To most people, Kyrgyzstan is such an exotic nation that any experience found there will be unique. This central Asian nation also boasts some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the world.
Because of Kyrgyzstan’s rich cultural heritage, stunning landscape, and welcoming people, there are many unique experiences you can enjoy. Here are just 5.
#1. Spend time with the Kyrgyz.
The Kyrgyz are friendly and welcoming people. Because of the recent growth in tourism, you can now join ethnographic tours that introduce you to local people living in traditional nomadic camps.
You’ll be able to see the locals wearing light clothes suitable for horseback riding and distinctive, tall hats. The Kyrgyz traditionally live in yurts. A yurt is a sturdy, wooden-framed tent that can easily be transported from place to place by the nomadic Kyrgyz people.
Visiting a Kyrgyz camp, you might be offered some traditional food to taste. The Kyrgyz enjoy a wide variety of foods picked up from neighboring nations during their travels. They tend to eat a lot of horse, yak, and lamb-based dishes.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see some of the traditional Kyrgyz dances, such as the Kara Jorgo. This is a lively folk dance with rapid wrist and elbow actions performed to the sound of traditional tunes played on the Kyl Kyak and the Komuz.
The Kyl Kyak is an upright, stringed instrument that is played with a bow like a violin. The Komuz is a traditional, 3-stringed musical instrument that resembles a tiny guitar. You might also come across the local variety of flute, called a Sybyzgy.
#2. Go horseback riding.
Horseback riding is the best way to explore Kyrgyzstan. Horses are an important part of the Kyrgyz culture. Even if you don’t have any previous horseback riding experience, you can still join a guided tour where they’ll go at your pace and teach you as you go.
Archeologists believe that the people living in this area thousands of years ago were the first in the world to learn how to ride horses. On an equestrian tour, you can follow the same trails as the nomadic Kyrgyz and maybe explore the Silk Road. Many of these tours are combined with a stay in a Kyrgyz camp. You’ll even experience sleeping in a yurt!
During your travels, you might see a game of kok boru (dead-goat polo). This is a popular equestrian sport throughout central Asia played with the decapitated corpse of a goat. While this may not be your cup of tea, it is an ancient tradition amongst the nomadic people who inhabit this area.
#3. Experience rafting and kayaking in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan boasts 2,44 rivers and 2,000 lakes that provide ample opportunities for kayaking and white water rafting. Rafters and experienced kayakers can brave the rapids in the mountainous regions, while novices can enjoy calmer adventures on tranquil lakes.
Issyk-Kul is a glacial lake in the Tien-Shan mountains of eastern Kyrgyzstan that became a popular vacation resort during the Soviet era. Recently, many of the hotel complexes around the lake have been refurbished to welcome a new wave of water sports enthusiasts.
If you enjoy river rafting or kayaking, the Chu River near the capital city of Bishkek is a popular destination. Most visitors head for the Boom Gorge and its Class 2 Rapids. That section of the Chu River is reputed to be a great location for rafting novices.
For more experienced kayakers and more challenging raft runs, check out the Chon-Kemin River and the Naryn River. They offer Class 4 and Class 5 Rapids. The best time of year for water sports is June through September, when the water temperature of the Chu River is between 59°F and 64°F.
#4. Swim in an Alpine lake.
The pristine lakes around Kyrgyzstan are wonderful places to swim and surrounded by breath-taking scenery. The largest and easiest to access are Issyk-Kul, Sary-Chelek, and Son Kul, which you can reach by road.
Some other lakes are more remote and hidden in the mountains. They can only be reached by hiking. For example, if you decide to visit Ala-Kul, prepare yourself for a 2-day hike, camping along the way. Such high-altitude lakes can be cold. During summer, mountain lakes are typically between 43°F and 59°F. They freeze during winter.
Around the lake, you’ll see an amazing variety of wildlife. You should take along a nature photography camera, because you’ll get many opportunities to take fantastic photographs.
However, if you prefer your water a little hotter, check out Kyrgyzstan’s hot springs. The hot springs in Altyn-Arashan are about 122°F and you can find them near Issyk-Kul. Another popular hot springs is found in Issyk-Ata, 48 miles from Bishkek. These can be reached using public transport.
#5. Go hiking or bike riding in the mountains.
The Tien-Shan mountain range is a perfect destination for hiking, bike riding, and camping. The range covers 80% of Kyrgyzstan. Within these mountains, there are many beautiful trails leading to hidden lakes and panoramic views.
The continental climate in the mountains results in a low level of rainfall and sunny days for ¾ of the year. That means perfect weather for hiking. The mountainous terrain provides variety to every hike and an aerobic workout. Trekking up and down slopes will increase your stamina and strength, and the fresh mountain air is good for your soul.
Camping outdoors in such peaceful settings will be an experience you never forget. Ensure you take along a lightweight tent suitable for hiking. And if you’d prefer to go at a slightly faster pace, the Tien-Shan range is also a great place for mountain biking.
There are many expert-guided treks and bike rides through the mountains that ensure you don’t miss the stunning waterfalls and most interesting geological features. You’ll also learn about the rich history and culture of the area from local people.