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Part 6 – Anatomy of a Solo Female Backpacking Adventure: My Central Asia Itinerary

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(Back to Part 1)

Every trip starts with an arrival destination – but it’s anyone’s guess what happens after landing.

Some trips are highly organized, with sights and facilities reserved each step of the way. Others, like my own trip across Africa, are more hit-and-miss, with few plans beyond landing.

This time I need some sort of plan, because I only have a month and getting across Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in four weeks does deserve a bit of a think-through.

My Central Asia itinerary

Broadly speaking, I’ll land in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, at the end of this month and spend a couple of days there. I have no idea what kind of a city it is (and that’s half the fun).

I’ll then experience tourism Soviet-style along Lake Issy-Kul (the world’s second-largerst Alpine lake), the country’s main resort area. I plan to travel clockwise around the lake and head for some BIG mountains, before the winter snows.

The Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan (Photo Tienshanicum via Wikimedia Commons)

Snow could happen as early as mid-September, and that might mean – stuck. This isn’t your garden-variety call-the-towtruck stuck but your icy-road-clinging-to-a-mountain-face kind of stuck, with no place to turn around. I won’t be seeking this out and trust that I’ll beat the snow.

I will continue through the South of Kyrgyzstan until I reach the city of Osh, the country’s oldest – and its market, one of the busiest and largest in Central Asia.

Vivid oriental market with bags full of spices in Osh (Mariusz Prusaczyk/123RF)

From Osh I’ll cross overland to Uzbekistan, where I’ll make my way to the capital, Tashkent, and then start the odyssey northwards towards the amazing sites at Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Or something along those lines.

Here’s what my Central Asian itinerary looks like. For now.

In the end, my trip may bear no resemblance to this but it’s always good to start with a plan.

Knowing I had a month and was visiting two countries helped: I arbitrarily decided to split the trip in half, two weeks per country.  With half the time, I’d have chosen one country or the other, but I wouldn’t try to cram both into two weeks.

I made sure I included a variety of experiences – architecture, art, music, traditional life, nomadism, drop-dead gorgeous scenery, Soviet remnants… I realize this is vague but at this stage, I simply don’t know. I’ve looked at my guidebooks, I have an overall view of what’s on the ground, and I do have a few specific things I must see or do: stay in a Kyrgyz yurt in the Tien Shan mountains (a bit high for comfort but…); see the amazing architecture of Uzbekistan; attend the World Nomad Games; haggle madly in the Osh bazaar. As for the rest, it is (very welcome) icing on the cake.

The planning part is in fact a bit liberating. Reality may differ hugely from the plan and that’s absolutely fine.

If you’ve been to either country and have some absolute musts (including food-related), please let me know! Part of the excitement will be the discovery, the other part will be following up on your suggestions.

Part 7 – Travel Health Considerations in Central Asia

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