Kyrgyzstan, an offbeat destination renowned for its trekking and horse riding, is an ideal place to discover nomadic culture at a grassroots level. There are many rarely-visited locales to explore throughout this centuries-old Central Asian nation. Many people are drawn to the country with romantic notions of seeing magnificent eagles swooping on to the outspread arms of kalpak-wearing Kyrgyz, or galloping at speed on horseback through verdant fields of swaying grass, finishing off the day sharing beshbarmak and kymyz with herdsmen inside of their yurts. All these are possible here, and much more. If you’re heading out this way, be sure to stop by and visit Kyrgyzstan, the adventure epicentre of Central Asia.

TIEN SHAN RANGE

Tien Shan Mountain RangeKnown as the Mountains of Heaven, the Tien Shan range has drawn countless explorers and travellers over the centuries. Extending for 2800km through Central Asia, over half the range passes along the Kyrgyz border with China. The Tien Shan is a superb location for trekking or mountaineering and has countless unclimbed peaks to be attempted.

LAKE ISSYK KUL

Lake Issyk-Kul KyrgyzstanOne of the most beautiful lakes in Central Asia, it is the tenth largest in the world by volume and the second largest saline lake in the world after the Caspian Sea. Located at an altitude of 1600m, its surrounded by giant alpine peaks and its clear blue waters make it a great stopping off point for any journeys to or from the steppes/mountains. Around the lake are several traditional villages where eagle hunters can be found. The magnificent Berkut (golden eagles) are trained in the millennial Central Asian method of seeking out small game.

OSH

Osh Bazaar KyrgyzstanThe second largest city in Kyrgyzstan, Osh is a crossroads with a mixed population of Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Russian, Tajiks and other ethnic groups. The Great Silk Road Bazaar is a central feature in the city and the largest in all of Central Asia. A major attraction in Sulayman Mountain, which overlooks the city and was once a site for Muslim pilgrimage. Nowadays Osh is a popular stopping off point with foreigners as the starting point of the Pamir Highway which extends all the way in to Tajikistan.

BISHKEK

Bishkek KyrgyzstanThe capital city of Kyrgyzstan there is a lot to see and do here. These range from history in the State Historical Museum in Ala-Too Square, shopping in the busy Dordoy and Osh Bazaars and on the outskirts one can take day trips to the Ala-Too Mountain Range, as well as Ala-Archa National Park which is only a 30 minute drive away.

SONG KÖL

Song Köl, KyrgyzstanThe second largest lake in the country, and the largest fresh water, the summer pastures or jailoo surrounding it are seasonally inhabited by semi-nomadic shepherds and horse herders. Traditional and tourist yurts make up villages, and there is plenty to see and do while hiking, horse trekking or even biking in parts. Between the snow-covered mountains and the water can be found an extraordinary stillness, the lake mirroring the ever-changing cloud formations.

KARAKOL

Karakol, KyrgyzstanBetween the Issyk Kol and Ala Kol lakes, and on the doorstep of the Tien Shen mountains, Karakol is the prefect base for exploring these regions. In winter it is a major ski resort with ski lifts serving over 20km of runs. Nearby in the Arashun State National Park is set Altyn Arashan, the golden spa, with sulphurous hot springs. In summer, treks around the lake or into the mountains offer the most intimate way to discover the area. The Sunday Market to the north of the town has live animal sales, with sheep and goats often arriving packed into cars.

VISAS

No visa requirements or visa on arrival for most nationalities. For those that require visa necessary to visit Kyrgyzstan embassy or consulate

WEATHER

It can get cold in Central Asia, especially at night. Temperatures at night can drop below freezing.

MONEY

For up to date exchange rates please have a look at www.xe.com

ELECTRICITY

Two prong European style systems (types C and F). Although adapters are extremely common.

WIFI

Poor internet connection/speed.

FOOD

Meat is dominant in all Kyrgyz cooking. Traditional cooking uses mutton, beef and horse meat. Milk products also commonly feature alongside bread.

ALCOHOL

Alcohol is permitted and is widely available

LANGUAGE

Kyrgyz and English

RELIGION

Sunni Muslim majority with minority Ahmadi.

DRESS CODE

No special dress code.

SAFTEY & SECURITY

The FCO considers Kyrgyzstan to be a low risk region to travel.

RECOMMENDED READING

TBC

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