Kyrgyzstan sits in Central Asia, one of the world’s final great travel frontiers. People who plan to visit the country have visions of difficult transport, visa hassle, language barriers and all the things that typically come with intrepid travel.
CBT (Community Based Tourism) is a company who works very hard at building a sustainable bridge between foreign visitors and local culture, and they have done a fantastic job. In few countries can you peer into the local way of life with such clarity. CBT’s authentic home stays, yurt stays and village to village treks ensure that travellers experience the wonder that is Kyrgyzstan without the barriers that often separate us from the indigenous communities.
There are 16 CBT offices around Kyrgyzstan that can offer anything from horse treks and home stays to cultural shows and horse games. If you’re travelling in Kyrgyzstan, you’ll likely find a CBT office in almost every town you visit. CBT is the most popular community based project in Kyrgyzstan but they are not the only one and debatably, they are not the best.
Shepherd’s Life is another company who can arrange many of the same treks, home stays and folk shows as CBT. Although the Lonely Planet speaks higher of CBT, in our experience, Shepherd’s Life gives travellers better options and a better breakdown of costs. They also offer their tours, treks and home stays at a much lower cost with slightly better service.
Don’t ignore Shepherd’s Life, especially if you are in Kochkor, where Ainura can set you up with everything you need. Ainura is one of the most honest, and forthcoming tour operators we’ve ever had the pleasure of doing business with. Even returning our money, without question, when we found our own ride out of Song-Kol, instead of taking our pre-paid taxi.
The best way to travel around Kyrgyzstan is to look for offices of these two community based projects and plan trips through them. You can horse trek for less than $50/person/day including guide, food and accommodation and you can trek on foot for far less. You can stay with local families, taste local dishes and get a real feel for Kyrgyzstan culture, without ever breaking your budget.
The best part of these projects is that they are both community driven and they do wonders for the local economies. 85% of all money spent goes directly to the drivers, guides, and homeowners you hire. CBT in Arslanbob alone, brought nearly 1,000,000 som ($20,490) to the locals they employ, as well as sufficient funding for the village Mosque’s renovations.
We are not usually people who enjoy taking tours, but CBT and Shepherd’s Life don’t organize tours, they organize an authentic looking-glass that allows travellers to see the Kyrgyz people for who they are and experience their life for what it is. You can choose to have a guide for yourself, or join a larger group. We always ensure our guides speak English, and we take our own guide unless we already know the people we are doing the trip with. Having your own guide gives you valuable insight into the local way of life and often a much-needed translator.
These community based projects are just getting started and each year they expand to new destinations and offer backpackers new activities. You can do everything from hunting to horseback riding and trekking to white water rafting. We don’t like to be insistent and say: “You Must…”, but in this case, if you miss out on CBT and Shepherd’s Life, then you will be missing out on a big piece of Kyrgyzstan.
Below Is A List Of All The CBT Locations In Kyrgyzstan:
phone: ++996 773 342476 (mobile)
280 Kurmanjan Datka St. (2nd floor, hotel “Alay”), Osh Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++996 3222 20276, ++ 996 555 077621
Bokonbaevo Village, Yssyk-Kol Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++996 777 970767 (mobile)
#3, 20 Toktogula St., Jalalabat town, Jalalabat Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++ 996 3722 21962 , ++ 996 772 376602 (mobile)
36, Bekten St., Kazarman Village, Jalalabat Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++ 996 3738 41253, ++ 996 777 224063 (mobile)
Mrs. Bujamal Arykmoldoeva, coordinator
#20, 123 Abdrakhmanova St., Karakol town, Yssyk-Kol Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++ 996 3922 55000, ++ 996 555 150795 (mobile)
phone: ++ 996 770 16 91 64 (mobile)
22A Pionerskaya St., Kochkor Village, Naryn Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++ 996 3535 51114 , ++ 996 777 265559 (mobile)
Kyzyl-Oi Village, Chui Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: +996 312 46 47 85, + 996 555 41 78 47 (mobile)
tel:+996 779 788954
#8, 33 Lenin St., Naryn town, Naryn Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++ 996 3522 50865, ++996 779 56 76 85
fax: ++ 996 3522 50865
Osh city, Osh oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++ 996 772 574940 (mobile)
9, Bapakova St., Karool-Dobo village, Kemin Region, Chuy Oblast, Kyrgyzstanphone
++996 312 540069, 443331, ++ 996 772 832065 (mobile)
Sary-Mogol village, Alay Region, Osh Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++996 312 540069, 443331
76 Kasym Kayimov (Yuzhnaya) St., Talas town, Talas Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++996 3422 52919, ++ 996 772 643466 (mobile)
55 Manasa St., Tamchy Village, Yssyk-Kol Oblast, Kyrgyzstan
phone: ++ 996 3943 21272 , ++ 996 773 355611 (mobile)
For Shepherd’s Life, Contact Ainura:
Kyrgyzstan, Kochkor Village, Pionerskya St.
(+996) 0777 01 37 47
If you have any questions about CBT or Shepherd’s Life, feel free to comment below!