Things to see and do in Kyrgyzstan
Attractions in Kyrgyzstan
Absorb Arslanbob's natural beauty
The walnut forests surrounding the ethnic Uzbek village of Arslanbob in the Jalal-Abad province are among the largest in the world and central to the local economy. The landscape here is exceptionally beautiful and perfect for summer hiking, skiing in winter or simply walking. Stop for a drink in the main square and watch the locals play chess.
Bag a bargain at Osh market
The chaotic swell of people that duck and weave around Osh market make it one of Kyrgyzstan's main attractions. It's one of the largest in Central Asia and an excellent place to people watch or buy souvenirs, fruits, spices and everything else under the sun.
Dare to climb Central Tien Shan
Central Tien-Shan, in the far east of the country, is for the truly intrepid as it contains the nation's two highest peaks. Access is usually by helicopter and offers challenging mountaineering and glacier walks. For experienced climbers only, a trek in Tien Shan will reward with a disappearing lake and supposed UFO landing site. Mountaineering and border permits are required.
Explore the spectacular Ala-Archa Canyon
South of Bishkek, and within easy reach of the capital for day trips, this rugged valley of alpine meadows, pine forest, towering mountain peaks and fast-flowing streams offers superb scenery within the confines of a national park. Whether you want to hike, rock climb or ski, do so surrounded by natural beauty.
Get pampered at Jeti-Ögüz Sanatorium
One of Issyk-Kul's last remaining spas, the Jeti-Ögüz sanatorium offers its guests Kyrgyz-style pampering. Aside from the massages, pools, and surrounding red rock formations, it's worth a visit just to wander around the eerie building that could be lifted straight from a David Lynch film.
Hike to Tash Rabat
This isolated monument is probably Kyrgyzstan's most remarkable Silk Road site. Half-buried on a hillside some 3,500m up (11,483ft), this former caravanserai was built in the 15th century on the site of what may have been a Nestorian Christian monastery. As well as being an attraction in itself, Tash Rabat is a great starting point for hiking.
Horse ride to Lake Song-kol
The beautiful 3,000m-high (9,840ft) Song-Kol is the jewel in the crown of Kyrgyzstan's gorgeous mountain scenery. Visit in the summer when horse treks to the lake can be arranged from Kochkor and a stay in a yurt to complete the experience. Community Based Tourism can help arrange horse treks to Song-Kol.
Marvel at the Manas Ordu Complex
Close to the town of Talas is a large memorial complex dedicated to Manas, the legendary 10th-century Kyrgyz hero. Although it is unclear whether or not Manas is actually buried here, there is a mausoleum here that is a place of great reverence to most Kyrgyz.
Seek out Solomon’s Mount for picturesque panoramas
The city of Osh in the south of the country has a central rocky outcrop known locally as Solomon's Throne because the legendary king was once supposed to have slept here. The top is marked with a small shrine called Babur's House, an important pilgrimage site for Uzbeks.
Seek out the striking Burana Tower
South of Tokmok, though close enough to Bishkek for a day excursion, this tower is actually a minaret – all that remains of the 10th-century Karakhanid city of Balasagun. As well as the tower and visitor centre the site also has an interesting array of balbals, Turkic stone grave markers.
Stroll the boulevards of Bishkek
The Kyrgyzstan capital is a relaxed city with wide boulevards, leafy parks and clear views of the snow-capped Ala-Too mountain range to the south. Although specific sights are limited, the city is a pleasant place to wander, with good hotels and restaurants and interesting museums like the State Historical Museum.
Swim in Lake Issyk-Kul
Relax on Cholpon-Ata beach after a swim in Lake Issyk-Kul, the second highest alpine lake in the world. Meaning "warm lake" in Kyrgyz (it is said never to freeze over), Lake Issyk-Kul is popular come summer and the nearby valleys make for enjoyable walking. Once you've dried off, head for a spot of karaoke on the town's main street.
Take a camera and capture the colours of Sary-Chelek
The Sary-Chelek Biosphere Reserve has the best environmental elements of Kyrgyzstan in one place, with a series of forests, meadows and lakes. Central to this large biosphere reserve, which is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and 160 species of bird, is the beautiful cobalt-blue lake of Sary-Chelek. Visit in autumn when the leaves turn yellow.
Trek the Altyn Arashan Valley
A number of treks start in Karakol, the major town near Lake Issyk-Kul. The most popular is the three-day hike around the Altyn Arashan Valley. The path is easy to follow and can be done without a guide, and although day two is hard going, the views from the highest point of the trek make the effort worthwhile.
Uncover Uzbek petroglyphs
There are petroglyphs all over Kyrgyzstan but some of the most accessible can be seen close to Cholpon-Ata, near Lake Issyk-Kul. Alternatively, visit the Saimaluu-Tash collection, where there are thousands of prehistoric rock carvings spread across two glacial marines. It was a sacred site as early as 2000BC and is still revered by people of the Tien Shan today.
Watch eagle hunting at Bokonbaevo
Hunting with eagles is an ancient Kyrgyz tradition that is in danger of dying out. The small town of Bokonbaevo on Lake Issyk-Kul's southern shore is one of the best places to see this in action and demonstrations can be arranged with the local CBT (Community Based Tourism) coordinator.
Ministry of TourismAddress: Ulitsa Togolok Moldo 17, Bishkek 720001,
Telephone: (312) 220 657.