Men, Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia by Paul Craven

Kyrgyzstan Holidays

Why we like Kyrgyzstan

The mountain vistas alone are reason enough to visit Kyrgystan 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.

What to expect on your Kyrgyzstan holiday

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 two decades or so.

Architecturally there is little to see in Kyrgyzstan but this is more than compensated for by the truly magnificent views 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.

Some ideas for a Kyrgyzstan holiday

  • Visit the petroglyphs near Cholpan Ata and the 11th century Burana Tower, all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun.
  • Spend a night with a local nomadic family in their yurt for a taste of the traditional life.
  • Go riding or trekking in the Tien Shan (Heavenly) Mountains.
  • The Turugat Pass from Kyrgyzstan into China and Kashgar means that Kyrgyzstan is a natural stop over on any Silk Road journey.

Beyond the ordinary

Go hunting with the famed eagle hunters.

our Kyrgyzstan expertise

Paul has been criss-crossing Central Asia for nearly two decades and there are few places he has not seen. His knowledge of little-known border crossing points is legendary and makes for fascinating itineraries. Charlie has recently returned from Kyrgyzstan, still amazed that he could trek in such beautiful surroundings and not see another foreigner.

Kyrgyzstan FAQs

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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.
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.


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Yurt, Kyrgyzstan

Joanna Lumley's Silk Road Adventure

Screening on Wednesday 3rd October at 9pm on ITV is the fourth episode of Joanna Lumley's journey along the Silk Route. In this final episode, she journeys through the ancient desert citadels and iconic silk road cities of Uzbekistan, from Khiva to Tashkent and Samarkand. Kyrgyzstan is her final destination where she explores the beautiful mountainous scenery, home to lakes, traditional yurt tents and Kyrgyz eagle hunters.
Follow in her footsteps and join our small group tour to Uzbekistan in April 2019 or our silk road journey from Kyrgyzstan to China in June 2019.
Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan

World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan

Originally held in Kyrgyzstan in September 2014, the elaborate and somewhat alternative World Nomad Games have since become a biennial event with the country most recently playing host in September 2018.
First held on the shores of Issyk-Kul Lake, nomads from all over the world come together to showcase the rich history, traditions and cultures of the nomad nations. In 2018 athletes representing over 74 countries gathered to compete in sports such as archery, wrestling, Ordo (A Kyrgyz board game) and various horseback games which showcase the ancient equestrian skills of these people. With the games growing in popularity Turkey is due to host them in 2020.

Client Reviews

Kyrgyz Man, Kyrgyzstan
"As always Steppes was very professional.  
Thank you all"

Mrs Sheila Brown

The 5 Stans
Yurt, Kyrgyzstan
"Excellent quick response to pull together this trip.
Suggestion to include Arslanbob was excellent, our day spent hiking in the wild walnut forests was wonderful."

Ms Kathleen Kilmurry

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Holiday Ideas in Kyrgyzstan

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