Responsible Travel: Community Based Ecotourism in Nuratau Kyzyl-Kum area.
In central Uzbekistan (see the map), south of Lake Aydar in the Nuratau Mountains a community based eco-tourism initiative was launched in 2007. In five of the lush green river valleys, in the villages Eski Forish, Asraf, Uhum, Upper Uhum, Hayat and Sentyab ten farmer families converted parts of their homes into rural homestays. All the buildings were designed according to the tradition and constructed out of local rocks. They are located in big gardens under old walnut and mulberry trees. Mountain brooks pass through the gardens where you can relax on tapchans - comfortable platforms, drink tea, eat nuts or various national dishes or simply relax with a book and a glass of wine or beer. All houses have essential facilities such as bedrooms furnished with kurpacha mattresses, blankets and pillows, showers, flush toilets and good drinking water.
Due to the variety of habitat types (mountain, semi-desert and wetland vegetation) the area is famous for its high biodiversity in particular its rich birdlife (see checklist of birds).
After an active day of hiking, horseback riding or swimming in the lake located 30-40km further north, you can take a refreshing shower. Those who wish can watch or take part in traditional cooking or baking bread in a clay oven (tandir). You can choose whether you would like to sleep outside on a tapchan or in a specially prepared bedroom.
There are many opportunities, particularly during spring and late autumn, to witness the “Kupkari” events – a traditional game on horseback. This spectacle is an unforgettable experience for every visitor. You might also have the chance to take part in a local wedding or another traditional festivity.
There are few places in Uzbekistan where tourists have a better chance to experience everyday rural life. The main attraction of the area is its people who have maintained many of their old customs and traditions. Guests will be able to enjoy the very personal attention and the overwhelming oriental hospitality of the hosts. Thus a stay in the Nuratau Mountains will compliment a classic Uzbekistan cultural journey.