Written by Zoe Stephens
Kyrgyzstan differs itself from the rest of the surrounding Stans in many ways. It’s a country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Loose yourself in this landlocked country, surrounded by mountainous landscapes and bordering Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. It achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Somewhat surprisingly, Kyrgyzstan isn’t famed for its tourism. With all that it has to offer, this unique destination is one just waiting to be discovered.
#5 Cheap & Easy
Since 2012 Kyrgyzstan opened up its regime of visa-free travel for citizens of 60 countries. This is one of the most liberal tourist visa policies in the whole of Central Asia. Plus, its post-Soviet government is much more progressive than that of its neighbors. There are also numerous budget airlines traveling frequently to and from the country, meaning cheap and convenient access isn’t a problem either.
What’s more, is that it’s perfect for the budget traveler. Kyrgyzstan definitely won’t break the bank. A meal will set you back between .50-2 USD, and accommodation costs start at $7 per night for dorm beds in the city center.
#4 Incredible People
Kyrgyz people are super traditional nomads who are always smiling. Although they may not have much, they’ll be happy to share with you what little they do have. They’re always keen to share tea and food and will try to communicate as much as possible.
This is your perfect chance to learn about an off the beaten track culture and get to experience a whole other world.
#3 Tasty Food
An eclectic mix from Russia, Asia, and Turkey, Krygzy food is particularly unique, and many of it very yummy! You can expect a lot of bread and meat, noodles, potatoes, soups.. anything full of meat and carbs, basically.
Kyrgyz people definitely have a sweet tooth, with lots of sugary snacks found around. And lots of food you wouldn’t expect tasting surprisingly sweet… In summer, there is a huge variety of fruit and vegetables available (just in case any vegetarians are worried about the meat quantities!).
The national drink is fermented cow’s milk called kymyz. It can be found in the home of every nomadic family in Kyrgyzstan. This is a traditional drink, originally believed as the cure for almost everything. Do have a go at trying it! The taste is like runny sour milk… But don’t let that put you off.
#2 Spend the night in a Yurt
For an authentic Kyrgyz experience, you can spend a night (or nights) sleeping in a yurt in the countryside.
These stays can be surprisingly luxurious, considering their simple and humble set-up. If you’re staying with a family in the countryside, this is the ultimate in authentic experiences – and one highly recommended!
The stays vary between tourist-orientated and truly traditional. Head deep into the countryside for a more traditional experience. Or, if you’re after a bit of comfort, there are many tour operators online where you can find the perfect luxury yurt! Although I wouldn’t be counting on the addition of WiFi…
#1 Stunning Landscape
90% of the country is covered in mountains, and with 25% of the population living in the capital, you’ll have most of this all to yourself.
You cannot describe the stunning beauty of the Kyrgyz landscape just in words. Nor with pictures. This is the number 1 reason why you should visit this stunning land; you have to see it for yourself to believe it. Even if you do go to visit, several times during your trip you may actually feel like you’re looking at paintings instead of the landscape in front of you.
Kyrgyz landscape is not only beautiful, but there is also a great variety of landscapes for you to take in. Lakes, rolling mountains, green hills, dry red canyons, and snow…
Young Pioneer Tours
Kyrgyzstan with YPT
YPT offers a range of comprehensive tours to Kyrgyzstan. One of the most popular tours is the Kyrgyzstan Independence Day Tour.
This begins with the Buzkashi Horse Games (or “dead goat polo”) in the National Hippodrome in Bishkek. After experiencing some amazing national music, dance, and food during the celebrations, it’s on to experience the phenomenal countryside of Kyrgyzstan. Here you have the unique opportunity to spend a couple of nights sleeping in traditional yurts!
Despite Kyrgyzstan’s natural beauty and nomadic culture though, we can’t forget that like the rest of Central Asia, this amazing country was part of the Soviet Union and there are still some fascinating relics of this to be explored. On the shore of Lake Issyk Kol, we’ll have the chance to visit an old Soviet heavy water factory, a Soviet brewery that is now responsible for Kyrgyzstan’s best-selling beer and a YPT exclusive outing to the Soviet Meteorology Station.
- Feel like you’re back in the Soviet Union as you watch military units at Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day military parade, taking place in Bishkek’s main square, a spectacularly wide boulevard designed just for this kind of thing.
- Buzkashi: this is a violent but mesmerizing sport, not for the faint-hearted, but one of the most exciting spectators sports around.
- Exploring abandoned Soviet buildings on the shores of Issik Kol, the second largest alpine lake in the world. There’s a heavy water factory, a scout camp facility that was used by the Young Pioneers, and an old coal plant, all just sitting there ready to be explored.