8 Days, 7 Nights
#67 Kyrgyzstan Photo Tour
Exploring untouched beauty, staying in nomadic yurts, and shooting breathtaking landscapes. We’ll explore the mountains (and villages) of Kyrgyzstan.
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, Mars, and Peru - with its high mountain ranges, relatively untouched nature, and highland pasture scattered with traditional nomadic yurts.
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 3km walk through a red sandstone gorge that will take us to a spectacular view for sunset, dependent on the weather.
Bishkek Bazaar, Konorchek Canyon
Standard: Adamkaly Hotel
Lunch in Bishkek, dinner in Kochkor
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, Mirlan Yurt Camp, Night Photography
Basic: Mirlan Yurt Camp, shared by 2-4 people
Breakfast at Adamkaly, Lunch and Dinner 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
Standard: CBT Guesthouse
Breakfast and lunch in the yurt camp, dinner in a restaurant in Kazarman
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. We'll stop for lunch at Chaykhana Khan-Ordo, a restaurant known for its fried river fish specials. 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.
Fergana Valley, Mount Sulayman
Standard: Hotel in Osh (hot water and toilets available)
Breakfast at the guesthouse, lunch on the road, and dinner in Osh
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, ending at our first yurt camp. The scenic road will take us through a beautiful valley and colourful mountains into the Alay area, where we will stop for a break to contemplate the mesmerising ice wall of mountains from the northern Pamir range with peaks soaring up to more than 7000m. Our yurt camp can be found at the foot of that mountainous wall, nestled in between lakes and a lush, hilly landscape. After a hearty dinner, we'll have a mini session on night photography and then, if the skies are clear, implement what we just learned.
The road to Sary Tash, Alay Valley, Tulpar Kul
Basic: CBT Yurt Camp
Breakfast at the hotel, lunch on the road, home-cooked dinner at our guesthouse
Today, we explore the Chong-Alay region in detail: We’ll enjoy a quiet morning over the little lakes and go for an epic hike towards the tops that will take us very close to Petrovsky glacier and peak. 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! 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. 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.
Sunrise in Tulpar Kul, Petrovsky hike
Basic: CBT Yurt Camp
Home-cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner at the yurt camp
En route to Osh! Our second day waking up in the Tulpar Kul lake area and the sunrise will still blow your mind. After shooting sunrise, hopefully with the reflection of Peak Lenin in the lake; we'll have our final breakfast at the yurt camp before we drive back to Osh. You'll finish the day off in Osh with a bit of exploration of the city, followed by an editing session. We will have a final celebratory dinner at ETNO restaurant before heading back to the hotel
Tupar Kul, Osh
Standard: Rayan Hotel Osh (hot water & toilets available)
hot breakfast at the yurt camp, traditional Plov lunch, celebratroy dinner at ETNO
Have a final breakfast with the group before heading to the airport to hop on a flight to Bishkek to catch your flights home or continue your adventure.
Breakfast at the 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:
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)
4 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
Discount on gear from the Moment shop
3 great meals per day