Are you wondering, where is Kyrgyzstan? Well, it’s a land-locked country in Central Asia with Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south and China to the southeast. As part of the infamous Silk Road trading routes, Kyrgyzstan is a captivating and perspective-shifting place to visit. From traditional nomadic living to stunning mountain lakes, there is truly something for everybody in Kyrgyzstan.
Let‘s explore five reasons you should put this beautiful Central Asian country on your bucket list.
Kyrgyzstan has much to offer, but perhaps nothing is as impressive as its breathtaking natural landscape. For example, the Chon-Kemin Valley is an extensive network of rivers and lakes stretching across the Kungei-Ala-Too and Iliysky Ala-Too mountain ranges. Very much off the beaten track, this is an experience you don’t want to miss if you love the beauty of the wilderness.
The surrounding Tian-Shen mountains are often snow-capped, and you can even explore the Issyk-Kul Lake. Known as the second-largest alpine lake in the world, it extends down 610 metres in depth. Or for something even more magical, perhaps Fairy Tale Canyon is more your scene. This mystical location has been formed through centuries of wind and water erosion, creating a breathtaking spectacle for those who take the time to immerse themselves in the experience.
Son-Kul Lake is one of the highest lakes in Kyrgyzstan, sitting 2030 metres above sea level. Many nomadic people still live in the area around the lake, and visitors can see and engage in this lifestyle while exploring the lakes. Overall, Kyrgyzstan is a truly immersive destination for people who want to take in all that the natural world has to offer.
While the Western world may be used to large, carefully planned and structured shopping malls, things are distinctly different in Kyrgyzstan. In this part of the world, huge markets, such as the Osh Bazaar in the nation’s capital of Bishkek, are the norm. The Osh Bazaar is a huge open-air market where you can buy almost anything. From local foods and spices to souvenirs, musical instruments and clothing, you can find anything you want.
Similar markets can be found throughout the country, with Kyrgyzstan people being well-versed in the art of bartering and trading. But while these standard markets are popular, a visit to Kyrgyzstan isn’t complete without checking out an animal market. This is where people trade livestock and other animals, and it’s a unique sight even if you’ve attended more modern livestock sales in other parts of the world.
We touched on the nomadic lifestyle that’s still in full effect around the Son-Kul Lake region. But this isn’t the only place you’ll find nomadic people in Kyrgyzstan. In fact, living this way is just part of the culture in Kyrgyzstan, and it has been for thousands of years. From the traditional housing (yurts) to shepherds taking their livestock across the plains, you’ll see plenty of nomadic life all over Kyrgyzstan.
Another interesting fact is that around 90% of the population follows Islam as the main Kyrgyzstan religion. Known for its welcoming, sharing and giving traditions, Muslim Kyrgyzstan residents, especially the nomadic ones, are often more than willing to welcome you into their homes and share their lifestyle with you.
There aren’t many parts of the world where hunting with birds is still commonplace. However, the tradition of hunting dates back to the 10th century in Kyrgyzstan and still plays a role today. Traditionally, hunting eagles or falcons were considered family members, such was their importance to people’s way of life.
Today, many people still train birds for hunting and uphold the tradition. It’s a skill that gets passed down through generations, and on a Kyrgyzstan tour, you’ll get to see first-hand how these magnificent birds are trained.
The Silk Road is an infamous trading route that has existed for centuries. In fact, rather than just one large trade route, it’s a series of smaller ones stretching around 6,400 kilometres west. Merchants would travel the Silk Road selling wares along the way, and it was particularly famous for trading silk textiles, hence its name.
Some of the Silk Road trading routes stretch through parts of Kyrgyzstan, and you can still visit some of these ancient towns today. While the Silk Road is no longer as it was, larger, more modern infrastructure has replaced the old routes and is still used for trading today.
While the popular trading points along the Silk Road are now very different to the old worldy ways, however, the stories that come from these places are enthralling. If you’re interested in touring through Kyrgyzstan, you’ll certainly hear plenty about the infamous Silk Road.
To find out more about the natural beauty and immersive experience that is Kyrgyzstan, contact Crooked Compass today. We offer journeys throughout Central Asia, giving you a chance to experience this immersive culture first-hand.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.