Of all the Stan’s in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is the most talked about amongst travellers, and for good reason. No visa hassle, open borders, forward thinking people, stunning mountains and community based tourism projects will ensure that Kyrgyzstan will always stay near the top of the Central Asian wish list.
Here are 10 Reasons Why Kyrgyzstan Is OutSTANding.
1. Community Based Tourism Projects: There is nowhere quite like Kyrgyzstan for witnessing local culture in its natural form. CBT and Shepard’s Life are two companies that allow travellers to bridge the gap between visitors and villagers. When in Kyrgyzstan, head to the nearest CBT or Shepard’s life projects and embark on great adventures at reasonable prices all while supporting local economies. Travel doesn’t get much better than that. For more about CBT and Shepard’s Life Click Here!
2. Scenery: Coming from Canada, we may be a couple of natural beauty snobs, but witnessing the raw, rugged nature of Kyrgyzstan’s countryside is a real pleasure. 94% of the country is mountainous and with Tourist Information Offices, CBT and Shepard’s Life, the summer pastures, alpine lakes and soaring peaks are all at your disposal.
3. Treks: There are literally hundreds of trekking opportunities in Kyrgyzstan already planned out and marked and there are hundreds more waiting to be explored. The valleys, cliffs and mountain ranges around Karakol can keep any trekker busy for weeks. With treks ranging from day trips to week-long adventures, there is something for all skill levels. There are also treks between major destinations, so instead of taking public transport, you can just load up on supplies and walk yourself.
4. Horse Treks: Most treks can also be done on horseback and in Kyrgyzstan there are plenty of places to rent a horse. The best way to do a horse trek is to hire a guide from CBT or Shepard’s Life and set out over a mountain pass. One place that we highly recommend for a horse trek is the 3,800 meter pass to stunning Song-Kol Lake (3,000 meters).
5. Other Travellers: This can be said of the entire region, travellers in Central Asia are adventurous, intrepid and culturally aware. You’ll never see mini-skirts and reggae bars here. People are here for trekking and the stories around the hostel dinner tables will be funny, exciting and informative for your onward travel. This is one place where everyone is in for an experience.
6. Homestays: Before coming to Kyrgyzstan we didn’t really know what a homestay was. What they are is a perfect way for travellers to live with local families and support villagers instead of hotels and hostels. Generally you get your own room in a homestay (if you want) and if you arrange through CBT or Shepard’s Life, they try to ensure that you are the only tourist(s) there. If you’re single or in a group of 5, you’ll have the friendly local family all to yourself. The family will cook delicious home-made food for you and offer you more chai (tea) than you can drink, but aside from that they just go about their daily business and leave you to explore the surroundings.
7. Drives: In many places, you hop on a bus simply to get from point A to point B, but in Kyrgyzstan (and most Central Asian Countries) the drives between your destinations are phenomenal. Cruising over mountain passes, past alpine lakes and through rock tunnels will ensure that every drive is an adventure in itself. Local transport is relatively cheap and if you want the best views, opt for a shared taxi (only slightly more expensive than buses).
8. Beaches: That’s right, this landlocked nation has some stunning beaches, most of which fringe the dazzling Lake Issyk Kul’s northern and southern shores. Issyk-Kul (1,700 meters) is the largest lake in the country and the second largest alpine lake in the world. The beaches of Cholpon-Ata are stunning, but often crowded with Russian and Kazakh vacationers. Although the sand can be a bit dirty in the north, the snow-capped peaks reflecting off the lake’s surface make up for it. Try Tamga on the southern shores for a more relaxed, quiet and authentically Kyrgyz atmosphere.
9: Being Off The Beaten Path: If you’ve come to Kyrgyzstan, or anywhere in this region, you definitely have a thirst for adventure and the heart of an explorer. Kyrgyzstan offers the intrepid traveller authentic experiences and epic trips both lost in time and drenched in culture. The ease of travel here makes being off the beaten path feel as smooth as a freeway!
10: Ease Of Travel: For somewhere with so few tourists, Kyrgyzstan is really set up well for travellers. There are free visas available at all land borders and airports, the public transport is cheap and easy, CBT helps you get in the door of real families, there are great hostels and the country is littered with excellent homestay options. You will no doubt be surprised at just how easy it is to be intrepid in this incredible country.
We spent three amazing weeks in Kyrgyzstan and we could have spent three months. There are just so many opportunities for adventure in this tiny, mountainous, Central Asian nation. It’s one of those places that has it all and rewards travellers with everything they could hope for in a trip, tour, holiday or vacation. We will definitely be planning our return journey to this mesmerizing county in the near future. Kyrgyzstan is truly outSTANding!
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