Along the Silk Road: A Journey By Classic Train

  • 14-day train odyssey aboard the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
  • Explore Moscow, Volgograd, and the ancient oasis cities of Khiva, Merv, Bukhara, and Samarkand

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Kyrgyzstan

Post-Trip, 6 Days

The Silk Road crossed from China into the rugged mountains and thick forests of present-day Kyrgyzstan, and beautiful Lake Issyk-Kul, nestled in the Tian Shan Mountains, was a continual source of conflict on the trade route. Beneath the lake's dazzling blue waters, civilizations from ancient to medieval have left vestiges of their presence here, and a team from National Geographic has been working to uncover underwater treasures. Trace the legacy of the Russians and the culture of the Kyrgyz people in Bishkek. Meet with a Russian archaeologist who helped unearth the submerged settlement of Chigu, and later, explore the excavation of Chigu on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul. Get to know nomads and Uygurs, witness exciting horse games that date back centuries, and soak up rich musical and storytelling traditions.

Itinerary - 6 Days

Day 1 — Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Journey overland into Kyrgyzstan and arrive in the capital city of Bishkek, once a forested rest stop on the Silk Road. On a city tour, learn about Bishkek's evolution since its days as a Russian garrison in the mid-19th century. Visit Bishkek's Soviet-era main square; stroll through Panfilov and Dubovy "Oak" Parks; and, weather permitting, take in views of the craggy, snowy peaks of the Ala-Too Mountains.
Hyatt Regency Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 2 — Bishkek

Get acquainted with Kyrgyz culture and heritage at the National Historical Museum, where displays include local art, handicrafts, jewelry, and historical artifacts, as well as a fascinating collection of Soviet propaganda and art. Then meet with a local archaeologist who helped uncover the submerged settlement of Chigu on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul. In the afternoon, head to the Museum of Fine Arts to see Soviet-era paintings and sculptures, folk art, a traditional yurt, and typical Kyrgyz costumes. End the day with a stroll through a colorful local bazaar and then enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Hyatt Regency Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Cholpan-Ata/Lake Issyk-Kul

Travel east to Lake Issyk-Kul, stopping to explore the restored 11th-century Burana Tower, a remnant of the ancient city of Balasagun. Climb to the top of the tower to take in a majestic vista of valleys backed by pointed peaks. Then visit the small museum and examine the carved stone markers called balbals that dot the site. In the countryside nearby, watch traditional Kyrgyz horse games, such as oodarysh, a wrestling match on horseback. Sit down to a special lunch at the home of a local family and enjoy a unique glimpse of nomadic life. In Cholpon-Ata, see petroglyphs that are thought to date back to the Iron Age.

Cradled by the rugged Tian Shan Mountains, Lake Issyk-Kul is the second-largest high-altitude lake in the world, after Lake Titicaca. Over the centuries, the shifting water levels of this saline lake have covered many layers of civilization. Archaeological teams from National Geographic and other organizations continue to make new finds on the lake bed, from small settlements to palaces to entire cities. Take a boat ride on its stunning blue waters, and examine the excavations of Chigu.
Karven Four Seasons Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Karakol/Issyk-Kul

Set out on a full-day excursion to the city of Karakol near the eastern tip of Lake Issyk-Kul. Founded late in the 19th century as a Russian military outpost, Karakol grew as a refuge for Chinese Muslims fleeing persecution in the late 19th century. On a city tour, see a range of interesting architecture, from wooden Chinese buildings to a yellow-domed cathedral to the sky-blue wooden minaret of Dungan Mosque. We're invited to lunch with a Uygur family before heading back to our hotel on the shores of Lake Issyk- Kul.
Karven Four Seasons Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Ala-Archa National Park/Bishkek

After free time this morning on the lakeshore, head to Ala-Archa National Park to explore an alpine paradise of lush, forested gorges, some 50 soaring peaks, and more than 20 glaciers. Return to Bishkek in time for a special farewell dinner and a musical performance of the epic poem of the mythical Kyrgyz hero Manas—a favorite at Kyrgyz festivals. The poem was passed down orally for centuries before finally being written down in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Hyatt Regency Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Depart Bishkek

Early this morning, transfer to the airport for your flight home.
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