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September 01–13 | 2018

Silk Road

Eye-opening… a world much different than I had expected.
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SEPTEMBER 01-13 |2018

Silk Road

Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

The Peace Corps has a complex history in central Asia, with more than 70 Peace Corps volunteers currently serving in Kyrgyzstan and an abrupt departure of Peace Corps from Kazakhstan in 2011. Since their establishment in 1993, more than 2,260 Peace Corps volunteers have served in the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan, working on projects focused on teaching English, education, youth development, health, and community economic development. Now, whether you’re visiting the ‘stans for the first time, or coming back for the first time since your service, join Next Step Travel to journey on the Silk Road. 

Trip Highlights

  • The Last of the ‘Stans  Join us in exploring the two capitals of Kazakhstan, including the former capital Almaty and the current, contemporary Astana. With some of the largest oil reserves in the world, Kazakhstan boasts better amenities than many of its neighbors—and was the last ‘stan to declare independence.

  • History Come Alive  Together, we’ll dive into the complicated history of this former Soviet republic, explore old squares, and discuss modernity—while sampling Kazakh, Uzbek, Georgian, Korean and Uighur cuisine.  

  • Silk Road  The Kazakh Steppe saw caravans traveling on the Silk Road in oases of its cities and settlements. Kyrgyzstan boasts  three branches of this historic trade route. We’ll learn about each and see some of the connected sites tucked in the mountains.
  • Stunning Views  The Eurasian ecoregion of high, forested mountains and lush, grassy steppes attracted Silk Road travelers. Enjoy the views and learn about this countries’ development efforts.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Prices are based on double occupancy. Accommodations are generally charming 3-star hotels. To fully experience the magic of central Asia, one night, we will be taking an overnight train, with first class sleeping, and another, we will sleep in a yurt! —Private accommodations are available for a single supplement of $1,114. As a solo traveler, if you prefer, we can also pair you with another traveler (two twin beds, requiring no single supplement, based on availability).

FLIGHT DETAILS

Inbound: Recommended arrival on or before August 31; Almaty, Kazakhstan. The tour officially starts on Saturday, September 1 in Almaty. Depending on where you are flying from, we recommend arriving a day or two early, to get used to the timezone and sleep off the jet lag (flights from the U.S. are quite long).

Outbound: Recommended departure on or after September 14th; Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The tour programming ends on Thursday, September 13th. Fly out of Bishkek anytime the 14th or after. You can either book a flight from Bishkek back to Almaty, to catch a round trip flight from Almaty, or take an alternative route.

Our flight partner, Exito, is also happy to help you with your booking. They are no additional charge and can often find flights that are more competitively priced than what is available online. Click here and share your requested flight details (including arrival and departure cities and dates) and they will send you options within 48 hours.

PHYSICAL LEVEL

This trip is accessible for most travelers. That being said, please note that the trip can involve the following: somewhat long days and a good amount of walking (including stairs, varied elevations, and uneven surfaces). If you have any medical conditions or other concerns, there will be an opportunity for you to make us aware of them, and then we can determine if the trip is appropriate for you.

WHAT'S INCLUDED

  • All activities as listed in the itinerary
  • 13 days, 12 nights, options at family-friendly hotels
  • All meals for the length of the program
  • Transportation by private, air-conditioned motor coach as well as transfers for the group as appropriate
  • English speaking guide/interpreter to accompany through the whole touring period
  • Gratuities
  • In-country flight (Kazakhstan); International flight from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan
  • Dedicated bilingual guides and private transportation throughout the trip
  • Comprehensive briefing packet for each participant, including country information, logistical and contact information, reading list, and packing list

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

  • Air flight to and from Central Asia
  • Expenses of a purely personal nature (including cab fares, laundry and other personal items, room service charges)
  • Transportation of luggage in excess of weight allowance
  • Travel insurance (We strongly advise that each participant arrange for their own travel insurance)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Meals not noted in itinerary
  • Medical expenses
  • Passport application fee
  • Costs associated with trip interruption or modification due to weather, travel conditions, political/civil disputes, medical emergencies or other causes beyond our control

CANCELLATION POLICY

Cancellation by Traveler

The $250 trip deposit is non-refundable.

  • 25% non-refundable 120 days or more prior to departure
  • 50% non-refundable 119 to 90 days prior to departure
  • 75% non-refundable 89 to 60 days prior to departure
  • 100% non-refundable 59 days or less prior to departure

If a traveler leaves the trip for any reason after it has commenced, we are not obligated to make any refunds for unused services. If a travelers fails to join a tour, join it after departure, or leave it prior to its completion, no refund will be made.

