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Yorkshire Times
Voice of the North
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Phil Hopkins
Arts & Travel Editor
9:00 AM 9th March 2020

The Saga Of The Two Stans!

Explore the ‘Stans’ on Saga’s new Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan tour of Central Asian cities, mountains, canyons and historic sites – including a mausoleum dedicated to a tragic lover.

Guests on the 10-night tour will learn about the culture and customs of the region while visiting a village offering a taste of traditional life and the cities of Almaty, Karakol, Bishkek and bustling Shymkent.

Excursions reveal natural wonders such as the mighty Charyn Canyon, the Ala-Archa National Park and Issyk-Kul Lake, the second largest mountain lake in the world after Lake Titicaca in South America.

At the Kazakh ethno village guests are greeted by a traditional ‘Shashu’ ritual, visit a yurt and enjoy a theatrical performance, while Almaty offers the Green Bazaar market, a memorial park for 28 soldiers who died defending Moscow from the Nazi invasion, the Ascension Cathedral, built entirely from wood without nails, and a cable car ride with wide views of the city.

The red sandstone canyon of the Charyn River is explored by Jeep on the way to Karakol, home to the Dungan Mosque and a distinctive Orthodox church, where there will be a demonstration of traditional eagle hunting.

The journey to the Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek will feature the open-air Ethnographic Museum of Cholpon-Ata and rocks carved with scenes of hunting, rituals and animals, dating from 500 BC, and the stay in the city will include an easy hike among the towering peaks, forests, gorges and rivers of Ala-Archa National Park.

Back in Kazakhstan, en route for Shymkent, Saga’s party will visit the intricately patterned Aisha-bib and Bib Khanum mausoleums, commemorating the tragic story of Aisha who, prohibited from marrying her lover Shakhmakhmud, rode out to find him, only to die from a snake bite before they met. Legend has it that he built the mausoleum for her, never married and became a wise ruler.

The holiday ends with a tour of dynamic Shymkent city, with its Archaeological Museum, market and museum charting Soviet repression before independence, then visits to the ancient site of the Oasis of Otrar – remains of a medieval town with an irrigation system and canals –and the fascinating mausoleums of the 12th century Sufi master Khoja Ahmed Yasawi and his teacher, Arystan Baba.

Ten nights from £2,299 per person, departing Heathrow on August 22, September 5 and 26, 2020 and May 15 and 29, 2021.

Price includes VIP door-to-door chauffeur service, return flights, airport taxes, full board accommodation, porterage, tour manager, optional travel insurance and additional cancellation rights, or a discount if passenger has own insurance.

Call free on 0800 414 383 or visit saga.co.uk/Kazakhstan