10 reasons to go to Kyrgyzstan
The charming mountains, crystal-clear lakes, heart-warming cuisine, unique petroglyphs, atmospheric bazaars and colourful festivals are just some of the reasons to go on vacation to Kyrgyzstan, which is sometimes called the “Switzerland of Central Asia”. Here’s what to see and do in a country that was once home to the Great Silk Road.
You need a negative PCR test OR a certificate of vaccination (“Sputnik V” fits) to visit (information updated 03/21/2022).
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Swim in Lake Issyk-Kul
The famous Lake Issyk-Kul is one of the largest and deepest in the world. For the Kyrgyz it’s a truly sacred place, which is associated with a huge number of legends. If you find yourself here in the warm season, you should definitely go for a swim. There are excellent beaches in Cholpon-Ata and villages Bosteri, Kara-Oy and Bulan-Segettu. Important point: if you have a dog it’s not allowed to enter the water of Issyk Kul: the locals may consider it as disrespect to their nature and culture.
Admire the scenery from the top of Burana Tower
The 20-meter Burana Tower is a minaret built in the 10th – 11th centuries. It once dominated the ancient rich town of Balasagun, located on the Great Silk Road and destroyed by the Tatar-Mongols. There is a beautiful legend connected to the building about the khan’s daughter, whom her father hid in the tower to protect her from a mysterious black spider: its bite, as one soothsayer predicted, was to kill the girl. Spoiler: you cannot escape your fate. At the top of the tower there is an observation deck with a stunning view of the Tien Shan.
Discover the local cuisine
Kyrgyz dishes are generous, hearty and caloric: this is the effect of the nomadic past of the locals. Among the most famous are beshbarmak (boiled meat with noodles and onion sauce), kulchotai (also boiled meat with home-made noodles, but the taste is completely different), kurdak (stew with meat and vegetables), oromo (roll of dough stuffed with meat and/or vegetables), kazy-karta (horse meat sausage) and many others. Also you have to try fresh bread from tandyr and koumiss (fermented milk drink made of mare’s milk). In Bishkek you can taste the traditional dishes in the restaurants “Yr Kese” and “Supara”, for instance. The latter is made in the shape of a yurt!
Visit a mountain gorge
There are several mind-blowing mountain gorges on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, and at least one of them is a must-see! For example you can visit Ala-Archa National Park near Bishkek or Jety-Oguz Gorge in the neighborhood of Issyk-Kul. Incredible landscapes await you in the place Altyn-Arashan near Karakul, but it’s a bit harder to get there. In these places you will feel how small a man is in front of the nature.
Go to the bazaar in Osh
It is a crime to visit Kyrgyzstan without going to an atmospheric oriental bazaar. There are traditional markets all over the country, but the largest and most famous one – “Jaima” – is located in the city of Osh. Trade here doesn’t stop for more than 2000 thousand years! From non-perishable goods you can buy nuts, dried fruits and spices to take home. Besides local products, they also sell handicrafts. There are also shops with ready-made stuff like fragrant kebab, pilaf, samsa, beshbarmak, tandyr flatbread.
To live a nomad’s life
The so called “Jailoo tourism” (“jailoo” in Kyrgyz means “letovka”) is getting more and more popular in Kirghizia in the recent years. Travellers are offered to try on the way of life of a mountain shepherd for a few days. You will live in a yurt, eat freshly cooked flatbread and mutton, drink koumiss, breathe fresh air and stroll along endless Kyrgyz expanses. It is clear that you will have to forget about the benefits of civilization. If this doesn’t scare you, we advise you to have this inexpressible experience!
Get acquainted with the art of making felt carpets
Carpet weaving is the most famous folk craft of Kyrgyzstan. Creating a shyrdak felt carpet with intricate patterns is a time consuming process. The secrets of craftsmanship passed down from generation to generation for centuries. The Kyrgyz are proud of their craft and even hold a festival shyrdak. If you have an opportunity, you should come to our carpet-weaving workshop and watch how an artisan works, it’s a really fascinating show!
Get in touch with the mysteries of petroglyphs
In the town of Cholpon-Ata, on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, there is an interesting open-air museum, where you can see the stones with the petroglyphs. Some of them were created 4000 years before our era! Ancient man’s hand carved hunting scenes, pictures of animals, mysterious symbols on the surface of the boulders. Scientists believe that the stones were used in religious ceremonies.
Get energized in the walnut forest
Arslanbob is the largest walnut forest in the world, considered the home of walnuts. There is a lake Kel Mazar with crystal clear water and two waterfalls, one of which reaches 80 meters in height. Arslanbob is an ideal place for lovers of long walks in the scenery of pristine nature.
Take part in a traditional feast
The holiday has a special place in Kyrgyz culture. It is a concentration of local traditions and rituals with great respect for the country’s past. It’s great if you get to attend such an event. Among the highlights of the year are Navruz Spring Festival (March 21), National Equestrian Games Festival (July), Birds of Prey Festival (August). Many events are held in the summer pastures, which only adds color.
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