Cancellation by Trip Operator - Insider Expeditions (IE)

IE may cancel a trip at any time prior to departure if, due to terrorism, natural disasters, political instability or other external events, it is not viable for us to operate the planned itinerary. If IE cancels the trip, traveler can transfer amounts paid to an alternate departure date or alternatively receive a full refund. In circumstances where the cancellation is due to external events outside our reasonable control, refunds will be less any unrecoverable costs. We are not responsible for any incidental expenses that you may have incurred as a result of your booking including but not limited to visas, vaccinations, travel insurance excess or non-refundable flights.

 
Silk Road (Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) - Reservation
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Silk Road (Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) - Reservation
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full trip price - $4998.00 ($1114 single supplement)

This trip is coordinated by RPCV Mary Bruce of tour operator Insider Expeditions.

Full Ticket orders available 90 days before departure. Reservation fee will be credited towards full ticket.


Testimonial

“I enjoyed everything!”

 
 

Itinerary

Day 1–2 - Dive into History and Culture

In Almaty, explore Republic Square and learn about its important role in infamous uprisings and student movements. Stop at the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan, one of the oldest and largest museums of Central Asia with collections ranging from archeology to outer space. Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 3 - Music and Arts, Plov and Manty

Get a special look inside the Green Bazaar, a sprawling two-story marketplace where you can barter for Kazakh, Russian, and Korean treats. Explore the Museum of National Musical Instruments, which features over 1,000 objects, including rare exhibits dating back to the 17th century and an impressive collection of dombras and drums. Tonight, see Kok Tobe Hill, the tallest TV tower above sea level, as well as a rare and oddly situated statue of the Beatles. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 4 - Take to the Skies

Start the day at Big Almaty Lake, a stunning natural alpine reservoir framed by three of the highest mountains in the region. Then, head to the Tian Shan Astronomical Observatory, a part of Kazakhstan’s National Center for Space Research and Technologies founded in 1957. Continue exploring the skies at the Falconry Center to learn about this prized, rare, and endangered species. Learn how they were reintroduced into the wild and their historical role on the Eurasian steppe. Head back to the hotel to refresh and rest. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 5 - The Legend of a Golden Egg

Explore Astana, learning about Constitution Square, the Museum of the First President, and Congress Hall. Continue on to Independence Square, the Water-Green Boulevard, and Round Square, including their history and development plans. Stop by Bayterek Tower, a monumental symbol of Astana symbolizing the legend of a golden egg atop the tree of life. Pay homage at the Temple of Peace and Accord, a pyramidal structure built by prominent British architect Norman Foster. See the Nur-Astana Mosque, the third largest mosque in Central Asia. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 6–7 - Alzhir and Eagle Hunting

Tour Alzhir, a camp for “the wives of traitors of the Motherland,” a 30-minute drive from the city. Opened in 1938, more than 18,000 prisoners came to Alzhir for eight years of internment, which most did not survive. Then, head to a hunting birds show, to learn about the historical roots of this tradition and one of the most unique features of the Kazakh way of life. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 8 - Bishkek Explorations

Continue your journey in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, taking a spin around Ala-Too, the central square of Bishkek, and the Osh Bazaar to buy anything from traditional hats to dry fruits. Stop at the Burana tower and a small local museum to dive into history, and see a collection of balbals, tombstones for noble dead warriors. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 9–10 - Fairytale Canyon and the Kyzyl-Tuu Village

Head to the southern shore of Issyk-Kul Lake, visiting Fairytale Canyon on the way. For lunch, enjoy treats in a yurt camp before visiting the Kyzyl-Tuu village, including learning from the local craftspeople at a workshop that produces the wooden parts of the common yurt. Tonight, we’ll enjoy dinner and an evening’s slumber in a yurt camp and deepen our understanding of yurts in nomadic and semi-nomadic cultures. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 11–12 - The Many Religions and Cultures of Kyrgyzstan

En route to Karakol, visit the Jety-Oguz Gorge, whose name literally translates to “seven bulls.” Meet with a Dungan family—Muslim communities of Chinese origin—to learn about the diverse religions of the country. Then, take a small city tour to see the Russian Orthodox Church and the Dungan Muslim Mosque and see how religion continues to shape this nation. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Day 12–13 - Picnics and Petroglyphs

Stop along the northern shore of the Issyk-Kul Lake, including at the open-air Museum of Petroglyphs, with depictions of wolves, long-horned ibex, goats, horses, snow leopards, sacrifices, and hunting. Enjoy a visit to the rather obscure Ruh-Ordo Cultural Center. Dedicated to the famous Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov, this center has chapels of all religions scattered around the property. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

A Note on the Final Itinerary: Itineraries and pricing are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific events in mind, and schedules and availabilities may change in coming months. If any activity or person that is advertised is missed or not available, it will be replaced with an activity or person of equal interest and value. A final itinerary and briefing packet will be ready two weeks before the trip.