We're a couple of independent American travelers going to Kyrgyzstan as part of a larger five week trip in late April and May, also involving Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. We speak a little bit of rudimentary Russian, and we have experience traveling in the Caucasus, northeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.
Our plan is to arrive in Kyrgyzstan from Uzbekistan, probably via taxi or marshrutka to Osh. It would also be possible to travel into Kyrgyzstan from Tashkent to Bishkek (with Kazakh visa) via marshrutka or train. Which route is more scenic and which would you recommend?
Once in Kyrgyzstan, we'll have about two weeks to to linger before heading to Almaty, Kazakhstan, in order to fly home.
During this time, we would like to see Arslanbob, Bishkek, and some towns around Issyk-Köl (and/or maybe Söng-Kol). We tend to prefer small villages and homestays with day hikes, as we're quite fit but not into camping or serious trekking. Are there any other can't-miss destinations accessible via public transport that you might recommend in terms of culture, history, or nature?
After arriving in Osh, what would be the best way to visit some of these places? Presumably, we would be traveling by marshrutka. Would it be better in terms of attractions and scenery to go via Naryn and Issyk-Köl (east) or via Toktogul (north) in order to finish at Bishkek? Which route features the nicest scenery and the most pleasant places to spend a few days along the way?
Please advise us so we can create a workable route and trajectory.
Thanks in advance.