Kyrgyzstan is a country known for its natural beauty. Semi-nomadic shepherds living in tents bring to life the pristine mountain landscape, rugged hills, and summer pasture. Coupled with a well-developed host family and visa-free travel network, it is easy to understand why Kyrgyzstan (officially known as the Kyrgyz Republic) is the gateway of choice for many Central Asian travellers.
As expected in a country where the vast majority of attractions are in rural and high-altitude areas, the time of your visit is of the utmost importance. Summer is an ideal choice, usually on foot and on trails. The summer solstice also saw Kazakh and Russian tourists gathering on the shore of the never-freezing Lake Issyk-Kul. From October to May, many country houses are closed, and tents that add character to the Alpine scenery are discarded; unless you come for skiing or snowboarding, think twice before visiting in winter.
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Kyrgyzstan is a country full of pristine natural scenery with glaciers, deserts, alpine meadows, and many mountains 7000 meters above sea level. But Kyrgyzstan offers more than just stunning scenery for scholars and travelers. Its people, boasting Bedouin traditions and hospitable ordinary people, breathe life into this extraordinary sight. In Wild Frontiers, we highlight the best places to visit in Kyrgyzstan and make the most of your time there, so let’s review it.
This large, rugged, but easily accessible canyon is located about an hour’s drive south of Bishkek. It has now been converted into a national park, offering dozens of possibilities for hiking and trekking, including trekking to glaciers and serious climbers and climbing some of the highest peaks in the region.
In Kyrgyz, Ala-Archa means bright juniper, which grows abundantly on hillsides. The Alam El-Din River that flows along the valley is beautiful and dangerous. Ala-Archa National Park is a favourite of the residents of Bishkek, who like to relax by the waterfall and enjoy summer picnics. Experienced hikers can climb the fascinating Ak Say Canyon and Ak Say Glacier.
Arslanbob is located on the south-facing slopes of the Fergana Mountains at 1,600 meters above sea level. It has stunning mountain views, friendly locals, and the most expensive nuts in the country. It is said that Alexander the Great brought back a large number of nuts from Central Asia but was forced to abandon them when he arrived in Greece in return for the barge that transported his army.
Most of the population is Uzbek; Arslanbob is considered quite conservative because it is close to Islamic holy sites and isolated from the rest of the country.
Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, is a charming modern city with wide streets, snow-capped mountains as the background, and affluent green areas. In 1825, Kokand Khan built a mud castle called Bishkek. After the Russian Revolution, the city was named Frunze after the famous Bolshevik general born here. After Kyrgyzstan became independent in 1991, it was restored to its original name Bishkek.
Chon Kemin Valley is famous for its beautiful natural beauty, various flora, fauna, and landscapes. From semi-desert to glacier, hiking through Chon-Kemin National Park provides an opportunity to spot snow leopards, moral, and golden eagles. Another popular way to explore the park is to ride a horse or raft down the river and then camp in a secluded valley or yurt camp. History buffs will be surprised by the many ancient tombs, some dating back to the 4th century BC.
Twenty-five kilometres west of Karakol is the Jety-Oguz Canyon. It is said that the red sandstone cliffs resemble cows, and the name itself means “seven bulls”. Due to the fertile pastures of the valley, these beautiful animals have grown to a considerable proportion.
There is a village nearby and you can walk in the valley. Below the slope is one of the few Essie Cole resorts. It was built in 1932 and has multiple swimming pools and treatment rooms.
Karakol is the administrative centre of Isikul province and an ideal base for exploring the lake. It was established in 1869 when a nearby garrison commander realized that the climate here was mild and the soil was fertile, making it very suitable for settlement. Today, the town is famous for its surrounding apple orchards, and there is a good market on Sundays.
Attractions worth seeing include the Chinese Mosque and Holy Trinity Cathedral, built by Chinese craftsmen in 1920 without nails. The Karakol Valley also has good trails.
