My Top 10 Reasons to visit Kyrgyzstan
My Top 10 Reasons to Come to Kyrgyzstan
My name is Alex and I have been working and living here in Kyrgyzstan since 2014 and I would like to welcome you to my 2nd home Kyrgyzstan. Enjoy my top 10 reasons to come to Kyrgyzstan! Take a look at a short film that I made for Indy Guide about my life here in Kyrgyzstan. My short film.
1. The People You Will Meet
Kyrgyzstan if full of interesting and divers people from all across Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan has over 80 different nationalities living in one place. Each nationality has its own bread, tea drinking culture, meaty dishes, and native songs. In addition, when you travel from one place to another in Kyrgyzstan you will be able to see the different ways people live.
On a tour, you will be able to meet these special people, to share a late-night tea with your host or have a few shots of vodka with your horseman. Your guide will open doors to amazing authentic people. The people you will meet on your tour in Kyrgyzstan will be the lasting impression on you.
2. The Uniqueness of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a bit of a fairytale to most avid travelers and it will be hard to explain where Kyrgyzstan is to your friends and family. Once you land in Bishkek make sure to buy a Soviet map at Osh Bazar to show your friends and family where you were.
Some of the most unique experiences that can be found in Kyrgyzstan are, building your own Yurt, swimming in a salty lake with snow capped peaks in the distance, being so close to the nature, ski touring from Yurt to Yurt, becoming a nomad yourself. Kyrgyzstan does not disappoint any thrill-seeking person.
Some people like to compare Kyrgyzstan to Nepal or to Mongolia, but many people would say that Kyrgyzstan offers both elements, Nepal with its virgin peaks and Mongolia with its vast open landscapes dotted with Yurt camps. Most importantly Kyrgyzstan is a unique place because it is still uncharted territory for most avid travelers.
3. Vast Open Landscapes
Once you land in Bishkek you will understand how the mountains surround you and surprise you by the different types of landscapes you will see on tour. Most of the people that come to Kyrgyzstan come from large cities or densely populated areas which is something that Kyrgyzstan does not offer. Kyrgyzstan is all about the vast open places such as Son-Kol, Sary-Jaz, Alay Valley, Ak-Say Valley and many more places to still be discovered.
Many places in Kyrgyzstan can be defined by the contrast that people see with just a short drive. With a proper guide, you will be able to see huge contrasts in Kyrgyzstan with only a few hours’ drive. Kyrgyzstan is 95% mountains which includes the Tian Shan, Kyrgyz Ala-Too, Pamir, Alay, Terskey Ala-Too and Talas Ala-Too mountain ranges, luckily you will have a great guide to show you the way.
4. Kyrgyzstan is Off the Beaten Path
Kyrgyzstan is certainly off the beaten path; you might see an occasional backpacker or tour group at the main attractions such as Son-Kol or Tash-Rabat, but your guide will show you the remote uninhabited places in Kyrgyzstan. You might be shocked by the emptiness of the mountains and the lack of barriers and entrance gates thought out the country side. In the 21st century it’s almost impossible to truly explore a new place, but that’s what Kyrgyzstan has to offer.
Getting off the beaten path is one of the main reason to come to Kyrgyzstan and truly explore a place that is not touched by the Western world. This requires a special type of person with a good 4x4 that is searching for something authentic, nomadic, wild, and with more than just 5 star accommodations.
5. Local Culture and Food
The different cultures and foods you will try in Kyrgyzstan will take away your breath. It’s possible to eat your way thought all the different cultural foods that are found in Kyrgyzstan. Each region has its own traditional dish that comes from the local culture.
In Karakol, you need to try the famous dish by Dungan people called Ashlan foo. It’s a cold noddle dish that is really spicy and great for a quick lunch.
In Song Kol, you need to try beshbarmak its most commonly eaten by Kyrgyz shepherds in the high mountain pastures called Jailoo. It tastes the best with fresh bread and tea.
In Osh, you have to try Uzbek Plov it’s something very special to eat at the Osh bazaar in Osh. Having lunch in the bazaar you will feel like a traveler on the silk road.
All the dishes you will try in Kyrgyzstan are authentic and one of a kind because of the mix of cultures and people in one place. Your guide will be able to explain the cultural roots of each dish and match it to the local culture and people.
6. Accommodations Deep in the Mountains
Kyrgyzstan is well known for its mountains, but little is written about the mountain accommodations. During the Soviet Union, there was many houses build deep into the mountains to support community farming operations and houses built around alpine hot springs. Most interesting each part of Kyrgyzstan has its own style of alpine house.
The most well-known Alpine Hut in Kyrgyzstan is called Altyn-Arashan (Golden Spring). Altyn-Arashan is deep into the Terskey Ala-Too mountain range near Ala-Kol lake. It’s well known for its hot springs and view to the snowcapped peak of Peak Palatka 5,020 m.
Another interesting off the beaten path accommodation in the mountains is Jil-Suu Alpine Hut, it’s an old Soviet Community Farm Commune. The accommodation has everything a person needs, a roof over your head, hot springs, and amazing hosts.
Alternative accommodations are found at higher grounds, under Khan Tengri Peak 7,010 m, Pobeda Peak 7,439 m and Lenin Peak 7,134 m. Both peaks offer amazing alpine base camps for serous alpinists and hobbies. At the Khan Tengri Base Camp it’s possible to fly with a Russian MI-8-MTB into the basecamp to spend a few nights and bag a few peaks nearby. The base camp of Lenin Peak is a perfect place to see countless peaks above 5,000 m and even reach to the summit of a few of them.
