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5 experiences to live in Kyrgyzstan

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The Kyrgyz Republic (Кыргызская рестублика), the official name of Kyrgyzstan (Кыргызстан), stands out for its beautiful landscapes – a postcard setting where semi-nomadic shepherds erect their yurts between mountains, jagged ridges and pastures (jailoo). Thanks to a dense network of homestay accommodation and the ability to travel without a visa, the country is also an ideal entry point to discover Central Asia.

The sites of interest are mostly isolated and at altitude, so you must choose carefully the period of your stay. Summer is perfect: hiking trails are open and roads generally passable. In the middle of summer, Russian and Kazakh tourists flock to the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, which never freezes. From October to May, most of the rural accommodations close and the yurts, which add charm to the landscapes, are put back. Forget the winter months, unless you want to go skiing or snowboarding… While waiting to launch you, here are our 5 Must-See favorites if you are going to discover Kyrgyzstan.

1. The starry sky and life in a shepherd’s yurt on the banks of the Song-Köl
The open horizon of the Song-Köl, bordered by a fringe of jagged peaks, reveals a sky perpetually in motion. Surrounded by green summer pastures, the waters of this lake of nearly 18 km by 29 km change from turquoise to indigo in a few seconds, according to the rays of the sun or thunderstorms. The sunrise is sublime, as is the night sky, spiked with myriad stars. The cold at 3,016 m altitude does not allow to live there year-round, but from June to September, yurts of shepherds scour every kilometer on the Meadows of the shore. Many of them are affiliated with community tourism programs , so the region offers a multitude of yurt accommodations, even at the last minute.On-site hiking and horseback riding (300/1, 000 soms per hour / day, 1, 000/1, 400 soms for a guide/guide on horseback), easier activities to organize in the tourist camps of Batai-Aral and Jamanetchki, but you can still arrange with the yurts if you speak a little Russian/Kyrgyz. Birds in the area include vultures, Raptors and waterfowl, including barred-headed geese. Unpaved tracks, sometimes little more than wheel tracks in the grass, connect the main summer yurt gatherings around the lake. Each camp is usually named after the valley or stream that runs through it ; the largest are named after their owner.
The road along the northwest shore of the lake becomes very difficult as it progresses. Take it only in 4×4 or with a seasoned driver. The weather is very unpredictable and it often snows. Adapt your plans accordingly, knowing that the time for excursions is only from mid-June to mid-September.
2. Trek…
…in the Snowy Mountains overlooking the Alai Valley, on the road to China or Tajikistan, or, even more ambitious, the ascent of the 7,134 m of Lenin Peak !
Vast, eternally snow-covered massifs line the southern side of the Alai Valley. Its incredible width (up to 30 km) offers absolutely unforgettable landscapes – at least when the clouds hiding the surrounding peaks dissipate. Visitors en route to China via Irkechtam or to Tajikistan via Bordöbo will get a glimpse of the panorama from Sary Tach. However, it’s worth continuing to Sary Moghul and Daroot-Korgon for easy hikes to the lakes, week-long treks through the Alai mountains or a climb to Lenin Peak.
In the direction of Och, follow the paths marked by the CBT. They depart from the main road and can be traveled in a few hours or days.

