Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!
Day 1: Sat 8 June 2024 - Fly from London Gatwick to Tashkent.
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we take an overnight flight over Eastern Europe and the Caspian Sea, arriving the following morning into Tashkent in Uzbekistan.
Day 2: Sun 9 June - Tashkent to Samarkand.
After arriving at Tashkent airport, we will be met by our local guides, and after a hearty breakfast, we will drive to Samarkand. En route we will hopefully have Variable Wheatear staked out for us, and will see nesting colonies of White Storks as we start to acquaint ourselves with the common birds of Uzbekistan. We should arrive in Samarkand in time for some preliminary exploration of this fabulous, historical city. Overnight: Malika Prime Hotel, Samarkand.
Day 3: Mon 10 June - Samarkand.
A more relaxing day based in and around the ancient city of Samarkand, but to avoid the midday heat, we will have an early morning start, driving out of the city to rocky, scrub and bush-covered hills of the Takhtakaracha Pass lying between Samarkand and Zarafshan, where Tamerlane roamed in centuries past, and where many travellers and caravans journeyed as a shortcut along the Silk Road. Amongst our target birds will be White-throated Robin along with Eastern Orphean Warbler and the obscure Hume’s Lark. Also here are Eastern Rock Nuthatch, Finch’s Wheatear, Turkestan and Yellow-breasted Tits, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher and White-capped Bunting. We return to Samarkand in time for lunch, and will wander from our hotel into the quiet, small ancient city area to explore its historical treasures. The massive Bibi-Khanym mosque (once the largest in Central Asia), The Registan, Timur’s Mausoleum, the Street of Tombs and the local bazaar present a stunning and memorable “visual overload” of exquisitely elaborate tiled, painted and carved buildings. Overnight: Malika Prime Hotel, Samarkand
Day 4: Tues 11 June - Samarkand to Bukhara.
We visit wetlands on the outskirts of Samarkand for such specialties as White-crowned Penduline Tit (or spend more time immersing ourselves in the historical delights of Samarkand), before continuing our journey along the Silk Road to Bukhara. Formerly one of the most important trading cities anywhere in Central Asia, there is a rich and colourful history and an overwhelming number of historic sites of interest. The turquoise-blue domes and towering minarets of Bukhara provide a wonderful backdrop to our stay here, while the markets and covered bazaars are bustling. This is a great place to barter for a huge range of very inexpensive souvenirs such as jewellery, spices and the famous Bukhara rugs. Needless to say, we shall have some time to explore this wonderful city. Overnight: Malika Bukhara Hotel, Bukhara
Day 5: Wed 12 June - Bukhara.
We will spend the morning exploring wetlands which surround the oasis city of Bukhara. These oases can be extremely attractive to a wealth of water and marsh-loving species, and we hope for plenty of Pygmy Cormorant, Dalmatian Pelican, Glossy Ibis, an abundance of herons and egrets, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, White-tailed Lapwing, plus perhaps scarcer finds such as Marbled Duck. The extensive reedbeds, marshy and dry scrub cover here is home to many additional smaller species of interest: Ménétrie’s Warbler, Clamorous and Eurasian Reed Warblers, Rufous-tailed Bush-Robin, Pied Bushchat and Long-tailed Shrike (the latter two at the furthest west of their Asiatic range). Returning to the city by late morning, we will be able to spend more time discovering further historical delights—the Ark (the fortified citadel of the Emir within the immense city walls), the Bolo-Haouz Mosque, the 10th century Ismail Samani Mausoleum and the Char Minar with its four elaborately tiled minarets. Overnight: Malika Bukhara Hotel, Bukhara
Day 6: Thurs 13 June - Bukhara to Tashkent.
Today’s birding will perhaps be one of the most memorable! A very early start must be made as we travel into the Kyzylkum Desert, where we expect to arrive just after dawn. This very special region is home to one of the most sought-after of all the birds that occur in Central Asia—the legendary Turkestan (Pander’s) Ground Jay. They are best located in the cool of the early morning when they can often be found along the roadside. We will return to Bukhara for lunch followed by some relaxing local birding and/or more opportunities to take in our last sights of Bukhara, including the historic town centre with its surrounding old madrasahs, the Kalyan Minaret—a 150-foot-tall tower built in the 12th century, and also the Mir-i-Arab Madrasa and Trade Domes. In the evening we will take a train from Bukhara, arriving back in Tashkent in time for dinner. Overnight: Comfortable tourist hotel, Tashkent
Day 7: Fri 14 June - Chimgan Hills.
We plan to spend our final day in Uzbekistan discovering the Chimgan Hills. These lush, green hills will provide a perfect ending to our time in this friendly country, where Yellow-breasted Azure Tit and Rufous-naped Tit are the main attractions, and we will do more than our best to see these birds. Overhead we might see European and Oriental Honey Buzzards. The hills are set amid mixed forest, and we should find Red-rumped Swallow and House Martin as well as Common Nightingale, Hume’s Whitethroat, and Greenish and Hume’s Leaf Warblers. We will arrive back in Tashkent in time to enjoy a final dinner in a local traditional Uzbek restaurant. Overnight: Comfortable tourist hotel, Tashkent
Day 8: Sat 15 June - Fly to Bishkek.
