The Ancient & Modern Silk Road in Kyrgyzstan

Horse Riding Kyrgyzstan

Central Asia is a fascinating area to me because it’s shrouded in a unique, exotic historic atmosphere.  The Central Asian countries have a reputation for being stopping points along the 2,000 year old Silk Road trade routes that connected the East to the West during the days when trading happened mainly via land routes.

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I’ve always pictured long lines of caravans with camels toting spices, exotic animals and merchandise as the wind whips around traders struggling forward towards their destination, so Central Asian history feels very mysterious and wild to me.

The Silk Road actually received its name because of the huge amounts of luxurious silk that moved across it into the West.  It also carried items like gold, paper, jade, musical instruments, gunpowder, ivory, spices, and exotic animals from country to country, creating a dynamic connection between many different nations.  Globalization thrived because of the flowing exchange of goods, ideas, philosophies, and religions brought about by the extensive reach of the Silk Road trading routes.

Christy Warren

Kyrgyzstan holds several noteworthy Silk Road sites if you want to check out some Silk Road history: Burana Tower, the marketplace in Osh, and Tash Rabat. 

Burana Tower is a large minaret along the Silk Road that’s surrounded by several legends, a field of bal-bal statues (stones carved to resemble various faces), and a small museum with history of the tower along with ancient coins, jewelry, etc.  They also have a small souvenir yurt next to the museum.  Burana Tower is about 80km east of Bishkek near the town of Tokmok.  Entrance fees are minimal and the scenery is beautiful.  It makes a nice day trip from Bishkek. 


I personally enjoy it when I can see history that extends its reach into the modern world still, which is why I love the bazaar in Osh so much.  The marketplace in Osh is said to have been open and operating for more than 3,000 years and was a stop along the Silk Road in Kyrgyzstan.  Just like ancient Silk Road merchants would have been bargaining and selling their merchandise in an open air marketplace, people are still doing that in Osh.  It’s been around for forever and makes a great stop if you want to brush up on your bargaining skills, eat some dried fruit, and breathe in fragrant, spiced air from a modern Silk Road stop. 

Werner Haug

Last, but not least, one of the coolest Silk Road remnants in Kyrgyzstan is Tash Rabat. Tash Rabat is an ancient caravanserai that functioned as an inn, offering protection from both the elements and raiders to traveling merchants and ambassadors crossing the Silk Road.  It’s a symmetrical structure with a large central dome surrounded by 30 other domed rooms.  It’s located in the At-Bashi district, perched at 3200m in the midst of the area’s remote mountains. It makes a great trip if you want to combine history with exploring some of Kyrgyzstan’s natural beauty. 

If you’re a fan of the Silk Road, or just want to learn more about it, these 3 places make for some excellent opportunities and will also take you all around the country if you visit all three.