3. On foot, by bike or on horseback, the discovery of the Tian Shan massif surrounding Jyrgalan, a village focused on ecotourism.
Former mining village, Jyrgalan has found a second breath as an ecotourism destination. The cozy little village allows you to immerse yourself in Kyrgyz rural life and is a good starting point to the mountains that begin at the door of your pension. Come for a few days, extend your stay, and without realizing it, you will be part of the village.
The destination jyrgalan association takes care of the tourist activities of the village and ensures that the whole community benefits from the revenue. Contact her to book a guide, a board or other services. Prices are sometimes higher than in other parts of the country, but the money helps to improve life in the village and allows sustainable management of Tourism. Destination Jyrgalan can arrange horseback rides and treks, often in short periods, in the jyrgalan Valley and beyond.
From Jyrgalan it is possible to make day trips to the beautiful Tulpar-Köl lake or the Kök-Bel waterfall (dried up in summer). The village is also an excellent base for a loop route or longer treks in the Ak-Suu area. Before becoming a mecca for hiking, Jyrgalan was already a popular place for winter sports, especially for off-piste skiing (season from mid-November to mid-April approximately). We now also come here for ski touring, snowshoeing and extreme sports. The snowmobiles and snowmobiles of the village make happy all winter.
4. The unforgettable beauty of Lake Köl-Suu
The beautiful lake Köl-Suu, isolated even for a country like Kyrgyzstan, stretches for 10 km in a steep gorge that almost reaches the Chinese border. Its vastness can only be measured when the boats taking visitors to the lake (from US $200 per person) seem tiny compared to the surrounding cliffs, once they reach the center of the lake. At an altitude of 3,500 m, the weather changes quickly; take warm clothes and extra provisions.
The lake, located more than 150 km from Naryn, is reached by increasingly bad roads and crossing two checkpoints. Starting from Jyrgal’s jailoo, the last 7 km would almost alone justify the journey : crossing the Kurumduk Valley provides a spectacular view of the peaks. It is possible to rent horses to cross the river that flows beyond Jyrgal or for the entire journey to the lake. With a good 4×4, determined drivers sometimes make it to the edge of the lake.
5. The diversity of cultures, accommodations and tables of Karakol
Karakol comes down to a checkerboard of tree-lined streets, but, despite the few places to visit, the city has no shortage of activities. It is an ideal base for accessing some of the best ski and Alpine treks in Central Asia. On a clear day, the snowy peaks bring out the old blue shutters and whitewashed walls of colonial-era houses. The latter are reminiscent of the Golden Age of the city under the Russian Empire.
The green areas of Karakol are perfect for relaxing between two treks. The newest Karakol Park is one of the most pleasant. Victory Park is also attractive. In addition to the usual victory statue commemorating the end of the Second World War, a monument to the memory of the victims of the Stalinist repressions (right on entering the park) and a memorial dedicated to the victims of the urkun, one of the most poignant in the country (further behind the Victory), were erected there.

For a more immersive experience of Karakol, the destination Karakol information desk, located next to the Fat Cat Cafe, offers various activities to immerse yourself in the local culture. Dinner with a doungane family is a memorable experience, but the city tour and the soothing sunset cruise are also worth a visit.
About 2 km north of the city center, early on Sunday morning, is one of the largest cattle markets in Kyrgyzstan. There you’ll see Breeders discussing the price of a thoroughbred or loading huge fat-tailed sheep into the back of their Lada. On a clear day, the mountains with snow-capped peaks are even more striking than from the city center.




When traveling with children, opt for Kyrgyzstan

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Stargazing, horseback riding, and yurt nights, Kyrgyzstan is ideal for toddlers and their parents looking for a change of scenery.

It’s a show that deserves itself. Several hours of off-road, through the Kyrgyz mountain. Green valleys, rock walls, then the road becomes Stony, narrow. We go up, slowly, when a car runs into us. The pass has passed and the Song-Kul Lake is revealed, sparkling. In the steppe that surrounds it, a few yurts grouped by family. Overhanging, Snowy Mountains. And a unique sense of isolation and appeasement invades you.

Why Kyrgyzstan? Lovers of high-altitude treks generally prefer Tajikistan, its southern neighbor. The retirees of National Education and the various liberal professions who are fond of cultural travel opt for the pottery of Uzbekistan, in the West (the retirees of National Education).

Reasonable Prices
Except you have (young) children. And for treks at 7,000 meters with family, there are certainly amateurs, but let’s bet that these brave (you said reckless ?) are few. As for Uzbekistan, if its magic can work on the smallest – especially since each city has an amusement park – the very urban and strictly cultural character of the usual circuit can put off. We’d be wrong, but that’s the way it is.

Kyrgyzstan allows an adventure under control, suitable for the little ones, and at a reasonable price during the summer period. It is possible to rent and drive your vehicle yourself, but it is strongly recommended to take a car with a driver. This solution allows you to enjoy the landscape and avoid disappointments on rocky roads at altitude.

Generous local gastronomy
Adventure is first of all nights in yurt camp, with family. We do not guarantee a peaceful sleep, between the little last one fiddling on the large common bench and the pungent smell of dung-based heating, but the change of scenery is assured. And the observation of the stars under the sky of these Himalayan foothills, the horseback rides in the meadow of Song-Kul Lake, among the flocks in freedom, are well worth sore awakenings.

Especially since they will be celebrated by the generous local gastronomy – pancakes, fruits, fresh cheeses … the culinary challenge, precisely. What about it? Because the adventure is nice, but if it comes down to a daily triple standoff with a recalcitrant offspring around the table, it can quickly become painful. Here, the problem can be circumvented by the presence of rice on the menu, almost systematically, and the simplicity of meat skewers. But one can not exclude the triggering of a passion for Lagman-noodles in vegetable broth – or manty – ravioli with meat.

