KYRGYZSTAN TRAVEL GUIDE
What would become modern Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1876 and became an independent country with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It has the most liberal tourist visa policy in Central Asia and one of the more progressive post-Soviet governments in the region.
Kyrgyzstan is one of the friendliest, warmest and most hospitable countries in Central Asia. The Kyrgyz welcome you into their country and homes with true nomadic spirit: for the nomads living in the mountains, life has not really changed since the days of caravans trailing along the Silk Route.
Kyrgyzstan has been called The Land of the Tian Shan – Oasis on the Great Silk Route because of its importance as a trading post between Europe and Asia. Though the country is still struggling to find its feet after the break up of the Soviet Union, modern Kyrgyzstan has done much to promote tourism.
KYRGYZSTAN QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Bishkek
- Currency: Kyrgyz som (KGS)
- Area: 198,500 km2
- Population: 6,316 million (2018)
- Language: Kyrgyz, Russian
- Religion:Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
- Electricity: 220V/50Hz, European plug
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KYRGYZSTAN PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 7 January, Orthodox Christmas
- 17 February, Independence Day
- 9 April, Constitution Day
- 1 May, International Labor Day
- 9 May, Europe Day
Also, Easter Monday, Orthodox Easter Monday, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha.
FESTIVALS IN KYRGYZSTAN
BEST TIME TO VISIT KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyzstan has four distinct seasons:
- Winter (December-February) - During this time, temperatures can drop to well below freezing and heavy snowfall is common, making it ideal for winter sports such as skiing.
- Spring (March-May) - The weather starts to warm up, and the snow begins to melt. This is a great time to visit as the scenery is beautiful with the snow-capped mountains and the colorful flowers starting to bloom.
- Summer (June-August) - This is the warmest season, with temperatures reaching up to 35°C (95°F) in some parts of the country. It's the perfect time for hiking, trekking, and other outdoor activities.
- Fall (September-November) - The weather starts to cool down again, and the leaves on the trees change color. This is also the time when traditional Kyrgyz festivals take place.
It's worth noting that Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country and the weather can vary greatly depending on the altitude and region you are visiting.
The best time to visit Kyrgyzstan depends on what you plan to do during your visit. If you plan to go hiking or trekking in the mountains, the best time to visit is from June to September when the weather is warm and dry. If you plan to enjoy winter sports, then December to March would be the best time to visit. In terms of cultural events, the traditional Kyrgyz festivals like the "Nomad Games" and "Kyrgyzstan Manas" happen in September.
KYRGYZSTAN WEATHER SYNOPSIS
The climate in the Kyrgyz Republic is as varied as the country’s topography and can be classified into four major zones, each with distinctive characteristics. The valley-sub-mountain zone (from 900-1,200 m) experiences hot summers, snowless and temperate winters, and almost zero precipitation. The mountain zone (from 900–1,200 to 2,000–2,200 m) is characterised by a temperate climate, which has warm summers and cold, snowy winters. The high-mountain zone (from 2,000–2,200 to 3,000–3,500 m) is cooler in the summer and has relatively cold, snowless winters, with temperatures ranging from well below zero to 16°C. The nival belt zone (from 3,500 m and higher) has a polar climate and is covered by numerous snowfields and glaciers.
KYRGYZSTAN TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN KYRGYZSTAN
The snow season in Kyrgyzstan can start as early as November and last until April at the higher altitudes. The best months for skiing are January and February. Kyrgyzstan is a cheap skiing destination when compared to ski resorts in Western Europe.
HIKING & CYCLING IN KYRGYZSTAN
The best time for outdoor activities in Kyrgyzstan is from June to September. Most hiking trails are closed outside of these months.
BEACH OPTIONS IN KYRGYZSTAN
SURFING IN KYRGYZSTAN
KITESURF IN KYRGYZSTAN
Kitesurfing spot details and weather
HEALTH RISKS IN KYRGYZSTAN
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
KYRGYZSTAN TRAVEL COSTS
The cost of traveling to Kyrgyzstan can vary depending on your travel style and the time of year you visit. However, in general, Kyrgyzstan is considered to be a budget-friendly destination.
