Howdy all and hopefully today’s post finds you as well as you might be in this crazy world in which we live in. Last week I presented the Essential Tips (as far as I can see them) for those heading to the exciting and attractive destination that is the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. So today I want to talk about what you might see and do if you head to this mountainous, scenic and not-so-visited place.
Am I saying it’s a special country? Yes it I am! It’s a country that borders China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It’s very easy to miss if you’re skimming a map but it’s there none the less and there is plenty to see and do. How can I summarise? Well, it’s obviously got hiking, it’s got culture, Russian and Kyrgyz history, natural beauty as much as one could possibly ask for and then a bit more for dressing. So let’s have a look and see what I’d recommend.
Starting in the capital is the natural place to start. It has the best links in terms of international flights and is very close to the border with Kazakhstan, only a few hours to cross from Almaty so it naturally comes as the best place to begin.
The capital is an interesting and attractive city. It’s population is around one million, making it technically slightly larger than Dushanbe, the Tajik capital but in truth it feels a little smaller. It really does have a number of parks that distinguish the city, right through the centre. Panfilov Park is one such park, with paths and trees, fountains and even table tennis tables set up for free use in the summer time. You can relax there and enjoy the environment, or even meet some of the locals who are generally pretty friendly – and often keen to be photographed. A few times in Kyrgyzstan I had people come up to me and ask me to take THEIR photo, and then walk off once it was done. Didn’t even want a copy! Inside the park somewhere – it is very large – you can find a children’s theatre which was a kinda cool place to visit.
Take in an opera or other performance at the State Opera House, it’s very cheap and a great experience – when I went the audience was half soldiers who then lined up outside which provided some great photo opportunities. The State Museum also is worth seeing, as it is one that still seems to think the Soviet Union is still together and is filled with some awesome propaganda and statues. Even in Panfilov Park you can find a Lenin Statue if you look. The museum is by the Alo-Too Square and next to the Parliament building. Also head to Victory Square for monuments to those fallen and an Eternal Flame.
See Also – Bishkek in Pictures
This large lake is a couple of hours by land from Bishkek and is the closest thing Kyrgyzstan has to the sea, so in the summer it becomes popular and people head there for a little rest and relaxation. There are hotels, resorts and ‘sanatoriums’ (I guess the Soviet version of a day-spa) and so if you’re there in the warmer months, you could try the towns of Cholpon-Ata and Bosteri, which lie on the northern shores of the lake.
Karakol and Altyn Arashan
On the east side of the lake, the far side from Bishkek, is the town of Karakol. It’s full of lovely wooden buildings and is far cooler than Bishkek. From here there’s a lot to explore. I took a jeep up the mountains to the small and beautiful Altyn Arashan. It’s not even a village really. From here hikers go further afield and hike into the beautiful mountains. There are even a couple of glaciers to discover.
In a different direction from Karakoll is another little valley which you can hike along. And in that valley is this amazing ‘Broken Heart’ rock, which is best represented by photos.
Osh and the South
That is my limited experience of Kyrgyzstan. Osh is south of Bishkek and on the border with Uzbekistan, a border that was closed when I visited but is now open. From photos I’ve seen it’s another attractive town. It’s built on a couple of rivers and there are a mountains in the region to climb – Solomon Mountain for one with a very interesting looking museum. Also there is a good bazaar worth exploring, museums, parks and statues and more.
The south-east from Osh to China is a bit more barren, and the crossing is somewhat epic at high altitude. So I image the chief reason to head to this part if you weren’t headed to China would be hiking. There are also mountains between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan which may provide hiking opportunities and certainly adventure.
Kyrgyzstan though is waiting for people to come and explore it! To find the things that travellers, especially western travellers, haven’t seen and don’t know about. Central Asia sees most of its visitors from other ex-Soviet states. But the opportunities can be experienced by all! I thoroughly recommend it!
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Thanks for reading today! Take care, questions and comments ALWAYS welcome! May the Journey Never End!