Kyrgyzstan is a nation of breath-taking beauty that very few travellers ever have the opportunity to explore. We've put together a guide to help you envision what to do in Kyrgyzstan.
1. Stay in a traditional yurt
Where better for this than at Jailoo Yurt Camp; wake up to find your senses cradled: feeling the crisp mountain air on your skin, smelling the aromatic pine trees and overlooking stunning blue Issyk Kul – Kul being Kyrgyz for lake.
2. Visit Tash Rabat
Follow the footsteps of travellers along the Silk Road from centuries gone by, reaching the famous caravanserai, or rest stop, stone built with an impressive 31 dome-shaped rooms.
3. Take a helicopter ride through the mountains
Take an ex-Soviet helicopter up to the 7000m peaks of the celestial mountains, and look down on the snowcapped tips.
4. Horse ride through canyons in the Jeti-Oguz Valley
Admire the magnificent red rock formations from the back of an animal close to the Kyrgyz people, horse. Stop off at Broken Heart rock, steeped in a local legend of a beautiful girl with two admirers – what a classic – before reaching the mightily impressive Seven Bulls.
5. Go to Karakol Livestock Market on a Sunday morning.
Karakol lies on the far eastern tip of Lake Issyk Kul, close to the borders with Kazakhstan and China, making this bustling market a mélange of ethnic peoples and their animals: camels, yaks, goats, sheep and more… Makeshift cafes offer boiled sheep’s heads while children slurp on chunks of watermelon.
6. Relax on the shores of Issyk Kul
…even pop in for a dip. Despite the snow-capped mountains surrounding it, the saltiness of the lake means it never freezes and has a warmish temperature. In Chinese it is known as the “Hot Sea”.
7. Try Boorsok
Try these delicious, deep-fried, diamond-shaped donuts dipped in homemade jam – a popular ancient ritual dish as well as traditional table ‘decoration’, with huge amounts lain out at Kyrgyz celebrations.
8. White water rafting
Experience the mountains by copter, foot or horseback, but why stop there? A hop to the Chui River between Son Kul and Bishkek offers superb white water rafting, with manageable rapids.
9. Meet eagle hunters in Bokonbayevo
About a dozen experienced falconers in this town are able to present these golden birds in their glory, with demonstrations or even big and small hunts taking place. Guest housing, yurt camping and homestays can be arranged in this picturesque lakeside village, which offers an insight into the traditional Kyrgyz ways of life, including carpet weaving, making felt souvenirs and cooking and tasting the national foods.
10. Bathe in hot springs in the Naryn Valley
There are hot springs all over Kyrgyzstan, the springs of Alytn-Arashan, meaning Golden Spa, are 50°C and enriched with radon which offers a therapeutic effect on the body, and the Naryn Valley offers beautiful crystal pools.
There is very little light pollution in the grassy steppes of Kyrgyzstan, and Tash Rabat in particular offers excellent opportunities to marvel at the milky way and look for shooting stars.
12. Visit the walnut forests of Arslanbob
These fruit forests, which boast the largest walnut area on the planet, are named after 11th century scientist and military leader Arslanbob-Ata, who is alleged to have planted these valleys with walnut trees in order to boost the local economy. It is the route the walnut took to Europe too, with Alexander the Great exporting the plants in great numbers home to Greece from his campaigns in Central Asia, hence the nickname the “Greek nut”.
In a fauna frenzy, you can find more than 130 species of trees and shrubs in these forests, sprouting apples, pears, plums, raspberries, cherries, almonds, pistachios and more. But the walnut is the forests’ prized gem: with centuries-old trees standing 30 meters high and 2 meters in diameter, providing 200-400 kg of nuts every year.
- Five facts to help you get to know Kyrgyzstan -
Unique Kyrgyzstan Facts
1. The country has 88 major mountain ranges covering 70% of its land
2. The national drink is horse milk – or kumyz
3. The 40 sun rays on the flag represent the country’s original 40 tribes
4. The Bolsheviks temporarily renamed the capital Bishkek to Frunze
5. Kyrgyz welcome spring with the traditional Persian New Year festival Nowruz, where nomadic-heritage games are played including the popular Ulak Tartysh or Buzkashi. AKA playing polo with a goat carcass…
Now that you know what to do in Kyrgyzstan, come join us on one of our unforgettable Kyrgyzstan Trips to this spectacular country. Our Kyrgyzstan Explorer journey is one of our signature trips and a great one to see this country for the first time!