Why I Loved Traveling in Kyrgyzstan

Why I loved traveling in Kyrgyzstan.

I’ve just returned from a unique trip to Kyrgyzstan and can’t stop raving about why I loved traveling in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country in Central Asia (one of the least touristy areas in the world) It’s a beautiful country with amazing people and (unlike some of the other countries in this region where it’s difficult to get a visa) its easy, affordable and safe to visit, even for solo female travellers. Check out the Discover Kyrgyzstan website to find out more.

Jyrglan Valley, Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is one of the most exciting destinations for intrepid explorers, trekkers and nature lovers right now. One of the most exciting things for me about traveling in Kyrgyzstan is that the country is only just developing as a tourist destination so its still very offbeat, affordable and its easy to connect genuinely with local people.

At the memorial in Bishkek – its shaped like a yurt. Even the Kyrgyzstan flag looks like the hole in the top of the yurt – the nomadic culture is really important here

One of my highlights traveling in Kyrgyzstan was hiking and horse trekking through the mountains, enjoying stunning views, without any other tourists, and staying in yurts with local nomadic shepherds! Read more here. 

My photos really don’t do the amazing scenery justice – so if you want the full effect you’ll just have to visit yourself!

Here’s a few more reasons why I loved traveling in Kyrgyzstan 

Pin Me 🙂

Stunning Nature, Trekking, Scenery and the Nomadic Culture

Kyrgyzstan is located in the heart of Central Asia and 90% of the country is mountainous and packed with stunning scenery and natural wonders meaning that Kyrgyzstan is a paradise for nature lovers and those who love the great outdoors and there are more soaring peaks complete with breath taking views that you could possibly ever be able to conquer.

Kyrgyzstan also has an interesting history, it was part of the ancient Silk Road, and then part of Soviet USSR before gaining independence in 1991. 

Natural wonders and old Soviet cars! Both common sights in Kyrgyzstan. This is the 7 Bulls, Jeti Oguz Canyon, Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz people were traditionally a nomadic race, which is why there are not that many historical buildings here, but there is a lot of stunning nature and one of the most interesting things for me was experiencing the nomadic lifestyle and culture.

Shepherds yurts and animals grazing freely up in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan

In Summer, the mountains and valleys are home to gorgeous green summer pastures complete with fields of wildflowers, alpine lakes, flowing rivers, animals roaming free and shepherds yurts. It’s perfect for hiking and its also really easy to arrange horse trekking.

Horse trekking near Jyrgalan in Kyrgyzstan

It’s also home to the gorgeous Issyk Kul Lake, the world’s second largest glacier lake and in Summer you can swim in the lake and relax on the beaches surrounding the south shore or party on the beach resorts on the north shore. I spent a lot of time exploring around Issyk Kul Lake and there are lots of cultural activities to do here. See more in my Guide to Issyk Kul Lake.

Issyk Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan

In the winter there is great skiing. Kyrgyzstan also has many unique natural wonders, canyons, waterfalls and interesting rock formations to explore and the nature is really raw, rugged and untouched.

Amazing rock formations at Skazka Canyon (also called Fairytale Canyon) near Bokonbayevo

After spending so much time in India I was amazed at how much space there is in Kyrgyzstan. The population of the capital Bishkek is only 1 million people and the population of the whole country is only about 6 million. You can really have a mountain trail all to yourself here and the country is so untouched by tourism.

Community Based Tourism and Homestays

Kyrgyzstan is only just developing a tourism infrastructure and most of it is Community Based Tourism Projects (CBT) where home stays and yurt stays allow you to really get immersed in the culture, to get a really personalised experience and to get to witness genuine local culture and get to know the local people – the Kyrgyz people are really genuine and friendly and you are sure of a warm welcome here.

 The CBT projects are easy to organise at the local CBT offices and have really reasonable prices and also helps to  supporting the local families and local economies. I loved staying at homestays with local families, I even helped to cook once!

Homestay in Jyrgalan, Kyrgyzstan
Homestay in Jyrgalan, Kyrgyzstan

I also stayed in a shepherds hut and a yurt at the top of a mountain while on a 3 day horse trek and it was really interesting to learn about the (pretty tough) life of the shepherds families.

The shepherds family I stayed with while horse trekking
Looking back down on the shepherds yurt where I stayed while horse trekking

It’s really a win win for both travellers and locals! Each region has a CBT office where it’s easy to drop in and arrange local tourism experiences. Find out more on the CBT Kyrgyzstan website.

The Friendly and Open Kyrgyz People

The Kyrgyz people are really open and friendly and the county is one of the most liberal and progressive in the region. They always seemed to be joking and laughing and happy to anything they could to help – even despite the language difference.