- Accommodation: Accommodation in Kyrgyzstan is relatively cheap, with budget-friendly options like guesthouses and hostels starting at around $5-15 per night. Mid-range options like hotels can be found for around $20-50 per night, while luxury options can be more expensive.
- Food: Food in Kyrgyzstan is also relatively cheap, with local meals available for around $3-5. Eating at higher-end restaurants or cafes can be more expensive.
- Transportation: The cost of transportation in Kyrgyzstan can vary depending on the mode of transport and distance traveled. For example, a one-way bus ticket from Bishkek to Osh costs around $8, while a one-way train ticket from Bishkek to Almaty (Kazakhstan) costs around $25.
- Activities: The cost of activities in Kyrgyzstan can also vary depending on what you want to do. For example, a day-hike in the mountains can cost around $20-30, while a multi-day trek can cost around $50-100 per day.
Overall, a budget of around $30-50 per day should be sufficient for budget travelers, while those looking for a more comfortable trip may need to budget around $60-100 per day.
It's worth noting that the cost of traveling to Kyrgyzstan can fluctuate depending on the exchange rate between your home country's currency and the Kyrgyz Som.
Some more sample budgets:
Here is an example of estimated costs for a budget-friendly trip to Kyrgyzstan:
- Accommodation: $10 per night for a bed in a hostel or guesthouse
- Food: $5 per day for local meals
- Transportation: $10 per day for local transport (buses, marshrutkas)
- Activities: $20 per day for day-hikes or visits to cultural sites.
Total cost per day: $45
Here is an example of estimated costs for a mid-range trip to Kyrgyzstan:
- Accommodation: $30 per night for a double room in a hotel or guesthouse
- Food: $15 per day for local meals and some Western-style food
- Transportation: $20 per day for local transport and some intercity travel
- Activities: $40 per day for guided trekking or other activities
Total cost per day: $95
It's worth noting that these are just estimates and costs can vary depending on your travel style, the time of year you visit, and the exchange rate. Additionally, prices for some activities, such as horseback riding, skiing or hot-air ballooning, can vary greatly depending on the operator and the season.
KYRGYZSTAN TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some travel tips for visiting Kyrgyzstan:
- Make sure to have a valid visa before traveling to Kyrgyzstan.
- Bring warm clothing, as temperatures can drop significantly in the mountains.
- Learn some basic Russian or Kyrgyz, as many locals may not speak English.
- Bring cash, as credit card acceptance is limited outside of major cities.
- Research the cultural customs and dress appropriately when visiting rural or religious sites.
- Pack a first aid kit, as medical facilities can be limited in rural areas.
- Respect the local wildlife and follow guidelines for responsible trekking and camping.
- Consider hiring a guide to help navigate the country and make the most of your trip.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyzstan is divided into seven regions, each with its own unique highlights:
- Chuy Region: This region is home to the country's capital, Bishkek, as well as the beautiful Ala-Archa National Park, which offers excellent hiking and skiing opportunities.
- Issyk-Kul Region: This region is known for its stunning lake, Issyk-Kul, which is the second largest alpine lake in the world and a popular spot for swimming, boating, and relaxation. The region also has several hot springs and spas.
- Talas Region: This region is known for its rich history and is home to the ancient city of Taraz, which was once a major Silk Road trading post. Visitors can also explore the beautiful valleys and mountains in this region.
- Naryn Region: This region is known for its rugged beauty, with towering peaks and deep gorges. It's also home to many traditional Kyrgyz villages and is a popular destination for trekking and horseback riding.
- Osh Region: This region is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to the country's second largest city, Osh. Visitors can explore the ancient city, visit the Suleiman Too mountain, and learn about the region's unique history and traditions.
- Jalal-Abad Region: This region is known for its beautiful natural landscapes and is home to several national parks, including the Arslanbob reserve, which is a popular spot for hiking and wildlife viewing.
- Batken Region: This region is known for its beautiful scenery and is home to several ancient fortresses, including the Ak-Buura fortress, which dates back to the 7th century. It's also a popular destination for hiking and mountain climbing.
