Kyrgyzstan: what to see and where to go

August 5 - 19, 2019

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Kyrgyzstan: our itinerary
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Suggested travel itinerary in Kyrgyzstan

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Kyrgyzstan, also known as Kyrgyz Republic or Kirghizia, is a landlocked country located in Central Asia, with a mountainous territory and a total area of 4/5 that of the United Kingdom. Most tourists are attracted by the great variety of landscapes that vary between steppe, grassland, forest and desert, often in just a few miles. The highest peaks exceed 20,000 feet and offer breathtaking scenery among perennial snows, glaciers and moraines, while at lower altitudes, nomadic families offer hospitality in their yurts, which are an excellent logistical base for hikes among unspoiled nature, horse riding or longer and challenging treks. Kyrgyzstan is therefore the ideal destination for tourists seeking for outdoor adventures and for those who want to learn more about culture and traditions of Central Asia. But now let's see what are the main tourist attractions in Kyrgyzstan that should not be missed:

  • Tien Shan mountains. The Tien Shan is a vast mountain system of Central Asia, which extends over 2,500 kilometers in a longitudinal direction, with numerous peaks that exceed 20,000 feet of elevation. There are many itineraries in Kyrgyzstan dedicated to visiting this mountain range, they may include easy circuits by 4x4 car or van where tourists may sleep with Kyrgyz nomadic families in their traditional yurts, up to more complex expeditions to higher altitudes, carrying tents, camping equipment and provisions. The landscapes are very heterogeneous and vary between steppe, desert and grassland even within short distances, and it's not uncommon to cross a barren red rock canyon, to find yourself suddenly surrounded by a lush forest. One of the most beautiful places in the Tien Shan mountains is probably the Kel-Suu lake with its emerald green waters, along the border with China, at 11,500 feet of altitude. But there are really dozens of stunning places that shouldn't be missed.

  • Ysyk-Kol lake. At an altitude of 5,272 feet, lake Ysyk-Kol (known also as Issyk-Kul) is the second largest mountain lake in the world after Titicaca in South America. It is located in north-eastern Kyrgyzstan and covers an area of 2,408 square miles, for a maximum depth of 2,192 feet. Its salty waters never freeze in winter due to the presence of thermal springs, and in summer the temperature is acceptable enough to swim (as long as you tolerate a water's temperature that is not exactly "tropical"). Along the Issyk-Kul lake's shore there are numerous sandy beaches, often equipped with facilities for tourists, while the city of Cholpon-Ata, on the northern shore, offers real resorts frequented also by Kyrgyz people, in addition to other tourists from Russia and Central Asia.

  • Rural villages and pastures. During a tour in Kyrgyzstan, a visit to at least some rural villages, such as Tuura-Suu or Temir-Kanat, should not be missed. The life in these villages is still marked by the passage of the seasons: agriculture and farming are the main activities and green valleys cultivated with fruits and vegetables make a sharp contrast with surrounding barren mountains. These are the ideal places to experience nomadic life and to spend some nights in the yurts, the traditional tents used by nomads in Central. The possible activities are hikes or treks, ride a horse, play with local children or, if you are lucky, it could happen that your visit coincides with some festival, such as the Birds of Prey Festival, held every year in early August. Nomad families often have children or young boys, so the trip could be particularly suitable for families thanks to the interaction that will be certainly created.

  • Lenin Peak. Lenin Peak, or Ibn Sina, rises for 23,406 feet in southwestern Kyrgyzstan, along the border with Tajikistan. It is one of the most easily accessible peaks over 20,000 feet in the world, but even if you are not planning an expedition to such extreme altitudes, it's certainly worth stopping at least at Achik Tash base camp, where you may get to by 4x4 on a dirt road. Although the more modest altitude of 11,800 feet, the base camp offers spectacular views onto the mountain, not to be missed.

  • Song Kul. The Song-Kul is a mountain lake at 9,900 feet above sea level, surrounded by beautiful pastures and where the Kyrgyz nomads spend the summer with their livestock (yaks, sheep, horses).

  • Tash Rabat. It is a remote fortress dating back to around the 15th century, used as a support to the caravaners along the ancient Silk Road. The surrounding landscape is particularly suggestive and dominated by mountains and hills with gently swaying sides.

  • Osh. Osh is the oldest city in Kyrgyzstan, which celebrated its 3000th anniversary in year 2000. It is located in the heart of the fertile Ferghana valley in southeastern Kyrgyzstan and was an important center along the Silk Road. The city center is occupied by Sulaiman-Too, a sacred mountain that is still worshiped. It is thought that the throne of Solomon once stood on this mountain, while some legends say that he was buried here. Another important place not to be missed in Osh is the sixteenth-century mosque of Babur.

  • Karakol. It is one of the most important tourist destinations in Kyrgyzstan, due to its proximity to Lake Issyk-Kul and to Tien Shan mountains, which make the city a good base for organizing excursions or longer trips. The city itself offers many attractions, such as the ancient mosque and the Russian Orthodox church made entirely of wood.

