I simply love travelling across Post-Soviet states so in 2018, after completing my Trans-Siberian Railway trip, I flew from Novosibirsk (the biggest city in Siberia) to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. It was a great opportunity to discover a new country and a new region, which is Central Asia.
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country with a mountainous terrain -which helped them to preserve its ancient culture- located in Central Asia. The country declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The official language there is Kyrghyz along with Russian (co-official).
The country has deep roots of history that spans over 2,000 years and a strong nomadic culture. The country has many reasons to visit such as great nature, delicious cuisine, and interesting unique culture.
In this blog, I will be sharing with you some of my impressions about the country of Kyrgyzstan during my short stay there.
Ala Archa National Park
The Ala Archa National Park is an alpine national park in the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, established in 1976 and located approximately 40 km south of the capital city of Bishkek. It’s about 1 hour 45 minutes drive from Bishkek to the national park. We drove there and spent an amazing day. I’ve never been to Switzerland but many of those who did said that the beauty of mountains in Kyrgyzstan is comparable to Switzerland. I spent a full day there where I enjoyed one of the most beautiful nature sites I’ve ever seen. I will leave you to enjoy the beautiful photos below
Kyrgyz Nomadic Culture
A yurt is a large portable round tent covered with skins or left used by nomads in Central Asian steppes. It’s very common to see Yurts in different parts of Central Asia. They are very proud of Yurt and nomadic culture in Kyrgyzstan that even the national flag consists of a red field charged with a yellow sun that contains a depiction of a Yurt!
I had the opportunity to go inside one of these Yurts -probably a fancy Yurt- and it’s spacious and full of beautiful details
Bishkek, the Capital of Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek is the capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan with a population of 900,000. The city has limited historical sites but it’s a good starting point if you want to visit other sites in the country. Furthermore, it’s nice to spend a day or two in the city to explore the capital and the largest city of this country. I am a city person and I always enjoy visiting new cities so I had a good time roaming around the streets there.
However, a walk in the city made me feel like time has stopped there in 1991. Many buildings and infrastructure looked old and tired but people were very nice and hospitable.
Another reason to visit Kyrgyzstan is the delicious cuisine there! You must try Plov when you are in Kyrgyzstan or in any other Central Asian country such as Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan; it’s a traditional dish that consists of meat, rice, and vegetables. It is delicious but I must admit that it’s very heavy 🙂
Furthermore, horse meat is very popular in Kyrgyzstan and I tried it and found it really tasty! You should try it too (if you are not a vegetarian, of course) 😉
Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country with gorgeous nature and friendly people. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to explore more of the beauty of the country as I only had 3 days to spend there. I think that I missed a big opportunity to see one of the most beautiful lakes in the world which is Issyk-Kul lake, it’s about 4 to 5 hours drive from Bishkek and totally worth it. I wish I had more time…
People in Kyrgyzstan are very friendly and humble. I actually had a major incident when I was travelling by a Marshrutka (minibus) from Bishkek to Almaty (Kazakhstan), after I had arrived in the central bus station in Almaty, although I am generally a very careful person, I realized that I lost my messenger bag which I had my passports in it (I actually have 2 passports). I almost lost my mind and then I realized that it must have been somewhere in the minibus. I ran back to the station and talked to the management and luckily, with a help of a guy who speaks English, I managed to find the bus driver who ran to when he saw me with the bag in his hand! Words can’t tell how happy I was when I realized that I got my passports back so I opened my wallet to give him whatever cash I had to thank him but he refused to take anything. In fact, he just pointed at the sky and said something. The employee from the station who speaks English told me that the driver says that he’s doing this for God’s sake and he doesn’t want any money from me and just asked me to be more careful next time. I thanked him and was so grateful that I got back my passport. This incident told me a lot about how humble and pure some people are although he probably was in need of money yet he refused to take anything.
I flew from Novosibirsk with Siberia Airlines (Their commercial name is S7 airlines), it’s a large airline in Russia and flight was generally nice, short and comfortable (about 2.5 hours). Kyrgyzstan is still new on the world tourism map so there aren’t many direct flights from and to Manas International Airport in Bishkek that connects the capital with the rest of the world; you will probably have to fly to Russia, Istanbul, or Dubai first and then connect from there to Bishkek.
If you ever visit Kyrgyzstan, I recommend that you combine it with another Central Asian destination such as Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan. Almaty (the largest city in Kazakhstan) is only 4 hours drive by minibus from Bishkek and it’s a very beautiful city and worth visiting. Sadly, I will not write a blog about Almaty as I was sick during my visit to that city and didn’t end up having a rich travel experience to blog about.
About transportation, I highly recommend using Yandex taxi. It’s safe and affordable.
Like many other Post-Soviet states, English isn’t widely spoken in Kyrgyzstan. In my opinion, you need to learn some basic Russian words and to learn reading Cyrillic alphabets as doing that will make your life much easier.
That’s all I can say about Kyrgyzstan for now! It’s a beautiful country and I encourage everyone to visit it. Leave me a comment if you have any questions.