WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL TO KYRGYZSTAN
Some countries are just that little extra special. If you’ve visited this travel platform before, you may know that we love to highlight the hidden corners of the world. Well, we found one that needs your attention; Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan in a nutshell
Kyrgyzstan is a country we cannot compare to anything else. This Central Asian country got its independence from the Soviets in 1991. And while many of us Europeans, look back at the Soviet era as something rather terrible, many locals – especially the older generation, are sad about its ending. It gave Kyrgyzstan schools, free education, prosperity, and jobs. Across the country, you can find many Soviet monuments.
Telling you to travel to Kyrgyzstan, without telling you to visit Kyrgyzstan
The people of Kyrgyzstan are some of the nicest we’ve met. Comparable to South-East Asia; friendly, polite, and somewhat closed, yet they’ll open up eventually. Tourism is something that is slowly starting to evolve, yet you can travel across the country without seeing a tourist for a few days. To emphasise; not too long ago, the New York Times even listed Kyrgyzstan as one of the least known destinations in the world! Times are changing though, and with that, we can tip Kyrgyzstan as your next go-to destination. This article will mention the famous highlights and some hidden gems, so get ready!
How to travel around
The only way to travel around in Kyrgyzstan is by car. Together with a healthy dose of adrenaline, you need a 4×4 drive car − preferably a car you can go off-road with. Be aware that not every rental car can drive through the hidden gems in this article. In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital, you should walk or take taxis, as they are very affordable. You can sleep in homestays, or bring your own tent. That being said, the best way to experience to life of a true nomad, you should stay in a traditional Yurt Camp (and this is where you’ll find some of the best yurt camps in Kyrgyzstan!)
Packing list Kyrgyzstan
Personally, we tend to scroll past this piece of text, but in Kyrgyzstan, you must come a little prepared so stop and read. There are a few essentials you must bring on your adventure, so here it goes:
Aspirin or altitude sickness pills | (aspirin thins the blood which will release the pressure to your head.) It’s a must if you stay in the camps or visit the places we mention in this article. Headaches will happen, but it would be a bummer if your trip is put to hold due to altitude sickness.
Warm clothes | You will need them in the mountains. A windbreaker jacket is also good, long trousers and a jumper or two.
Comfortable walking shoes | Trainers are fine, but if you are going to hike far, bring those boots
A book | with no wifi around for many hours, sometimes days, this is the time to read a good book.
Sunscreen | UV protect yourself, the sun is stronger than you may realise!
Powerbank | You can charge your phone or devices in the car, but it’s a good idea to bring a solar power bank.
Hot Water Bottle | If only we knew…Bring this baby! Light to pack, life saver.
Must Visit Places in Kyrgyzstan
In no particular order, we want to highlight a few must-visit spots in Kyrgyzstan. Not one place looks the same, and the more you drive, the more the scenery will keep on changing. From snowy mountain passes to green lush hills, rivers, dry desert-like locations, and villages.
Issyk Kul lake
The largest lake in the country and perfect for a swim between June and September! You can find several Yurt Camps around the lake, but our favourite has to be Feel Nomad Yurt Camp. Read more about the best Yurt Camps in Kyrgyzstan here.
Most likely one of the prettiest valleys in Kyrgyzstan. It’s a favourite for hikers and independent trekkers who sleep in tents along the way. Beware of bears though, there have been sightings, so don’t leave any food outside your tent!
If you like hiking, bring your boots for this trail, as it’s stunning, to say the least. The reward for the 3 to 4-day long hike is a rock-dammed lake in the Ak-Suu District of the Issyk-Kul Region in Kyrgyzstan. It lies at an altitude of 3,532 m. If you start in Karakol, you can combine both hikes.
This region is tucked in between the mountains and has a mountain lake that goes by the same name. From the yurt camps that are located in this region, you can hike or horse ride towards Kel Suu Lake. It goes without saying that horse riding is more fun and a bit easier, so our advise is to. take on the horsepower and experience it, nomad-style.
This area gives you one of the most famous natural landmarks in Kyrgyzstan. The Red rock formations remind us of the outback in Australia. These rocks give the Jeti-Ogüz region its name and you will most likely see these red rocks on the local postcards.
Hardcore Kyrgyzstan at its best. You’ll reach the highest point at almost 4000 meters, so take your pills and enjoy glaciers, valleys, and wild horses. Experience the sound of silence – apart from the occasional hawk, or rocks falling from a cliff.
The road to Tash Rabat
Tash Rabat isn’t that special in our opinion (even though, every tourist folder mentions it), but the road towards it…wow. On your lefthand side, you will see the Tian Shan mountains, which divides Kyrgyzstan from China. With the current Chinese borders closed for tourists, you will find an empty road, that used to be part of the silk road. We even stopped the car to take some pictures on the highway.
Kyrgyzstan is full of places where you will not easily meet anyone
Off the Beaten Track Kyrgyzstan
However, if you really want to go off the beaten track, head to Lenin Peak Base Camp. A plateau at 3500 meters altitude, surrounded by amazing mountain peaks of up to 7000 meters high, in all kinds of colours. Or trek through the mountain passes and valleys between Naryn and the border of China, where you will not easily meet anyone. Online information about this area is scarce, but it is fairly easy to travel and rewards you with a new amazing view every turn.
You can also enjoy fantastic hiking or horseback riding in the region east of Karakol. You can also go free-ride skiing or snowboarding (skiing down mountains that no person on earth has ever gone before!). Another lesser-known spot is the abandoned mine city Enil Chek. When the mine closed, the village shrunk from 20.000 people to 140! The way here is very off-road, so make sure you don’t go here by yourself in case you get stranded. We advise you to book your self-drive adventure with De Verdwaalde Jongens, as they know all of these spots.
Good to Know before you visit Kyrgyzstan
First of all, this trip is for the adventurous traveller, so don’t expect luxury. Instead, get ready for a thrilling ride from the moment you start driving away from Bishkek.
At Kynda you’ll come across a Military Checkpoint. You need to request your permit at least one week beforehand otherwise you may not enter and continue your route. Although China is about 90KM away, they want to control who passes here. We think it has something to do with the Uyghurs and the camps the Chinese have set up nearby…As expected, no photographs are allowed near this point.
Currently, you do not need a PCR test or Proof of vaccination to enter Kyrgyzstan. Arriving at the airport in Bishkek was super fast and a friendly experience.
The best time to travel to Kyrgyzstan is between May and September.
Whatever you decide, travel to Kyrgyzstan, soon. You won’t regret it!