  • Bishkek. The capital of Kyrgyzstan is also the main gateway to the country, where most tours and expeditions begin. The architecture recalling old Soviet Union design, the large squares full of flowers and the Osh market offer excellent opportunities for interesting walks.

  • Burana Tower. About 80 kilometers from Bishkek, the Burana Tower is an ancient restored minaret, surrounded by numerous ancient balbals (stone idols that commemorate deceased people).


Most tours in Kyrgyzstan begins in Bishkek, where the nearby Manas International Airport (FRU), about 30 minutes away from the city, has non-stop flights onto Istanbul, Moscow, Novosibirsk and other cities continuously added due to the growing demand. Seasonally, for a few times a week, a direct flight onto Frankfurt is also available. If instead Kyrgyzstan is just part of a longer journey that includes other countries in Central Asia, such as neighboring Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, or Uzbekistan, it's possible to arrive by land, usually among spectacular mountain landscapes and roads not always in perfect conditions (this option is probably not advisable if you are traveling on your own with little experience). For those who love long train journeys, Kyrgyzstan has a railway network that connects the country to Moscow and other cities in Russia and Central Asia.


Kyrgyzstan has a road network in fair condition linking the main cities, while getting to remote areas in the mountains is a different story, since it's necessary to proceed on dirty tracks that could be quite muddy, given that in summer abundant rainfall may be always possible. Although international rail connections with Kyrgyzstan are available, traveling by train internally is impractical, as well as by plane, as airports are few and served at most by a daily flight. Probably the best way to move around in Kyrgyzstan is by taxi (incredibly cheap even on very long trips requiring hours of travel) or by buying a complete travel package that also includes a vehicle with a driver, for your entire stay in the country.


Since the main reason for traveling to Kyrgyzstan is to spend many hours outdoors, to enjoy unspoiled nature, you are probably wondering what is the best season to go to Kyrgyzstan, when weather allows to do all the planned activities. Well, unless you're looking for extreme adventures among ice and snow at many degrees below freezing point, the best time to visit Kyrgyzstan runs from late spring to early autumn. The months between November and March are in fact very cold and with lot of snow, either for the altitude of the various locations, either for the very continental climate due to the distance from all the seas. From May the temperature begins to be acceptable and, in this month, the mountains shows lot of flowers and tulips (this is the ideal time for botanical trips). Summer in Kyrgyzstan is instead ideal for hiking, horseback riding in the wild or for more challenging treks, but without forgetting that it's not a real dry season and that rain is always possible from time to time. Starting in October, the cold and snow returns, most yurts are taken down and everything falls into a sort of hibernation awaiting the next beautiful season.


Taking for good that you will travel to Kyrgyzstan in the summer, it must be clear that the altitude of the places normally visited on a tour and the geographical position far away from any sea, are factors that determine a very continental climate, with large temperature excursion between day and night, and between a beautiful sunny day and a cloudy one. These features tend to be more and more evident as the altitude increases. It is therefore essential to be prepared for everything, either for an hot day where it's possible to exceed 85°F degrees (even above 7,000 feet of elevation), either for overcast windy days which can be really cool or even cold (clear evenings and nights can be quite cold as well). In such situations it is important to dress in layers to be adjusted depending on weather and physical activity, preferring wool or synthetic fabrics and avoiding cotton (which does not guarantee a good transpiration and dries slowly). A light down jacket is useful in case of strong wind or particularly low temperature, while in case of rain it is necessary to wear a rain gear that is really waterproof (drying things in a yurt or far away from any hotel, it's not really simple). For the night, mats and heavy wool blankets are provided in the yurts to guarantee comfort at all altitudes: you will just need a warm long sleeve pajamas and, maybe, a sleeping bag linen (also useful if you have doubts about hygienic conditions). If, on the other hand, you spend the night in an small expedition tents, you will need a suitable sleeping bag for the temperature at maximum altitude of the trip. A good hat (to protect from sun), sunglasses and an high factor sunscreen are always a must.


The cities and the major towns along the itinerary of most tours in Kyrgyzstan have a good network of hotels and guesthouses ensuring all the comforts you could wish after having spent several days in the wilderness. Instead, when in the middle of nowhere, there are basically two accommodation options: with your own expedition tent or in the yurts provided by nomadic families. The yurt is the traditional house of the nomadic people in Central Asia and consists of a large tent covered by skins, felt and waterproof material, supported by a series of radially arranged wooden poles. It is a comfortable and spacious structure. In the worst case scenario, in the yurt you will not have electricity, heating or running water, while the beds are just hard mattresses placed directly on the pavement (heavy blankets are provided for the night). A yurt can accommodate several people, although generally they are assigned to a single group or family traveling together (anyway, depending on availability, it may be required to share the yurt with other tourists or even with the family that offers hospitality). In other more equipped yurt camps, it may be possible to find electrical sockets (generally functioning only in the evening) or mattresses placed on actual beds. The bathrooms are instead dislocated, shared, and consist of a pit with a toilet placed on top. Showers are available and sometimes have hot water produced by heating a tank in the sun.


