Wondering how I traveled in Kyrgyzstan and discovered all these amazing places? I did it with a small group tour organized by the blogger Wandering Earl. In this post I give you a detailed and independent review of the tour: itinerary, guide, transportation, accomodation and food. And if you have any other question, leave a comment below the article.
BACKGROUND INFO ON THE TOUR
First of all I selected this tour myself and paid entirely for it. This review is fully independent.
- Organizer: Wandering Earl Tour
- Tour: Kyrgyzstan - 2 weeks
- Dates: 3rd to 16th June 2015
How I came to chose this tour: I had been following Earl's blog for quite a while and had been intrigued the year before when he shared about his visit to Kyrgyzstan. In January, he announced his tours for the eyar and I saw that the country was on it. I had a look at the itinerary which sounded wonderful.
Before deciding to book it, I had a look at what other small group tours existed for this country. It seemed that at the time most tours covered many countries and did not explore it for that long. Therefore it seemed like a great opportunity and I signed up.
The booking process was easy and all the pre-tour organization well done.
During those 2 weeks, we covered a lot of the country. As most of the country is above 3000m high we spent a lot of time in the bus. However the scenery was amazing so I did not find it an issue.
There were a few things that were not to my taste: too much time in Bishkek and not enough at Song-Kul. But it was the first time he was running the tour and I am sure it will improve next time.
Generally we covered a lot of the country and got a good overview of the different landscapes and people.
For this tour Earl himself was not available to lead it. So our tour guide was Masha Preslitskaya. She is Russian and is a full time tour guide with many companies as well as her own (It's journey time) all around Asia, Eastern Europe and Middle East.
She is the best guide I have ever had! Seriously. I have traveled via a lot of guided tours, both long term and short term trips. She is great and here is why:
- She is passionate about traveling
- She does not look like she is working. She seems to have as much fun as we have.
- She knows her stuff. Ask her any question, she's got the answer
- She is very good at quickly understanding what everyone likes and adpating everything so that we all get something during the day. For example stopping at abandonned soviet buildings for a guy in the group, beautiful landscape stops for me to photograph... Even foodwise she remembered what we liked and got us what we needed.
- She is not shy at all and we were able to talked to many locals and ask many questions to them during our trip
- If you wanted something, no problem, she'll make sure to find it for you - for example she organized taxis for me to see sunrises and sunsets. (And we even visited a gun shop for on of the person on the tour!!!)
In Summary: BEST GUIDE EVER. And you know, I am a critical person...
For the small group we were, we had a comfortable minibus. Everyone had plenty of space. The driver was Igor and the bus is his own vehicule so he takes good care of it.
I was sitting in the front so I had the best view of all. The other people on the tour had few reservations. There were curtains that limited the view outside of the window and when the road was bumpy there was nothing to hold on.
However we all agreed that Igor was an excellent driver and I personnaly felt very safe during the whole trip.
We stayed in a variety of accomodations: hotel, guesthouses and yurts. We enjoyed the charm of everyone of them. Only one had a toilet that was not very enjoyable, but considering the state of the country, this is not surprising.
- In Bishkek the hotel was not central (but not far either) and the rooms were great. When we returned at the end, they had opened the pool and it was very enjoyable.
- In Karakol, it was the place with the least character but the owners were very friendly and we were away most of the day anyway.
- In Tamga we stayed at Tamara's guesthouse, made famous by Earl through this post. She is quite a character! It was very enjoyable.
- In the isolated town of Kazerman we had a basic guesthouse with an interesting outside area to relax and eat.
- In Arslanbob, the guesthouse was beautiful with a garden and a terrace for our meals.
- We spent 2 nights in yurts. In The valley of flower (Jeti-Oguz), to my opinion, we had the best location of all the yurts. Isolated and next to the river. We had fun with the family. In Song-Kul, we could not find our yurt (they are nomads after all), so we stayed at a place close to the lake :-), my favorite spot in Kyrgyzstan.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Most of us did not know what to expect and we were pleasantly surprised. I will dedicate a post to food.
During this tour, some of the meals were included and the locals cooked some typical dishes for us that were excellent. The rest of the time, Masha found a place for us and we were always satisfied.
Plus in the bus we had some Russian chocolates and delicious fruits. Paradise!
As you can see I had a fantastic experience with my Wandering Earl Tour. I especially love that he keeps the group size under 10.
There is one more thing I wanted to add: another reason I selected this tour was to connect to locals more than during preivous travels. And I am fully satisfied with that. As you can see in my Portraits from Kyrgyzstan post, I had the opportunity to exchange with many locals.