Kyrgyz people in traditional clothes at the felt making workshop

However, little English is spoken in Kyrgyzstan (many still know Russian though) so it’s best to take a phrase book or local guide to help translate to get the most out of your experience. I did have a local English speaking guide pretty much all the time to help translate so I could get to know people better as little English was spoken. 

Dinner with a shepherds family while trekking in Kyrgyzstan

There’s a joke in Kyrgyzstan that everyone is a relative

Cheap, Easy and Visa Free Travel

Kyrgyzstan is also really quite cheap and easy to travel, even considering how untouched it is by tourism. This was a really pleasant surprise for me as I’d always been fascinated by the Central Asia countries but put off by the difficulty of obtaining a visa and the lack of tourism infrastructure and English speakers.

One of the things I loved about traveling in Kyrgyzstan is that I arrived at the airport and was stamped in for 60 days for free, no visa required, no hassles.

Anna at the top of Burana Tower in Kyrgyzstan

Since 2012 citizens from 45 countries don’t need a visa! If you are from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, most European counties, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and many Middle Eastern countries don’t need a visa to travel in Kyrgyzstan!

You can also get a free visa at land borders and if you are planning a longer Central Asia trip Bishkek is a good place to apply for visas for the other countries. Unfortunately Indian citizens do still need a visa, see more info here on how to get it. 

Russian church in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

It’s not to difficult to reach Kyrgyztsan. Bishkek is home to Manas International Airport (FRU) and has frequent flights to neighbouring countries and Russia, Turkey, Dubai and India and then its easy to get connections to everywhere else.

Even though Kyrgyzstan is really untouristy the local Community Based Tourism offices and Hospitality Kyrgyzstan made it easy to get connected with homestays, guides, tours and treks.

And traveling in Kyrgyzstan its really affordable! The currency is called the Kyrgyz Som and it was easy to change money. 100 Som was about £1.10, $1.45 or INR 92 when I went so it wasn’t too hard to figure out for me.

Although I haven’t (yet!) visited all the countries in Central Asia I’m told that Kyrgyzstan is the cheapest to travel in. Traveling in Kyzgystan as a backpacker you could get by on about 1,700 Som per day (thats about £20 or $25).

Old Russian cars and architecture in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

Local transport is cheap, there aren’t really many public buses in Kyrgyzstan so normally you’ll take a kind of minivan called a marshrutka. An average price from Bishkek to Karakol is about should cost about 400 som ($6) it takes about 6/7 hours. You could also take a shared taxi for about 2000 som ($30) See more tips here for getting around Kyrgyzstan. 

A hostel bed in Bishkek is about 400 Som ($6) and hotel rooms start at around 2000 Som (about $30.) Homestays with CBT cost from about 450 Som ($7) to about 700 Som ($10) a night including local home cooked dinner and breakfast (usually shared bathrooms though but they do have hot water.)

Staying in a yurt is a must when traveling in Kyrgyzstan

As I was mainly staying in homestays where the meals where included I didn’t eat out very often but when I did I got a basic but decent and filling meal for about 100 som ($1.50) or 400 som ($6) for a good restaurant meal and local beers were also cheap.

Horse trekking with a guide, accommodation and meals is about 3,500 som ($50) per day or less, and of course in a country where the best thing to do is explore the nature, you don’t need to shell out much for attraction, sightseeing and admission fees.

For a full breakdown of the costs of traveling in Kyrgyzstan check out this post.

Horse trekking
Horse trekking at sunset to Shatyly Panorama

My amazing trip to Kyrgyzstan was made possible by Discover Kyrgyzstan  with the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) The contents of my blogs are, as always, my own experiences and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. 

For more information check out :

Discover Kyrgyzstan

Destination Karakol

 Jyrgalan

South Shore DMO

 

 

Have you travelled in Kyrgyzstan? What did you love the most? 

 

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27 comments

Paul September 6, 2017 at 11:11 am

Wow, sounds like an incredible expereince. I hadn’t heard of Krgyzstan before but your posts make me want to visit!

Reply
Tina September 6, 2017 at 11:14 am

Looks beautiful would love to do this and sleeping in yurts sounds amazing too

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Anna September 6, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Kyrgyzstan’s scenery is amazing and staying in a yurt is a really fun and unique experience! 🙂

Reply
Kevin Brown September 6, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Wow!!! that really looks like an amazing experience.

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Anna September 6, 2017 at 1:34 pm

It was, thanks 🙂 Hope you get to see if for yourself one day

Reply
Sonal September 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Whoa – the landscape is insanely gorgeous! I really like Skazka Canyon – I had no idea Kyrgyzstan looked like this. I want to stay in a Yurt too!

Reply
Anna September 6, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Skazka Canyon was one of my favourite places and staying in a yurt was a really cool experience. The landscapes in Kyrgyzstan are amazing and so unspoilt! I hope you get to see it for yourself one day! 🙂

Reply
Teresa September 6, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Your photos are great. I’d love to visit, after reading all of your blogs about the country!

