Considering Kyrgyzstan for your next trip? Time to plan? What a great idea! Stunning untouched landscapes and very nice people, it is a real gem. Below are some information to help you get started on planning your trip.
OVERVIEW OF KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyzstan is a country is Central Asia surrounded by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. There mountainous regions has been part of many empires during the past 2000 years. It has been an independant democracy since 1991.
Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country covered at 80% by mountains. Most of them above 3000 meters. The Capital Bishkek is locate in the North near the border with Kazakhstan.
Below is a map of Kyrgyzstan with the main places to see and touristic attractions. The number correspond to articles or descriptions on ZigZag On Earth Kyrgzystan Travel Guide
REGIONS & THEIR HIGHLIGHTS
Kyrgyzstan has 8 administrative regions. You can find a map on the Wikipedia Page
You can also check my video of the landscapes of Kyrgzystan to get an idea of what the main touristic regions look like.
- Located in north part at the border with Kazakhstan
- Valleys good for agriculture where you can see everywhere the snow-capped peaks of the Ala-Too range. In spring colorful poppies pop up all along the valley.
- The Great Silk Road was crossing the region
- Many historical site including the ruins of ancient Balasagun, Nevaket, Ak-Beshim and the Burana Tower
- Located in the North East around the large mountain lake Issyk Kul
- Concentration of natural, historical and cultural sights and recreational area with lake and ski resorts
- Great region for trekking
- Highlights include the lake Issyk Kul itself, the petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata, the hot springs of Altyn Arashan, and the stange stone formations of Jeti Oguz and Skazka Canyon
- Located southeast of Bishkek, among the Tian Shan Mountains
- Largest and poorest region in Lyrgyzstan it is also described as the most authentic
- Highlands with snow-capped peaks, valleys, gorges and abundant wildlife
- Voldest place in winter, is is covered with wild flowers in Spring and May
- Ancient buildings (Tash-Rabat)
- Nature treasures such as Song Kul Lake and the beautiful painting-like landscapes
- Located south-west of Kyrgyzstan.
- It is a land of mountain lakes, walnut forests, and mineral waters and the agricultural heart of the country
- Highlights include Arslanbob, the World largest natural growing walnut forest, the Sary-Chelek nature reserve, the mineral water springs around Jalal-Adad and the Toktogul reservoir
- Located around the capital city of Bishek
- See the Ala-Too square, the many gardens, the Osh Bazaar and the statues everywhere in the city
- Located North West of Kyrgyztan
- Home to over 30 historical monuments connected to Manas including a Mausoleum of 14 century in Tash-Aryk village.
- Region full or outdoor activity possibilities: hiking, trekking, climbing and horseback tours.
- Valleys, rocky mountains, green forests and rushing rivers: Besh-Tash valley, Ken-Kol valley, Ur-Maral, Kara-Koyun and Kumushtak.
- Located in the south-west corner of Kyrgyzstan between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan where relationships are complicated
- Includes some of the most technically difficult peaks of Central Asia
- Located in the Southern part of Kyrgyzstan, bordering China and Uzbekistan
- Crossroad of cultures, climates, relief and civilizations.
- The most inhabited region of the country
- Historically and culturally rich inheritance - A number of historical sights are spread through the area
- Home to the Lenin peak: the world's easiest-to-climb peak over 7000 meters (23000 ft)
BEST TIME TO VISIT KYRGYZSTAN
Kyrgyzstan has a very tough continental weather: very cold in Winter and very hot in summer.
- The tourism season is between May and October. However most tourists come in July and August.
- Note that some mountain passes may still/already be closed in June and September, however you will have more snow on the top of the mountains which I think is really worth it.
- If you plan to trek at high altitude, then July and August are really the only months.
- If you are interested in skiing then come in January or February
- And if you are interested in watching the harvest in the ancient walnut forest of Arslanbob, then you have to come in Autumn
TIME NEEDED TO TRAVEL AROUND
The conditions of the road and the mountainous terrains, really slow down your travels around Kyrgyzstan.
- 2 days is more than enough to visit Bishkek
- If you have only one week, I would recommend either visiting the Issyk-Kul area or the Sary-Chelek/Arlsanbob area. I do not advise to do both.
- 2 weeks is a good time to get a great overview of the country. However it will not allow you to reach more isolated places such as Tash Rabat, Saimalu-Tash or to visit the South horn of the country.
It is possible to organise a self drive trhough Kyrgyzstan. It is not yet common but I think it would not be too difficult. You just have to drive slowly in the mountians and be careful with the holes in the road. The major hurdle would be to find your accomodation when staying in yurt as there are no indications and people don't speak English.
Organized tours are the most common way of discovering Kyrgzystan at the moment. I like it. I personnaly did Wandering Earl's tour and wrote a detailed review.
We have met people travelling via public transport. However you need to have a lot of time and a lot of patience. And it might be difficult to reach some of the destinations. The most common way of traveling is via shared taxis called Marshrutka.
Trek / Horse Treks
Some companies offer walking treks or horse treks in some areas. Your discovery will be limited to a region, but you will be able to admire more deeply the landscapes and discover more isolated places.
ACCOMODATION IN KYRGYZSTAN
Bishkek has a good range of accomodation. We stayed bostly in Guesthouses which were basic but very clean.
A must do in Kyrgyzstan is to sleep in a yurt! You can just stop at a tourist camp in June and September and ask to stay. However in July and August, you should book in advance.
The main network to book your accomodation throughout Kyrgyzstan is the CBT: Community Based Tourism. They have affiliated homestays which have been vetted for quality and suitability for Western tourists 🙂 . This network covers both guesthouses and yurt camps.
And don't forget to purchase Travel Insurance!
I wish you a very smooth trip, but my policy is: better be prepared.
I personally use World Nomads. Get a quote online here.
Note - if you want to continue your trip into China, Kyla has a great article about crossing the border between Kyrgyzstan and China.
When it is getting closer to leave for your amazing trip, you can also check my post on preparing and packing for a trip to Kyrgyzstan!
Any question? Leave a comment below