Paradise of wild greenery
Before the reader jumps to the conclusion that we only think about eating and sleeping (not wrong), it’s about evoking the wonders and diversity of Kyrgyzstan. We can start with the geological formations of Jeti-Oguz (“the seven bulls”) and the Valley of Kök-Jaik (“Valley of flowers”), a paradise of wild greenery before the peaks of the Tian-Shan range, which culminate at 7,500 m.then discover the red and desert canyon of Skazlka, the time of a walk with Martian looks. Enjoy Lake Issyk-Kul on its southern shore, in the Bel-Tam yurt camp, where children can bathe and, if they sympathize with their Kyrgyz comrades, feed the farm animals.

On the other hand, one can quite spare – at the risk of angering the Kyrgyz a little – the visit of the petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata and the tower of Burana, archaeological and historical remains that pale in face of the richness of the surrounding nature. Car trips can be long (especially when you incorporate the inevitable punctures), and these two detours are too many.

Between two walks, you will have all the leisure of playing cards, reading books, taking time, in absolute calm, isolated from the world. A luxury that is priceless.



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When it comes to places to visit near Bishkek, the Burana Tower is what should be on top of your list.

Cynthia and I visited this ruin with our friend Aleksei from Kyrgyz Nomad. It’s one of Kyrgyzstan’s most famous historical sites and I would love to go back there again, even after visiting this place nearly 4 times.

This 25m high tower is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun, a once flourishing city that welcomed thousands of Silk Road caravans.

Although the tower itself might not seem very exciting to many people, for a history nerd such as myself, it’s quite a fascinating and mysterious place to visit.

It feels so crazy to imagine that this archaeological site where nothing remains used to be a huge city and was once considered the center of the world.


Ala Archa National Park is one of the few national parks that are easily accessible and fun to visit no matter what time of the year it is. It’s an Alpine National Park in the Tian Shan mountains, about 40km south of Bishkek. It’s a mountain park that is replete with long but easy hikes.

If you’re looking for some good hikes but you don’t want to go too far from the capital city, then Ala Archa is the place to visit!


Cynthia and I explored many parts of Kyrgyzstan during the year we spent in the country but the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul is definitely one of our favorite destinations.

Lake Issyk-Kul is the seventh deepest lake in the world, the tenth-largest lake by volume, and the second-largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. The southern shore of the lake is wilder than the northern side and there are so many cool ethnocultural activities to see and do there.

From beautiful canyons, pristine waterfalls, and some mighty eagle hunters to a gorgeous yurt camp right on the shores of the lake, you won’t run out of awesome places to visit. And that’s without mentioning the day hikes that you can do in the mountains surrounding the whole area.

In this article, we’ll tell you what are the top things to do around Lake Issyk Kul and give you a one-week itinerary around the lake.


It’s hard for me to put in words how beautiful this lake is. I was charmed from the first moment I set foot on its shores! It’s not an easy place to access but any traveler worth his salt knows that the more challenging it is to reach a destination, the more rewarding it will be. This is exactly the case with Song K

ol Lake.

I visited it for the first time with my brother after a long horseback trek through treacherous mountain passes covered in snow. Getting there wasn’t easy but when I arrived, I was left breathless by the vastness of the mountains surrounding it and by how pristine and untouched the area around the lake was!

Song Kol is the second largest lake of Kyrgyzstan and lies at an altitude of 3000m (9895 feet). The lake is surrounded by mountains and lush meadows. Nomads have used these meadows as pastureland for their flocks for hundreds of years and today there are still a lot of semi-nomadic shepherds who settle here for the summer and live in their yurts while tending to their herds.

It’s possible to reach this lake by horse almost throughout the whole year. Kyrgyzstan is a country better known for its horse culture and reaching this pristine lake by horse almost feels like the epitome of everything Kyrgyzstan has to offer.



I’m at a lack of words when it comes to describing the beauty of this turquoise lake. It’s so beautiful that the locals often refer to it as the ‘pristine diamond of the Karakol Canyon’. The water of this glacier lake changes hourly from azure to violet, depending on the weather conditions and the time of the year.

Just as it’s the case with Song Kol, this lake is not easily accessed but getting there is absol

utely worth the long stren

uous two-day hike. The trek to Lake Ala Kul was by far the highlight of my one year stay in Kyrgyzstan and I would absolutely recommend anyone visiting the country to try hiking providing they are moderately in shape.

I explain how to reach the lake hiking from the Ala-Kul nature reserve in this complete guide to trekking to Ala Kul.

The lake itself is gorgeous but the whole trail that will bring you there is beautiful as well. Part of the hike to this lake reminded me of the Swiss Alps if it wasn’t for the yurts scattered here and there between the idyllic valleys.