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Anna September 6, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Thanks so much! Glad I have inspired you to visit – its an amazing country and I hope you get to see it for yourself one day 🙂

Reply
Jacqui September 6, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Looks like a really interesting place to go. Bit of everything.

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Anna September 6, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Yes it was amazing – I didn’t know much about Kyrgyzstan before visiting but its got so much to offer especially for nature lovers! 🙂

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Parveen Kumar September 10, 2017 at 11:54 pm

According to me, Kyrgyzstan is very great. I want to go to Kyrgyzstan once in my life.

Reply
Victoria @TheBritishBerliner September 20, 2017 at 12:48 pm

‘Love this post Anna!

I haven’t yet been to Kyrgyzstan, but I like what I see, especially with the homestays and horse-riding!

Well done!

Reply
Anna September 25, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Thanks Victoria 🙂 Yes I loved how it was so touristy and so easy to get an insight into the culture. Hope you get to visit for yourself soon!

Reply
Nigel Campbell October 11, 2017 at 9:51 am

Hi Anna. I and my group are aged 65 to 75. We have done a great trip to Tusheti National Park in the Caucasus and I am not working on a plan for a trip to Kyrgyzstan. I’ve had a proposal from CBT in Bishkek but there are too many hours of car travel so I want to ask them to just select two or three areas to concentrate on. Please can you help. A quick chat would be great. My phone is 07711 920 777 or can I call you. Thanks. Nigel

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Anna September 7, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Hi Nigel. Sorry I’ve only just seen your message. I hope you had a good trip?

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Deepak Acharya January 9, 2018 at 5:33 pm

I have been to this country and fell in love instantly. I am completely agree with your view –
Stunning Nature, Trekking, Scenery and the Nomadic Culture.

And your pictures show simply you had an amazing experience there 🙂

Reply
Anna August 27, 2018 at 9:52 pm

Thanks so much Deepak! Glad you are also lucky enough to explore the beauty of Kyrgyzstan! 🙂

Reply
Agness of Etramping February 27, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Wow! I would have never guessed that Kyrgyzstan is a great trekking destination, Anna. Your post was truly enlightening and an ultimate guide for this charming place. How many days would be enough to explore all of Kyrgyzstan highlights?

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Anna August 27, 2018 at 9:44 pm

Hi Agnes. Thanks, glad you liked the post. I was in Kyrgyzstan for 10 days and only say the region around Issyk Kul Lake. There’s so much more to see so I would allow double that time.

Reply
Chynara Toigonbaeva August 30, 2018 at 9:33 pm

Hello ,
If you would like to see all over Kyrgyzstan, it will take 10-15 days.

We have got regions so you have to travel from region to region to discover the beauty of the country. Preferably period is from 1 June to 31 August.
In winter time for skiing is preferably from end of November to end of February.

If you are interested for more assistance, do not hesitate to contact at:
[email protected]
Mobile / Whatsapp: 00996709410359
Thanking you
Chynara

Reply
DIEM June 19, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Hey Anna, thanks for sharing. I chose Kyrgyzstan over Nepal for my next trip. The destination which is unknown for Vietnamese 🙂 but free visa unlimited time.
Still saving budget as long way and expensive ticket from Vietnam to get there, but I will keep your information as it’s really helpful.
Have a good day~

Reply
Anna June 26, 2018 at 8:45 am

Awesome to hear your going to Kyrgyzstan! Hope you have an amazing time! 🙂

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zakir October 16, 2018 at 4:30 am

Hi, my name is zakir I’m from Kyrgyzstan. If you are visiting my home country i guess you can visit our school it’s called ESCA-BIS it’s an international school. If you do visit us you can find us on google maps just write BIS or ESCA. Once you enter down the hall on the left side there will be reception. You come in and ask if you can have a tour guide by zakir (MYP 1)

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Anna November 10, 2018 at 11:22 pm

Hi Zakir, thanks so much for inviting me to your school. If I get the chance to visit your amazing country again then I will try to visit 🙂

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David from travelscams.org December 26, 2018 at 7:25 am

Thanks for sharing Anna! These are beautiful photos showcasing the sights and sounds and the local life of Kyrgyzstan. We definitely share your excitement for Kyrgyzstan as well!

Agree that the country is safe to visit, just that if we may add for fellow travellers, do be wary of fake police and pickpockets around Osh Bazaar, as well as poor quality tour operators who try to save on safety costs.

Otherwise, have a great time in Kyrgyzstan 🙂

Reply
Rose June 30, 2019 at 8:47 am

Hi, we booked tours to Kyrgyzstan with https://www.facebook.com/Pegasadventure/
It was great experince. Everything was included in a package. Highly recommend company

Reply

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