Our up and coming travel plans for the summer of 2016
After four months of travel industry research work (two months in Vietnam followed by two months in Cambodia), we’ve decided it’s time to get back on the road again.
We enjoy planning and plotting, especially over a beer or two, so this week we’ve been relaxing in the Thai seaside town of Hua Hin catching up with work and doing exactly that (plus a bit of beach time of course!).
So, what have we decided for the summer and autumn of 2016? On the 8th we fly back to England from Thailand to visit friends and family. Then, on the 4th of May, which is two days before Kirsty’s birthday, we fly to Kaunas in Lithuania. We would normally stay in the UK a little longer (especially when it’s so close to Kirsty’s birthday) but we hope to be in Minsk in Belarus for Victory Day which is on the 9th of May. There is a great parade and incredible fireworks, by all accounts, so it should be a good day. I use the word hope as we don’t yet have our visas for Belarus and they can be a bit tricky to obtain. We’ll apply for the visa once we get back to the UK. Fingers crossed!
I forgot to mention that while we are in Lithuania we plan to visit Gruto Park, aka Stalin’s World, a sculpture park full of Soviet-era statues located close to the Lithuanian/Belarus border. Check it out: it should be similar to Memento Park in Budapest which we visited in the summer of 2014.
We then plan to see more of Belarus before crossing the border into Poland. We will spend a bit of time in Poland, visiting some towns and cities that will be new to us, before crossing the border into the Czech Republic. Apparently Prague is a good place to pick up a cheap ticket for a flight to Kazakhstan. We haven’t done our research yet but assuming it’s correct we’ll sort out a flight and head to Central Asia for the lion’s share of the summer months. The jury is out at the moment on whether we fly to Astana or Almaty but either way we will utilise the relatively new 15-day visa-free rule and see a tiny bit of this vast country (Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world). As an aside, if all goes accordingly to plan, Kazakhstan will officially be my 100th country visited. I’ll be downing a kumys (fermented mare’s milk) in celebration – not!
The plan is then to travel to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. I think from memory, we stumped up US$100 each for our Kyrgyz visa last time we visited but now we are allowed to stay for 60 days visa free so we’ll hole up in Bishkek for a while and sort out our onward visas.
Journeying along the Pamir Highway into Tajikistan has long been on our to do list. The last time we attempted the journey we weren’t very successful due to adverse weather. We were a bit early in the season on that occasion but this time around we plan to be there later in the year so hopefully we won’t have to abandon the trip this time. Using a 4WD vehicle (which can be hired in Osh in Kyrgyzstan), we intend to get into the heart of Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region. It’s rough going by all accounts but incredible mountain vistas, isolated valleys and interesting culture should more than compensate for the lack of creature comforts.
Afghanistan has long been an obsession of mine and if we feel it is right to do so, we will make a side trip into the Wakhan Valley in the far north of the country. It’s a big ‘if’ at the moment and may not happen, but you never know…
Continuing to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, we’ll then travel north to ancient Samarkand in Uzbekistan. After exploring more of Uzbekistan, we intend to treat ourselves and book an organised tour to Turkmenistan. Known as the North Korea of Central Asia, you can travel with relative independence in Turkmenistan if you apply for a transit visa but this type of visa is only valid for 3-7 days. If you want to stay longer and see more of the country, as we do, you need to book a tour. We will end up in Turkmenbashi from where there is a ferry service to Baku in Azerbaijan.
We will be on the homeward leg thereafter. We intend to reach Istanbul in Turkey, from where we will continue through Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova before taking a flight back to England arriving sometime in mid to late October. How long we spend in this part of the world depends on our energy levels and what the weather is doing.
That’s it folks. That’s the summer and autumn of 2016 sorted for us! We probably won’t follow the above route to the letter, in fact I can guarantee that there will be some changes along the way, but we’re looking forward to it and are confident it’s going to be a fantastic adventure.
Below is our proposed route (open in Google maps or zoom in to see the detail) … Make sure you’re following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for on-the-road updates. Also feel free to sign up to our newsletter so you can be the first to know when we post about the region…
What are your summer travel plans? Let us know in the comments below …