8 Days, 7 Nights
Kyrgyzstan Photo Tour
Exploring the raw beauty of Kyrgyzstan: Shooting breathtaking, untouched landscapes and sleeping in nomadic yurts
Kyrgyzstan is incredible. In a few years, it will be the next popular place to visit with your camera. From the hidden gem Tulpar Kul to the red gorge of Konorcheck Canyon to the colorful markets of Bishkek Bazaar...this is the trip of a lifetime.
This undiscovered paradise lies deep within Central Asia, at the start of the Himalaya mountain range. Its landscapes are often compared to a combination of Switzerland, Iceland, Peru, and Mars - with its high mountain ranges, relatively untouched nature, and highland pastures scattered with traditional yurt settlements.
Kyrgyzstan has lived a long tradition of nomadic history, and is only just waking up to a world of visitors, which gives us a lot of opportunity for candid experiences. Their culture sustains warm gestures of hospitality, openness and kindness to strangers. Being invited for tea in a yurt is a pleasure you can expect on a daily basis! Their landscapes invite a thousand different opportunities to work on your photography and videography skills - from portraiture to ever-changing landscapes, to shooting the milky way with incredible clarity. While not being so strong on a diversity of food, the summers provide good nourishment through colorful, tasty fruits and vegetables, together with some pretty meaty traditional dishes (vegetarian and lactose-free still being an option).
This week-long journey lived from our sturdy 4x4’s, rustic guesthouses and beautifully situated yurt camps will show you the true wilderness that Kyrgyzstan still holds - one of the few countries in the world where you can literally be taken back in time
OPTIONAL ADD ON: Add a half day camera workshop to your trip. You get an extra day (and night) in Bishkek. Your guide will go deep with you on what camera you have, how all the settings work, and then spend half day shooting with you in Bazaar. This is the perfect setting to practice low light shooting and developing our skills to approach locals and ask for portraits. For sunset, we will drive up to Boz Boltok; Bishkek’s celebrated mountain from which we will be able to shoot a misty sunset over the city. During the workshop we will get the opportunity to practice working with aperture, ISO and shutter speed but also we’ll cover the basics of your phone and Moment Pro App. To celebrate our first evening together, we will go out for dinner at a local restaurant and we’ll return to the hotel for a good night’s rest. Price: $400 (includes two meals, a hotel, and workshop).
Bishkek Bazaar, Boz Boltok
We will be meeting in the morning to introduce the group and share an insight into the journey. We will make sure everyone is prepped up for the trip and soon we will leave for a morning city walk to capture and enjoy the bustling bazaar, filled with colorful foods and goods. In the afternoon we will head out towards Kochkor, but will stop on the way for a hike to Konorchek Canyon - a walk through a red sandstone gorge that will take us to a spectacular, grandiose view.
Bishkek Bazaar, Konorchek Canyon
Nomad Lodge Kochckor
Lunch: Traditional meal at NAVAT Restaurant (Bishkek) Dinner: Nomad Lodge Kochckor
Today we head towards Song Kul, taking our time to explore the details of this incredibly rural location. The beauty and culture of this remote part of Kyrgyzstan is endless: from stunning landscapes and multi-colored mountains, to yurt camps and encounters with shepherds and locals. We spend the afternoon and night at Song Kul, a massive freshwater lake that lays above 3000m and is surrounded by vast summer pastures. If we are lucky and the skies are clear, we will be able to spot the milky way, shooting stars and capture one of the most impressive light-pollution-free skies.
Song Kul Pass, Song Kul Yurt Camp, Song Kul Panoramic Viewpoint, Song Kul Night Photography
Mirlan Yurt Camp
Breakfast: Small Buffet breakfast at Nomad Lodge Kochkor Lunch: Traditional meal at Mirlan Yurt Camp Dinner: Traditional meal at Mirlan Yurt Camp
We start our day waking up in a yurt at Song Kul, one of Kyrgyzstan’s most scenic sites. Today's highlight is a horseback ride along the lake side and if the weather accompanies, a quick dip in the blue waters. In the afternoon we will hop in our cars and drive over two passes as we get closer to Kazarman - this winding road offers endless photography opportunities of its multi-coloured dry landscapes.