Kyrgyzstan offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors, here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Kyrgyzstan:
- Visit the capital city of Bishkek: The city offers a mix of Soviet-era architecture and traditional Kyrgyz culture. Visitors can explore the city's many museums, parks, and markets.
- Explore Issyk-Kul Lake: This is the second largest alpine lake in the world and offers beautiful scenery, swimming, boating, and relaxation.
- Visit Ala-Archa National Park: This park offers excellent hiking and skiing opportunities, as well as beautiful alpine scenery.
- Trekking and horseback riding: Kyrgyzstan is home to many beautiful valleys, mountains, and lakes, and offers plenty of opportunities for trekking and horseback riding.
- Visit the ancient city of Osh: This city has a rich history, and visitors can explore the ancient city, visit the Suleiman Too mountain, and learn about the region's unique history and traditions.
- Visit the Arslanbob reserve: This is a beautiful natural area and offers a great spot for hiking and wildlife viewing.
- Visit the Ak-Buura fortress: This ancient fortress dates back to the 7th century and offers a glimpse into the country's rich history.
- Enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality: Kyrgyz people are known for their hospitality and welcoming nature, so visitors can take advantage of the opportunity to stay with a local family and experience the traditional way of life.
- Attend a traditional cultural event: Kyrgyzstan has a rich culture and visitors can attend traditional events such as horse games, eagle hunting and yurt building.
WHAT TO EAT IN KYRGYZSTAN
When visiting Kyrgyzstan, you should try some of the following traditional dishes:
- Beshbarmak: This is the national dish of Kyrgyzstan and is made of boiled meat (usually mutton or horse), served with thin noodles and a sour cream sauce.
- Lagman: This is a popular dish of hand-pulled noodles, meat, and vegetables. It can be served in a soup or stir-fry.
- Plov: This is a rice dish that is typically made with meat and vegetables. It is a popular dish in Central Asia and is often served at special occasions.
- Kyrgyz-style dumplings: These dumplings are called "manti" and are similar to Chinese dumplings, but are typically filled with meat or potatoes and often served with a sour cream sauce.
- Shashlik: This is a popular grilled dish that is made with skewers of meat, usually lamb or beef.
- Kyrgyz-style bread: The bread is made with a variety of grains, such as wheat, barley, and corn, and is often served with meals.
- Kyrgyz-style yogurt : the yogurt is made from mare's milk and is often served with meals.
- Kyrgyz-style tea: The tea is made with a special blend of black tea, milk and salt, it is a staple in the Kyrgyz diet and is often served with meals.
It's important to note that meat is a staple in Kyrgyz cuisine, so vegetarians may find it difficult to find meat-free options.
LGBTQ IN KYRGYZSTAN
WHERE TO STAY IN KYRGYZSTAN
When visiting Kyrgyzstan for the first time, there are a few options for where to stay:
- Bishkek: The capital city of Bishkek is a great place to stay for those who want to explore the city's museums, parks, and markets. There are a variety of hotels, guesthouses, and hostels to choose from.
- Issyk-Kul Lake: The Issyk-Kul region is a popular destination for those who want to relax and enjoy the scenery. There are a variety of resorts, guesthouses, and yurts (traditional Kyrgyz tents) to choose from.
- Ala-Archa National Park: For those who want to explore the park's hiking and skiing opportunities, there are a variety of guesthouses and camping options available.
- Trekking and horseback riding: If you plan to spend your time trekking and horseback riding, it's best to find a guesthouse or yurt camp in the mountains.
- Osh: If you want to explore the ancient city of Osh and learn about the region's unique history and traditions, there are several hotels and guesthouses available.
- Arslanbob: If you plan to visit the Arslanbob reserve, there are a variety of guesthouses and homestays available.
- Rural Kyrgyzstan: For those who want to experience the traditional way of life, it's possible to stay with a local family in a yurt or guesthouse.
Overall, it's best to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak seasons, as options may be limited.
CHOOSE NEXT DESTINATION
PLAN YOUR TRIP
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