Food in Kyrgyzstan include a wide range of products with lots of vegetables, fruit, milk, jams and yogurt. In the cities you will find numerous restaurants where to try local dishes, but also thematic restaurants or even fast food of international chains. When, on the other hand, you are far from civilization, if the trip has been organized to stay in yurts, then breakfasts, lunches and dinners will be prepared by the family hosting you. Fruit, vegetables, jams, honey and yogurt are particularly tasteful because produced locally by natural procedures, they are not carried from far away or packaged by some large enterprise. The meat is instead predominantly lamb or beef as, being Kyrgyzstan a predominantly Muslim country, pork is practically non-existent. The meals served include meat with lot of vegetables (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, onions), tomato salads, soups, curious compositions with tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers, while the dessert generally consists of home made jams and honey that can be eat with bread or pancake. Fermented milk should not be missed, as well as yogurt and horse's milk (the latter does not resemble any known taste, if you can drink it or not, it's completely subjective...). The main drink during any meal is anyway hot tea, obviously we recommend to integrate it with plenty of water or juice, given the altitude and physical activity. Regarding the hygienic conditions in Kyrgyzstan, who prepares the meals knows that Westerners who are not used to eating in developing countries, may have intestinal problems and therefore maximum care is used to wash the vegetables and everything else with clean (or even boiled) water. The advice we can give is to prefer cooked food, especially for the first few days, integrating with something more and more later. Personally, I ate raw tomatoes and fruit in abundance (it's worth it) without having any problems, but the possible consequences are completely subjective (during the tour we met other travelers who instead had some problems). Finally, it is good to pay attention to water, strictly avoiding tap water even to brush the teeth (bottled water can be purchased in supermarkets and small shops).


  • Does the smartphone work in Kyrgyzstan? The mobile network is available only in cities, villages and along the main roads. Most international operators have roaming agreements, but it is good to check the price for calls or to use the Internet, before even try. Those who go to remote areas without a local guide, will need a satellite phone to be able to communicate in case of any problem.

  • Is there the wifi in Kyrgyzstan? Hotels and guesthouses usually offer free wifi. If you need a connection even while you are elsewhere, it might be a good idea to buy a local SIM card (a multi-gig plan only costs a few bucks) which gives the advantage of being able to use the Internet as far as there is mobile coverage. To buy a SIM card, you must show your passport.

  • How to charge the batteries in Kyrgyzstan? It is advisable to carry a sufficient number of spare batteries for all the electronic devices that will be used, perhaps integrating with a USB power bank and a cigarette lighter adapter for the car. In the yurt camps or outside the city, it is rarely possible to recharge the batteries.

  • What is the official currency of Kyrgyzstan? The currency of Kyrgyzstan is the SOM, you can change Euros, dollars or rubles at the airport or at the banks in the city, bearing in mind that the cost of living is considerably lower than USA, Italy or UK (what's left over can still be converted back to own currency before leave the country, presenting the receipt of the first change)

  • Do credit cards work in Kyrgyzstan? Credit cards can only be used in major hotels or bigger shops in the city, preferring Visa, while for daily purchases it is essential to bring a small amount of cash.

  • Are there mosquitoes in Kyrgyzstan? Fortunately, mosquitoes in Kyrgyzstan do not seem to be a problem, probably due to the altitude.

  • What is the language in Kyrgyzstan? The official language of Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyz, which has a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet. Russian is the second language spoken by almost all citizens, while English is spoken only by people employed in tourism and by few other people.

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Bishkek Bishkek <<-- GO
Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, is the main base from which tours in Kyrgyzstan usually start. We take advantage of a whole free day to visit this interesting city of Central Asia.
Konorchok Canyons Konorchok Canyons (Boom Gorge) <<-- GO
Not far from Bishkek, along the main road leading to the various Kyrgyz's tourist destinations, there are a series of gorges and narrow canyons with oddly shaped colorful rocks.
Kyrgyzstan Tuura-Suu <<-- GO
Nestled among majestic Kyrgyzstan's mountains, at an altitude of 2200 meters, Tuura-Suu is a remote village where nomadic families take advantages of the endless surrounding grasslands, as summer pastures.
Temir Kanat Temir-Kanat <<-- GO
Temir-Kanat is a small rural village where green valleys cultivated with fruits and vegetables, make a picturesque contrast with barren mountains all around. We visit a family of nomads who hosts us in a yurt camp on top of an hill.
Birds of Prey festival Bird of Prey festival <<-- GO
Every year at the beginning of August, the Birds of Prey festival is an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse into Kyrgyz traditions, watching horse games, eagle hunting and dances in traditional clothes.
Lake Issyk Kul Issyk Kul lake <<-- GO
With its altitude of over 1600 meters, Issyk Kul lake is considered the second largest mountain lake in the world: but although the high altitude, its waters are not so cold and a bath can be a relaxing diversion.
Karakol mosque Karakol <<-- GO
Karakol is located in northeastern Kyrgyzstan and is a good starting point for excursions to Tien Shan Mountains. The city itself offers a variety of interesting must-see attractions.
Cholpon-Ata petroglyphs Cholpon-Ata <<-- GO
Cholpon-Ata is an important tourist resort for its beautiful beaches on Lake Issyk Kul and is a destination for Kyrgyz people, as well as for many others from Russia and Central Asia.

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