Song Kul, Song Kul Pass, Kaldamo Pass, Kazarman
CBT Guesthouse Kazarman
Breakfast: Traditional local breakfast at Mirlan Yurt Camp Lunch: Traditional meal at Mirlan Yurt Camp Dinner: Kazarman Local Restaurant - Baiterek cafe
This morning we'll leave Kazarman early, to drive west to a 3500 meter-high pass and then descend towards Fergana valley - slowly leaving the mountains behind and immersing ourselves back into civilization and paved roads. After a “recovery session” at our hotel in Osh, we will go over our footage on a short session before heading out to Mount Sulayman - the only World Heritage Site located in the country of Kyrgyzstan - for sunset shooting with a panoramic view of the city.
Drive to Fergana Valley, Mount Sulayman
Breakfast: Traditional local breakfast at CBT Guesthouse Kazarman Lunch: Chaykhana Khan-Ordo (Jalal-Abad) Dinner: ETNO Restaurant
After a morning editing session, our destination today is the Chong-Alay Valley. It'll be a beautiful and comfortable drive in our 4x4's. The scenic road will take us through a beautiful valley and colourful mountains into the Alay area, so we will stop plenty of times to shoot the different landscapes and villages on the way. Sary Mogul is the end, where we will be able to contemplate the mesmerizing ice wall of mountains from the northern Pamir range with peaks soaring up to more than 7000m. Our guesthouse is a great hub for sunset chasing in the area and getting to connect with the locals!
Drive to Sary Tash, Alay Valley
Lenin Peak Guesthouse Sary Mogul
Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at Rayan Hotel Lunch: Local Restaurant (Gulcha) Dinner: Lenin Peak Guesthouse
Today, we explore the Chong-Alay region in detail: We’ll enjoy a quiet morning in the village of Sary Mogul as we get an opportunity to shoot sunrise. Afterwards, it’ll be a beautiful and comfortable drive in our 4x4's, ending at our yurt camp, which hides at the foot of that mountainous wall, nestled in between lakes and a lush, hilly landscape in between. In the afternoon we’ll go for a hike and will get close to Pretrovsky glacier and peak. These are possibly the best views we will get on the whole trip, especially if we get the common random storms forming over neighbouring mountains. Keep your eyes open for cute funny marmots on the way and edelweiss flowers, and perhaps we might be able to find some yacks too! On our way back, we’ll enjoy a typical Kyrgyz meal together and look out for some stars and the Milky Way if the night is clear. Great spot for night photography!
Tulpar Kul, Hike to Petrovsky
CBT Yurt Camp Tulparkul
Breakfast: Traditional Breakfast at Lenin Peak Guesthouse Lunch: Traditional meal at CBT Yurt Camp Dinner: Traditional meal at CBT Yurt Camp
En route to Osh! Waking up by Tulpar-kul lake area and the sunrise we will try to catch will blow your mind. After shooting and breakfast, we'll drive back to Osh and we'll finish the day off in Osh with a nice dinner and an editing session full of tips. Today is a chill day—a perfect moment to reflect on all the experiences.
Sunrise in Tulpar Kul, Rayan Hotel
Standard: Rayan Hotel Osh (hot water & toilets available)
Breakfast: Traditional Breakfast at CBT Yurt Camp Lunch: “Secret Restaurant” in Osh Dinner: Guide’s Relative’s house in Osh with a typical dinner
Time for an early breakfast and taxi to Osh airport to catch our flight back to Bishkek. Once in Bishkek, we will say goodbye to those flying back home from there that morning, and for those who decide to extend their trip in Kyrgyzstan, we can help you transfer back to the city.
Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at Rayan Hotel
Tulpar Kul - The hidden gem. This lush spot very close to the Tajik border and at the foot of mighty Peak Lenin (7134m) is one incredible photography playground. We will go for a hike in the nearby gorge and cross some streams on our way to Peak Petrovsky, from which we get an amazing overview of the Alay valley and see the countless little lakes and probably cross some yacks on the way. At the top we will see from up close one the many glaciers in the area and sit down to capture and watch the clouds or storms rolling over the valley.
Konorcheck Canyon - Red sand rock gorge. This million year old landscape of picturesque rocks and red sand columns is the perfect playground to work with our wide angle lenses. We will follow the bed of a dried river and narrow canyon until it’s opening a couple kilometers away, climbing up and jump down what used to be little waterfalls (now dried out, but will require using our hands too) and enjoying the change of light creeping into the gorge. At the end, the landscape opens up and we will see the most amazing red sandstone rock formations.
Song Kul - High altitude pastures. Getting to the summer pasture is an adventure itself - the serpentine roads will take us to the beautiful alpine lake of Song Kul (Kyrgyzstan’s second largest lake), known for its vastness and scattered yurts. This ideal location is as tranquil as life can get (forget about phone reception or electricity) and instead enjoy a ball game with the local kids or watch the cows chew grass. We will enjoy an amazing panoramic sunset view on the lake and, if the skies are clear, the chance to look out for shooting stars and capture the milky way.
Kaldamo Pass - Deserted mars looking landscapes. On our ride to Kazarman we cross a painted like landscape very different to anything we have seen on our trip. The greens fade into brown dessert tones bringing textures and rock formations of all kinds of interesting shapes - almost as an otherworldly location.
Sulayman Too - A sacred mountain. This historical and sacred mountain dominating the Fergana Valley and the backdrop of Osh used to be one of the most important stops on the Central Asian Silk Road. Its five peaks and slopes contain numerous ancient places of worship and caves with petroglyphs.
Bishkek Bazaar - Submersion into a colorful street market. We will submerge ourselves into the bustling bazaar of Bishkek, where locals visit daily to buy all kinds of things. The smell of freshly baked Kyrgyz nan (bread) and fragrant spices will accompany in this labyrinth filled with colorful foods and goods. It’s a perfect chance to learn some basic Kyrgyz words as we approach locals for a portrait or image of their plentiful stalls.
We've been where you are — in our time out in the field we’ve made so many friends with similar passions; resulting in photo trips to explore their favorite places, see their different styles, and learn from their photography expertise. This process has been so rewarding that we can’t wait to provide you with the same experience! Here are some things you'll learn:
Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO: These are the building block setting of any photo or video, and we’ll take you through what they mean, how they can help you create the perfect shot and how to set them up quickly for the best results.
Long Exposure (night photography): The star-filled skies of Song-Kul and the Alay valley are the absolute perfect opportunity to practice our night photography skills. There’s almost zero light pollution, and since both places have vast landscapes we can easily catch the beauty of the night sky, and the Milky Way!
Framing and Composition: In learning how to capture light, composition is likewise crucial to creating a great photo or video. We'll show you our take on framing your shots amongst the yurts, mountain valleys, and little storefronts of the bustling city markets.
Low Light Photography: While the sun sets over the steppe during our trip, we’ll teach you how to interact with low light, much like night photography but more so focussed on when the sun still lights your setting. Most phones and cameras are quite powerful nowadays when it comes to lower light.
Don't have a camera besides your smartphone? No problem. Shoot & edit on whatever device you want!
3 nights in a hotel (prices per person, based on double occupancy)
2 nights in guesthouses/yurts (prices per person, based on double occupancy)
Entrance to all activities
Transportation to/from airport
Transportation around Kyrgyzstan
Photography and editing lessons
3 great meals per day
Airfare to and from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Insurance of any kind, including travel insurance