It’s impossible to forget about the Yurt accommodations deep into the mountains that are totally breath taking and the central part of Kyrgyz culture. From nomadic Kyrgyz families that live in one Yurt to the larger Yurt Villages for guests most commonly found in Jeti-Ogus and Son-Kol.
All accommodations in Kyrgyzstan have great food and bottomless cups of tea to share with friends and family.
7. The Overland vehicles in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan has a rich history of overland adventures from the Great Silk Road to the Russian explores that fist discovered Central Asia. When you come to Kyrgyzstan you might be amazed by the type of Russian 4x4 jeeps that people are driving in the mountains. Some of the most interesting Overland vehicles you can find in Kyrgyzstan would be the UAZ Buhanka, GAZ 69, or the UAZ Hunter. These are perfect 4x4’s for anyone looking to get off the beaten path and into the wild nature of Kyrgyzstan.
UAZ Buhanka was created during the Soviet Union to work as a medic van in the Army and it’s still possible to see them working in the mountains. These vans are great because you can sleep inside them and for larger groups it’s great because they can fit up to 7 travelers.
GAS 66 was also created during the Soviet Union and it’s the perfect 4x4 jeep for someone looking to travel around in style. With the unique grill of the jeep you will stand out among the rest of the jeeps in the village.
UAZ Hunter was also created during the Soviet Union and it was created for boarder guards and police men so that they could cover any landscape without any problems. A Hunter is a great for groups of 4 travelers looking enjoy the rough roads in a non-typical 4x4.
No matter what vehicle you travel in Kyrgyzstan is a great country to overland in and the countless mountain passes and alpine lakes will keep you wanting to come back again and again. Find where the road ends put your jeep in 4x4 and keep going.
8. Wild Alpine Lakes
All over the world there is alpine lakes and amazing nature, but Kyrgyzstan has some of the best! Just image your guide showing you countless alpine lakes all within a 3 or 4-day trek. Since Kyrgyzstan is 95% mountains there is numerous natural dames that create unique alpine lakes. The three Alpine lakes that are off the beaten map are, Kol-Suu, Tulpar-Kol lakes, and Chatyr-Kul.
Tulpar-Kol lakes are a number of small lakes at the base of Lenin Peak in the Chong Alay valley. You will be able to see countless peaks above 5000m and you might be able to see the reflection of Lenin Peak 7,000m in one of the many lakes.
Chatyr Kul lake is one of the many untouched lakes in Kyrgyzstan and it’s found on the south side of the At-Bashy Range. It’s on the boarder of China and Kyrgyzstan. It’s a great place for bird watching and looking out to the emptiness of the whole area.
No matter where you go in Kyrgyzstan you will be impressed by the beautiful nature and untouched landscape. Let your guide open doors and show you some of the hidden gems here in Kyrgyzstan. Horseback riding in SongKol lake
The world is full of great landscapes and full of beautiful shots, but Kyrgyzstan is different. Here in Kyrgyzstan a photographer will love the wild nature and wide-open landscapes because of the contrast that can be experienced within just a short drive. The contrast between the deserts and the numerous glaciers that cover the nearby peaks make Kyrgyzstan a great country for Photography. There are numerous destinations in Kyrgyzstan to capture the essences of the country, but I recommend these three destinations.
Song-kol lake is an amazing alpine lake with countless yurts and horses that dot the landscape and a person can feel as if they were on the silk road and meeting nomadic families for the first time. Song-Kol lake offers large landscapes for photographers and the nomadic families offer a great story to any picture.
Osh one of the great cities on the Silk Road. Osh is over 3000 years old and you will feel that your walking on accent grounds. For photographers, it’s a paradise to capture the fusion between the Silk Road and the mix of Soviet Union architecture.
The road from Bishkek to Osh is a great for photographers to see the changes in the landscapes. Some of the highlights would be the panoramic view from the Too Asu pass 3800m, Toktogul Reservoir, and the lovely road side stands near Uzgen and countless special moments along the way.
No matter where you go to in Kyrgyzstan you will find great places to capture stories and share them with your friends back home.
10. Trekking Possibilities
Kyrgyzstan might be 95% mountains, but it’s quite possible to cross these mountains by food or on horseback. For nature loves Kyrgyzstan’s mountains is truly a playground and they can be very accusable with the right guide. My three favorite regions for trekking would be Issyk-Kul, At-Bashy, and Jalal-Abad.
In the Issyk-Kul region is one of the best trekking regions in Kyrgyzstan because of the mix of high mountain passes and large peaks in the distances. One very interesting treks would be the trek from Echkilitash to the South Inylchek Base Camp along the Inylchek glacier. From the South Inylchek Base camp you are able to see two 7000m peaks, Khan-Tengri Peak and Peak Pobeda.
In the At-Bashy region there is countless treks and possibilities to explore virgin mountains. The At-Bashy mountain range is one of the untouched ranges still open for exploration. One trek that is off the beaten path would be the two-day trek to Shar Waterfall. Shar Waterfall is the largest waterfall in Central Asia!
In the Jalal-Abad region it’s a great place to mix of local culture with trekking from village to village. One destination that is a must see is Arslanbob. An uncommon trek would be from Kyzyl-Unkyur village to Arslanbob via the large waterfall. It’s possible to meet famers and pilgrims along the way. The village of Arslanbob is also a religious site for Muslim pilgrims.
No matter where you go trekking in Kyrgyzstan make sure you are ready for the adventure. Trekking in Kyrgyzstan is unlike many other places because the mix of virgin mountain passes and empty alpine valley. Make sure your guide takes you off the beaten path and shows you all the shortcuts along the way. Check out these two films about trekking to Ala Kol lake: Amazing view on the way up to Ala Kol lake Trekking up to Ala Kol lake in winter.