The 10 reasons why you have to travel to Kyrgyzstan

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Traveling to Kyrgyzstan … where ? Does this country really exist ? What are you gonna do there ?
When I told my friends and family that I was going on a trip to Kyrgyzstan, they were either amazed or perplexed for my safety.
Kyrgyzstan is a little-known country and its geographical location may cause concern to the few people who know about its existence. Only a small number of travelers go there every year and you have to be.

Traveling to Kyrgyzstan is an incredible experience that will make you plunge into the heart of nature, go to meet nomads and feel completely free. Kyrgyzstan is the perfect destination if you are a traveler looking for Real Adventures. This country must be your next destination, for the following reasons :


The kindness and welcome of the Kyrgyz.
Kyrgyz are among the friendliest and most welcoming people you will meet. Their country is still very little tourist. When a you arrive in a yurt, you will often have 5 or 6 hours of walking or riding in the paws. Basically you will share the same galley, so they will welcome you as one of their own.
The photo below, does not illustrate the Kyrgyz welcome. It’s a traditional wrestling game, that they could offer you an afternoon to pass the time.

The beautiful landscapes.
You will find yourself facing extremely diverse landscapes and full of beautiful sites. You will be in a country composed 98% of mountains in which you will admire sublime lakes, including the incredible Lake Son Kul. The small number of tourists who visit it every year, will allow you to contemplate landscapes preserved from pollution and large concrete infrastructures, which you have already known in other countries. Finally, since there is no pollution, you will admire every evening a starry sky, as rarely you have seen.

It’s a safe country.
When you return, you will often be asked the question: is Kyrgyzstan a safe country ? To which you will answer : yes, if, so few people know this country and know where it is, it is precisely because we never hear about it. You can add, as I told you, that since I published my article on Kyrgyzstan, 4 years ago, I have exchanged with dozens of travelers every year and none has ever given me a security problem. You can tell your friends, that this is a country, where they can travel with peace of mind.


Sleep in a yurt.
You dream of sleeping in a yurt, in the middle of the mountain, it falls well, Kyrgyzstan is a nomadic country and the traditional habitat of the nomads of Central Asia is the yurt. During your treks, this is the only type of accommodation you will find. Your night in a yurt will not just be a night in an original habitat, it will be above all your meeting with a family of farmers, who will make you discover their way of living, working and with whom you can have real exchanges. They will explain to you their daily life and you will be able to show them yours, thanks to the photos you have brought them.

Brushing your teeth, in the largest bathroom in the world.
After a good night, you will enjoy a good breakfast overlooking the sunrise and then you will go to brush your teeth in the largest and most beautiful bathroom in the world. In the middle of the mountain, you will not have electricity, but you will have running water … streams that you will use in this beautiful bathroom furniture … at the bottom it is the toilet.


Disconnect from social networks.
At home, you spend too much time on your phone and social networks. Your stay in the Kyrgyz Mountain will quickly solve your problem. Since you won’t pick up, your only reason to take out your phone will be to take the scenery and your friends in pictures. Your desire to return to the essential things will be quickly fulfilled.

To make incredible hikes.
The essential problem that Kyrgyzstan will ask you : what hikes to do, among this infinite choice ? You’ll find it easy, already because you have to make a good decision. In addition, because for some, you will be limited by your mountaineering skills. But in the end, it won’t be a problem. All these hikes will take you to places out of time.

To ride a horse.
You’re going to go, subway, work, sleeping on horseback, hiking, sleeping. The horse will be the best way to think you’re a nomad. You will ask yourself a real question before leaving: should I take riding pants ? Whatever your choice…you will be quickly reassured, as they ride hours on horseback, they put blankets that make the stool comfortable. You will discover the true synonym of freedom: crossing the mountain at a gallop.

Traveling to Kyrgyzstan is not expensive.
Kyrgyzstan is a cheap destination. You will find a return ticket for less than 350€. Since you will stay less than 60 days, you will not need a visa. Once there you will travel on a small budget. If you take your tent, you will easily find room to plant it. Finally you will do hitchhiking which is a common practice there, you will not hesitate for a long time to stretch your thumb.

Kyrgyzstan is an amazing playground for adventure.
Kyrgyzstan is simply a playground and adventure. You will travel on foot or on horseback through breathtaking landscapes to meet friendly inhabitants, who will make you discover their way of life and their culture.
Your trip to Kyrgyzstan will not be an adventure like any other. It will be a chance to meet a people and a country that few people know.