The second instalment of our essential backpacker's guide to Asia concluded with us talking about some of the sites to see in Kazakhstan. At this point, our advice is to head south toward Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Having said that, you do need to plan wisely for this leg of your trip. There are some countries that may not be ideal are suitable for Westerners during your travels.
Along the western edge of the Asian continent are countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. At the time of this writing, we recommend you stay out of those areas. You would be better off travelling through the westernmost portion of China to get from Tajikistan to India. Feel free to visit those other countries in the future if the political unrest subsides.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are former Soviet bloc countries with political and cultural ties to Russia. Moreover, while they are like two brothers who cannot seem to get along, the political bickering seldom has a negative impact on tourists. Just be sure to avoid wandering around remote parts of either country. Stick with major cities and transportation routes and you'll be just fine.
What many backpackers remark about in Kyrgyzstan is the abundance of exceptional camping in the southern portion of the Osh region, near Naryn. Lake Song Kel' and Lake Issyk Kul' are also popular with travellers. If you feel like doing some trekking in the wilderness, there are plenty of local tour operators with guides for hire.
In Tajikistan, you are likely to observe large pockets of poverty in both rural and urban areas. The economic conditions of the country dictate there are not a lot of up-scale tourist attractions to worry about. But that's okay. Part of the allure of backpacking is to enjoy open country. And there's a lot of that to be found in Tajikistan. You'll be amazed by the majestic mountains, serene valleys, and beautifully calm lakes.
Travelling to India
We recommend you travel from southern Tajikistan into north-west China, then make your way to India. Following this route means that you will be spending more time in China as you make your way back up toward Western Europe. It also ensures you stay away from some of the trouble spots of Western Asia.
At the time of this writing, it is also good idea to avoid the Kashmir region on your way to India. The borders are still disputed by India, Pakistan, and China, so customs can be dicey. You can travel along the eastern edge of Kashmir and, if you'd like, make a stop in Nepal before going to India. Should you decide to go this way, Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu is a must see.
We will leave our journey through Asia here. In the fourth part of our series, we will talk about India and points south, leading up to the final instalment discussing Korea, China, and Mongolia. We hope you are finding this journey interesting and helpful thus far!