will be made.

On the participant's part, cancellation or change of date will result in a per person cancellation fee of €500, irrespective of reason up to 90 days before the tour. Cancellation made 89 days to 30 days before the tour will result in a cancellation fee of €750. From 29 days before the tour, the cancellation fee will be at the amount of the tour. Should your cancellation cause the number of participants to fall below the required number to operate the trip, and a replacement member cannot be found, the full portion of the trip will be forfeited. If a person requests a room share to avoid the single supplement and then cancels after final payment is made and a roommate has been assigned, then the person canceling forfeits the single supplement if a share cannot be found.

Should a person cancel a trip voluntarily, and if payment was made by a bank wire, the amount of bank wire expense charged to Lyuba Tours will be deducted from the refund amount.

Once the tour begins, no refund may be claimed for all or any part of the tour fee. Unused or changed hotel accommodations, transportation, or other services or features of the tour are neither refundable nor ex-changeable.

Cancellations will only be accepted via e-mail, at or


A large part of what we make goes back to the community. We support disadvantaged kids and isolated, rural communities. We plan to invest even more time, effort and money on this. We also have plans to support, each year, one artist, in return for artwork we can use in our work. And not least, one day, hopefully soon, open a school for disadvanted kids.
Questions and answers
What is Nawruz?
Nawruz is the Persian New Year. The start of spring. It is a time when trees turn green, days get long, and people put their smiles on. Nawruz is the jolliest time of the year in Central Asia. The day unites people from all communities and religions to celebrate.
Meet your guide
Yuri is Lyuba's son. Travel is in his blood. He's been on the road since 28 days old. Ever since, he's visited 130 countries on all continents. He is enormously passionate about the world, about art, architecture and history. He is eager to show you some of the Caucasus' and Central Asia's most splendid and least known corners, which he has explored for years. Yuri has a PhD in History.