After a final morning’s birding in the city parks of Tashkent, we will drive to the airport and take a flight to the attractive city of Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. If time permits, we will commence our exploration of the Bishkek area immediately. Good flocks of waterfowl are likely to be present, but Pallas’s Gull, Azure Tit, Masked Wagtail, Daurian Shrike, Hume’s Warbler and Demoiselle Cranes are all possible. In the afternoon we return back to our hotel where we will enjoy a lovely welcome dinner. Overnight: Comfortable tourist hotel, Bishkek
Day 09: Sun 16 June - Bishkek to Karakol.
Today we leave Bishkek behind us and drive to the largest city in eastern Kyrgyzstan - Karakol. This city was a former Soviet navy testing site where submarines were tested in the deep waters of the vast Issyk-Kul lake. We will be birding en route, travelling alongside the Issyk-Kul for much of the journey, and hoping to come across species like Pallas’s Sandgrouse or the rare Pine Bunting. Overnight: Greenyard guesthouse, Karakol
Day 10: Mon 17 June - May Saz
Today we drive up the Chong Ashuu Pass - the highest pass we visit during this tour in Central Asia. At 3822 metres, we go far above the tree line and look for some special flora and fauna. On the way up, we drive through meadows full of False Helleborine, blue Jacob’s Ladder, purple and blue Clustered Bellflower, and wine red Aquilegia atrovinosa. Fast-flowing rivers hold both White-bellied and Brown Dippers, Lammergeier patrol the sky, and the lush meadows are home to one of the strangest waders of the world - the elusive and enigmatic Ibisbill. Whilst popular species like White-tailed Rubythroat and Altai and Brown Accentors are quite common at these altitudes, the gorgeous White-browed Tit Warbler needs some more time, just like his colourful friend the Güldenstädt’s Redstart! In the evening we return to our lovely guesthouse in Karakol. Overnight: Greenyard guesthouse, Karakol.
Day 11: Tues 18 June - Barskoon Gorge & Jeti Ögüz
Today we explore the Issyk-Kul coast and we come across blooming Sage and Central Asian Marbled White - the first flora and fauna we come across. The road leading along the lake is breathtaking, and we will stop on a few occasions just for the spectacular scenery! In the Barskoon Gorge we find many fine stands of the beautiful, lilac Primula nivalis ssp farinosa and the eye-catching Desideria flabellata with its dense heads of pale lilac flowers. In the afternoon we visit Jeti Ögüz – a famous red rock formation (the name derives from the rock formation's resemblance to seven bulls) and a legend about a khan's (a Central Asian Lord) unfaithful wife! The rock formation is a well-known landmark in Kyrgyzstan and is seen as a national symbol. On the meadows nearby, we find stands of purple Dictamnus, Bonnet Bellflower, as well as the white, Edelweiss-like Leontopodium fedtschenkoanum, blue Polygala hybrida and a few small blue Allium Caesium, and arrive back in Karakol in the evening. Overnight: Greenyard guesthouse, Karakol
Day 12: Wed 19 June - Tamga
We spend a full day exploring the very special place called Fairy Tale Canyon which consists of convoluted multicoloured clay hills and inclined strata. Interesting flowers include the fragrant, purple Sea-lavender Limonium kaschgaricum, the tough yellow Scutellaria przewalskii, the mint Lagochilus seversianus, and the dark spikes of the parasitic Cynomorium coccineum – General’s Root. The birdlife is abundant with Eastern Black Redstart, Mongolian Desert Finch and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush to name a few of the species we might come across. In the evening we return to our lovely guesthouse where we go through our daily checklist. Overnight: Greenyard guesthouse, Karakol.
Day 13: Thurs 20 June - Karakol to Bishkek
We depart Karakol for a long day heading back to Bishkek. We will make a few stops along the way, hopefully adding more species, as we enjoy the varied landscape Kyrgyzstan has to offer. We plan to arrive in Bishkek during the early evening for a lovely meal in the city centre. Overnight: Comfortable tourist hotel, Bishkek
Day 14: Fri 21 June - Ala-Archa
We spend our last full day visiting the splendid Ala-Archa National Park, located only 40km south of Bishkek. Large coniferous trees are suitable habitat for Greenish Warbler, Hume’s Warbler, Rufous-naped Tit and Azure Tit, and along the white-water rivers, we search for the finest songster of the region - the Blue Whistling Thrush! Next to the birds, there are many gorgeous butterflies are on the wing - Mountain Apollo, Banded Apollo, and Clouded Apollo are just three of the seven species of Apollo alone we can encounter in the park! Overnight: Comfortable tourist hotel, Bishkek
Day 15: Sat 22 June - Fly Bishkek to London
After a wonderful holiday in Central Asia it is time for us to say goodbye. We say our farewells at Bishkek Airport from where we fly back home.