6 and 18 August, 2019
Bishkek is the main gateway to Kyrgyzstan, as most tours to this country begin here. We therefore take advantage of some free time to visit the main tourist attractions in Bishkek and in the immediate vicinity.
BISHKEK: WHAT TO SEE (WITH PHOTOS)
Bishkek is located in northern Kyrgyzstan, not far from the border with Kazakhstan, and is the main business and cultural center of the country, as well as its administrative capital. The city lies on a plateau at about 2600 feet above sea level and is surrounded by majestic mountains exceeding 15,000 feet of elevation, with perennial snows and glaciers. The climate of Bishkek is strongly continental: during the summer, the temperature can occasionally exceed 100°F, while in winter it can sometimes drop down to -20°F. Precipitations occur throughout the year, but the frequency is higher in spring.
The population of Bishkek is almost 1 million, whose main ethnicity is predominantly Kyrgyz, while a smaller percentage is represented by Russian and Ukrainian descendants or residents. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the city has continued to develop autonomously, but the Russian imprint can be still found in the immense squares and large "block" buildings, with an architecture very similar to that of major cities of southern Siberia.
Most trips to Kyrgyzstan will start from the capital Bishkek, taking advantage of a flight to Manas airport (FRU), served by direct flights from Moscow, Istanbul and from a growing number of other cities. To visit Bishkek we recommend a full day, perhaps at the beginning of the tour in Kyrgyzstan, walking through the large squares decorated with statues and flower beds, or visiting the large market of Osh. To move around in Bishkek, you can simply go on foot (the distances are not huge), or you can use taxis as they are extremely cheap. So let's see what are the major tourist attractions in Bishkek that should not be missed during a city tour.
What to see in Bishkek:
- Ala-Too square - The square of Ala-Too is located in the central part of Bishkek, it includes flower beds among large fountains, a statue of Manas and the museum of Kyrgyzstan history.
- Victory Square - It is a modern square completed in the 80s on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the victory of the Great Patriotic War, and houses a statue of a woman waiting for her husband to return from the war, as well as an eternal flame.
- Opera theatre - It is a building in the center of Bishkek with a beautiful facade and a large colonnade. On certain days of the week the interior can also be visited.
- Parks, gardens, statues - Bishkek is a very green city, with many parks full of trees and flower beds, where it is pleasant to walk around finding a shelter from the summer sun. There are many statues of various national heroes or from the former Soviet Union.
- Osh bazaar - It is a large market a couple of miles from the center of Bishkek, where visitors can find everything. The stalls are frequented almost exclusively by the local population (it's not a market only for tourists) and it's great for photography.
- Burana Tower - It is located about 50 miles from Bishkek, near the city of Tomak, and can be visited with a half-day excursion. It is an ancient minaret of 82 feet, surrounded by balbals (stone idols dating back to the 7th-10th century).
But now let's see some Bishkek photos taken during our tour...
is located in the center of Bishkek and dates back to the early 1980s. Originally the square housed a large statue of Lenin (and for this reason was called Lenin Square), but after gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the statue of Lenin was moved elsewhere. Currently, Ala-Too square houses a statue of Manas, a legendary national hero. In Ala-Too square there are also large flower beds, a series of fountains and a building that houses the museum of national history.
is another modern square dating back to the 1980s, located in the center of Bishkek. The monument is dedicated to the victory of the Great Patriotic War and the statue represents a woman waiting for her husband to return from the war. The central area of the square has also a brazier housing an eternal flame
Although the dominant religion in Kyrgyzstan is Islamic one, followed by about 90% of population, a small percentage of people remain faithful to the Russian Orthodox Church
(or Moscow Patriarchate). In this photo we can see an Orthodox cathedral
located not far from center of Bishkek.
Bishkek Opera House
, with its beautiful facade and wide colonnade. On some days of the week it is also possible to visit the interior.
For the architecture
of the buildings and the wide open spaces, Bishkek may look like some major city of southern Siberia.
In Bishkek there are numerous squares with large fountains.
Here and there, among the streets of Bishkek, we often find stalls selling various types of traditional local drinks
, including a slightly salted and flavored fermented milk.
Bishkek is a city with lot of green. There are many parks
with trees, flowers, space to relax and numerous large statues
dedicated to both national heroes or important people of the former Soviet Union, such as Lenin.
A statue depicting Lenin
and Karl Marx
talking about communism.
The Osh Bazaar
is located not far from the center of Bishkek and is one of the largest markets in Central Asia. Hundreds of stalls selling everything follow each other internally and externally covered structures, developing also around the adjacent streets. In the Osh market
there are groceries, lots of fresh fruit, local handicrafts, clothes, shoes, tools, electronics and so on, at prices that are a fraction of Western standards.
Some fruit and vegetable stalls at the Osh bazar. The taste of fruit and vegetables in Kyrgyzstan is exquisite and unparalleled in Western countries, it is also much cheaper compared to our standards.
The agriculture in Kyrgyzstan is not as industrialized as in the more developed countries, everything is produced locally and with natural methods, with only few imported products transported from far away.
is known and appreciated throughout Central Asia and is packaged in the most unlikely containers (like coke bottles), sometimes flavored with dried fruit.
Stalls at Osh bazaar
selling seeds, flour and other foodstuffs.
An entire pavilion in Osh market
, hosts dozens of stalls selling any kind of dried fruit.
Various types of Asian spaghetti
for sale in the market.
About an hour's drive from Bishkek there is the Burana Tower
, an ancient 86-feet minaret dating back to the 9th century and recently restored. A steep and dark staircase leads to the upper terrace of the tower, while around the tower visitors will find lot of balbals (stone idols dating back to the 7th-10th century).
Photos of balbals
, stone idols quite common everywhere in Kyrgyzstan, as they are meant to remember deceased people. These balbals near Burana Tower date back to the 7th-10th century.
The tour in Bishkek ends by attending a show where local people exhibit traditional Kyrgyz clothing
, explaining the various distinctive features by tribe, location or even by marital status of the person.
The traditional Kyrgyz clothing
makes extensive use of felt and brightly colored fabrics, while men wear the classic white cap, called "ak kalpak
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Kyrgyzstan travel guide
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