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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 is 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 Kol 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 absolutely worth the long strenuous 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.