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KYRGYZSTAN TRAVEL MAP
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KYRGYZSTAN TRAVEL GUIDE AND TRAVEL TIPS
WHAT TO SEE IN KYRGYZSTAN?
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:
HOW TO GET TO KYRGYZSTAN?
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.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND IN KYRGYZSTAN?
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.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO KYRGYZSTAN?
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.
HOW TO DRESS IN KYRGYZSTAN?
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.
WHERE TO STAY IN KYRGYZSTAN?
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.
WHERE TO EAT IN KYRGYZSTAN?
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).
MORE INFO AND TIPS FOR TRIPS TO KYRGYZSTAN
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PHOTOS OF KYRGYZSTAN | FULL TRAVELOGUE
|<<-- 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.|
|<<-- 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.|
|<<-- 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.|
|<<-- 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.|
|<<-- 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.|
|<<-- 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.|
|<<-- 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.|
|<<-- 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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