A small village next to Lake Issyk Kul, where many archaeological excavations have unearthed the remains of the 10th-century caravan. There are many cafes and restaurants in the village.
Lake Issyk Kul means “warm lake” and is the second-largest mountain lake in the world. The lake is 182 kilometres long and 58 kilometres wide. It is heated from below by thermal activity and will not freeze even in the deep winter.
In summer, the water temperature reaches 25-28°C (warmer than the air), and you can swim in the blue waters surrounded by snow peaks of the Tianshan Mountains. Most resorts are located on the lake’s northern shore, and the area between this area and Almaty, Kazakhstan, is a good hiking area.
Tianshan, or Tianshan, is simply one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Although it may not be immediately as striking as the mighty Himalayas or Karakoram, the colour, variety, shape, and simple wildness of the Tianshan Mountains are still awe-inspiring.
However, what makes these mountain tours so unique is the scenery and the fact that you feel like you are in it. As part of it, you can not only see the mountains in the distance. Living in tents with nomads, or camping by the wild river in the pine forest, usually many miles away from “civilization”, you will feel like a backpacker after a few days in the Tianshan Mountains!
Naryn Province is a wilderness of beauty, with alternating peaks and valleys, white valleys, and abundant wildlife. Despite the rugged terrain, the centre of Tianshan has been inhabited since ancient times, and many rock paintings and cemeteries prove this. It is also the main caravan route on the Silk Road, and you can visit the well-preserved 15th-century Tashrabat Khan. The largest lake in Naryn Province is Lake Son Kul.
Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the lake’s colour changes from purple to dark blue to pink according to the time of day. The highest lake is Chatilkul Lake, and the stunning Torugat Pass extends to the border with China.
Osh is the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan. It is one of the oldest cities in the region, and its history can be traced back to the 5th century BC. Legend has it that it was established by various people, from King Solomon to Alexander the Great. It is an important hub on the Silk Road. Today it has a solid Uzbek feel, which is not surprising because 40% of the population is Uzbek.
The enormous Jayma Daily Bazaar is one of the best markets in Central Asia. It runs along the river and is busiest on Sundays. There is a rock outcrop outside the city called the Throne of Solomon. It has long been a place of Islamic pilgrimage because Muhammad should have prayed here once.
The beautiful Sams Valley is traditionally considered a sacred place and one of the most impressive areas in the Tian Shan Mountains. Known as the “Tianshan Mountain”, its dense fir forests, flowing rivers, and glaciers make it a great place to explore on foot or horseback. If you are lucky, you may even see snow leopards or black bears, all of which make their homes in this area.
Son Kul Lake is a mountain lake and the second-largest lake in Kyrgyzstan. It is located on a high plateau in the northern provinces. Shepherds in Kochkor, Naryn, and At Bashi often use the green meadows of the mountains around the lake as summer pastures. Various herbs and grasses were found in the surrounding area, as well as 66 types of waterfowl living in the lake.
Tamga is a small town on the bank of Issyk Kul, an inland lake in the northern part of the Tianshan Mountains. The lake is famous for its biodiversity and ancient urban landscape. Highlights include nursing homes, Christian/Islamic cemeteries, and petroglyphs. The city is renowned for horseback riding to explore the beauty of the surrounding nature reserve.
Protected by black granite cliffs, this old hotel on the Silk Road must be one of the most beautiful valleys in the country. Built of dark stone, with monumental arched entrances, vaulted ceilings, and towers on all sides, it looks like An ancient oriental castle, a legendary outpost that has long been forgotten.
In front of him, hidden behind a series of steep cliffs, a broad green valley dotted with tents and hundreds of animals: horses, cows, yaks, and sheep. With a friendly family living in a comfortable and well-equipped tent and great hiking and mountain trails, a visit to Tashrabat is one of the highlights of any trip to Kyrgyzstan.
Since 2017, Saba Ghani has been the chief content writer for Pakistan Tour and Travel & EMHI Solutions. You can catch her at [email protected] or Twitter
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