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View of lime green grassland leading to shores of curved lake and snowy distant mountains.

Kyrgyzstan Holidays

While the frills may be lacking, the thrill of exploration certainly isn’t. This land is a true explorer’s challenge – spend time with local nomadic families, trek the Tien Shan Mountains and even make your way to China.

Sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Central Asia, the landscapes of Kyrgyzstan are surprisingly varied, with snow-capped peaks, pine forests and glaciers giving way to open plains dotted with nomadic encampments, flocks of sheep and gleaming blue mountain lakes.

The fact that the country is so little known is mostly down to its isolation and a lack of awareness of its very existence. Kyrgyzstan has only been a country in its own right for a few decades.

Alakol Lake, Altyn Arashan, Kyrgyzstan
Alakol Lake, Kyrgyzstan

Why we like Kyrgyzstan

The mountain vistas alone are reason enough to visit Kyrgyzstan but, while visitor numbers are increasing gradually, a short tourist season and the relative difficulty of reaching it have ensured that Kyrgyzstan is unlikely to ever become a mainstream travel destination. This means that those adventurous travellers who do make the effort to come are guaranteed a unique and unforgettable experience. The fact that British passport holders don’t require a visa is also a huge bonus.

Old man, Arslanbob village, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyz man in Arslanbob village

What to expect on your Kyrgyzstan holiday

Architecturally there is little to see in Kyrgyzstan but this is more than compensated for by the truly magnificent scenery which can be seen when riding or trekking in the mountains. Since independence from the former Soviet Union, life has been hard for the people of Kyrgyzstan, with no natural wealth apart from a little gold. For the visitor, however, it is a land of peace and tranquillity where many people are still nomadic, living in yurts and tending their sheep and goats.

Be warned that the infrastructure leaves much to be desired, but a holiday to Kyrgyzstan is all about getting away from smart hotels and cities and instead, drinking fresh yoghurt with a tribal headman while, through an interpreter, he tries to understand how you survive with no sheep. Kyrgyzstan is also easily combined with neighbouring Uzbekistan or across the border into the China and the Silk Road city of Kashgar.

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Explore Kyrgyzstan

  • Bishkek
  • Lake Son Kul
  • Karakol
  • Tash Rabat


A selection of activities and experiences you could consider including in your holiday to Kyrgyzstan.

Stay in a Yurt

Spend a night with a local nomadic family in their yurt, for a taste of the traditional life.

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Kazakh Eagle Hunters

Join the famed Kazakh Eagle Hunters in all their finery for a hunting expedition – meet their families and their birds, and learn about the skills involved in the capture, training and use of eagles as hunters.

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The Petroglyphs of Cholpan Ata

Discover the petroglyphs near Cholpan Ata and the 11th century Burana Tower, all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun.

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Tien Shan Mountains

Go riding or trekking amidst the stunning mountain scenery of the Tien Shan (Heavenly) Mountains.

Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Paul Craven

Paul is the Conde Nast Traveler chosen Specialist for Central Asia and the Silk Route.

Being from a family with Army connections I can from an early age remember travelling. From camping in Europe and then later being sent to boarding school when we lived in Germany at the age of eight, complete with shorts, long socks, a cap and my suitcase. In appearance not too dissimilar to the children evacuated to the countryside during the blitz. Later, my father’s postings took us to Nepal where we had to transit Delhi and Kathmandu where we were sometimes stranded for days and Hong Kong from where I travelled in 1983 through China for two months.

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Deborah Brock-Doyle

My first journey for Steppes was in 1999 when I set off to explore Thailand to gather those little details that constitute Steppes Travel’s trademark knowledge. I have since been lucky enough to travel extensively in Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East and India. A few special memories include being joined at dinner by an otter in Laos, proudly being shown an illicit picture of the Dalai Lama in Tibet and diving with manta rays on Christmas day in Indonesia. I’m pretty sure I always leave a country wishing I had done more, seen more, learned more ….. but I also always hope to return …

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Paul is very knowledgeable about all the destinations we book with him. Always organised to a high standard and a great help, he gives us confidence in our trip.


Frequently asked questions about Kyrgyzstan

What are the rules on tipping?

On the whole, tipping is now the norm and is appreciated by your guide and driver. It has become popular in some restaurants where Western tourists are more common. In general the Kyrgyz are very hospitable people and so leaving a small gift, for example at the end of a homestay, may be more appropriate.

What local food should I try?

Kyrgyz food tends to be deliciously spiced and meat and dairy constitute a large part of the diet. Besh barmak (five fingers) is the national dish of Kyrgyzstan and is traditionally eaten with your hands. It is a meat and broth based dish, which is traditionally served to honoured guests. Chai is a special Kyrgyz tea which is consumed across the country.

What should I see?

Trek through the stunning Karakol National Park and visit the sacred sites of the prehistoric petroglyphs near Cholpan Ata and Saimaluu-Tash. Surround yourself in the stunning nature of the country through horseriding, glacier walking and birdwatching in the Central Tien Shan before enjoying true Krygyz hospitality by staying with a local family in a nomadic yurt.

For those with an even greater flare for adventure cross the Torugat Pass, one of just two roads leading from Kyrgyzstan into China. A trip to Kyrgyzstan would also not be complete without a visit to Tash Rabat, arguably the country’s most remarkable monument and a reminder of its central role in the old Silk Road.

How long are the flights to Kyrgyzstan from the UK?

There are no direct flights to Kyrgyzstan. From London to Kyrgyzstan, the total flight time is around 10 hours 15 minutes.

Can I use my mobile phone in Kyrgyzstan?

In Kyrgyzstan it is best to buy a SIM card at the airport, which will last for 30 days and you simply pay for the calls that you make. However, it is important to note that while coverage in Bishkek and other major cities is decent, the quality of signal greatly decreases in more remote areas and can be non-existent.

What is the international dialling code for Kyrgyzstan?


What is the time zone in Kyrgyzstan?

Kyrgyzstan is six hours ahead of GMT.

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Why Choose Steppes?

These may be uncertain times but they are, without a doubt, still full of opportunity to discover the extraordinary safely. Through knowledge and expertise, we can connect you to those destinations embracing travellers with the added confidence of flexible booking and decades of insight.

Are you ready to discover extraordinary once again?

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