The early settlers of this mountainous country were nomadic people, who reared animals in the high valleys and took them down to graze in the warmer foothills during the bitterly cold winters. Today only about half of the population is rural – herding sheep, cattle, goats, and pigs or growing cotton and tobacco. Most rural people are ethnic Kyrgyz and live in large clans, each with its own leader. A minority still lives in yurts. These wooden – framed felt tents are traditional Kyrgyz homes, but today there might be a modern car parked outside. One-fifth of the population is Russian in origin and lives mainly in concrete apartment buildings in the cities, working in technology or industry.
Turkic people came to this region between the A.D. 500s and 1100s. There were periods of Mongol and Chinese rule before the Russians took over in the 1870s. Russia brought farm workers from other countries into the region, which left the nomads with fewer grazing grounds. In 1916, the Kyrgyz rebelled against Russian rule but failed. Many thousands were killed, while thousand more fled to China. In 1922, the country came under Soviet rule. There were controls over the ways in which industry was run and land was used, and the Soviets banned the teaching of religion. In the late 1980s, however, they began to allow greater freedom, and in 1991 Kyrgyzstan became an independent country.
A country that is rich with dramatic mountain scenery, these are the top attractions that you must not miss while in Kyrgyzstan:
Ala-Archa Gorge (Bishkek)
The Ala-Archa Gorge
is a beautiful National Park, which is also very well maintained. There are good hiking trails and the different views of the mountains are wonderful. If you feel like real rock climbing, you can do so while admiring the fantastic landscape as you ascend. The Ala-Archa Gorge is easily accessible because it is beautifully located in close proximity to the capital. The mountains of Ala Archa are located about 35 km from Bishkek on the northern slope of the Tien Shan and reached by a good road. The entrance to the National Park amounts to around seven Euros per person. If you come with a car you can drive up to ten kilometers up to the main entrance. There are several hiking trails, one of which are just behind the hotel on the Park Einbiegt located at the left side of the valley and leads to a hut that is very well attended and facing a large glacier.
The road from the hotel straight up to the main is valley worthwhile. After crossing the river side, you will arrive at a summer camp with parking facility where you should cross the main river on an inconspicuous wooden bridge. You can walk up to the opposite side that leads to a former road further up the valley up to an abandoned meteorological station where you can also see some glaciers. The scenery is amazing, in summer there are colorful blooms along the meadows, a small spruce of forests (limited to the northern slopes) is also to be found, and especially in June to August, the atmosphere in Ala Archa is a blessing. Covering over 2000 meters and located in the deep forests of Bishkek – the park is highly recommended and a great option when organizing an excursion to the jungles of Kyrgyzstan.
By 2003, the statue that graced the main square of Bishkek was Lenin, which causes no surprise, since the curriculum of the Kyrgyz city was the capital of the former Soviet republic. Since then, however, Comrade was relegated to a square in the State Historical Museum funds, and highlighted its pedestal. It was taken over by the monument to freedom (
) and replaced with a statue of the national hero Manas. The “Statue of Liberty” in Bishkek was established in 1999 to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the nation’s independence. The statue is an image of a woman that symbolizes the Kyrgyz statehood. It represents how the world dreams of freedom and peace, and the glory of Liberty symbolizing a wreath with the inscription of the words “Erkindik.”
This kind of construction in Bishkek is very distinguished from the general landscape. The statue itself is beautiful, and you will not have much difficulty to find it. It is worth spending your time if you are in Bishkek. It is one of the main local attractions and everyone who comes to Bishkek are obliged to visit the Statue of Liberty, whether from abroad or from a distant village. Nearby, there are a row of cafes, so that visitors can eat and have a great time while in the capital city.
is a nice space where you can stroll, buy food, and where children can even ride a pony or go skating. It is right next to the Museum of History and Chuy Avenue. Panfilov is a small amusement park for children, which acts rather simplistic, but quite endearing to the Western mind.
The Panfilov Park is a nice green area in the heart of Bishkek that houses games for children, a stadium, theater, restaurants, and even the seat of the executive branch of the country. The site is wonderful and considered as one of the best parks of the city. It offers all sorts of attractions and carousels for every taste and age. It is not hard to locate and there is a cafe where you can eat and a fountain in the middle of the park.
State History Museum
State History Museum
is an interesting choice to learn the history of the people, especially the history of the Kyrgyz people which go back to ancient times. It has a complete documentation of the culture and life of the citizens of this country. The site has many cognitive historical documents and the presentation is impressive. The museum itself is built of white marble in an extraordinary atmosphere. If you want to know more about the history of Kyrgyzstan (third floor), including the Soviet period (second floor), you should go to this museum. You’ll learn a few things about the life and habits of the local Kyrgyzstan’s here.
The history of the Kyrgyz people in this steep socialist interior of the former Lenin Museum looks particularly impressive. In this place you will understand that the Soviet government did so much for the nomadic people of this country. Despite the fact that the museum does not have a large and prominent exposure, everyone who is in Bishkek should visit it. It is located on the main square of the city and a short visit will not take long, but you will have a better understanding of the country’s colorful history and be able to see a real yurt. For foreigners, the cost of attendance is much higher, but not beyond reasonable.
Museum of Fine Arts
In any country, except for the major exporters of culture, the local art forms are virtually unknown to the rest of the world (and, sometimes, even in the country itself!). Therefore, visiting art museums has always been worth it. In the case of the
Museum of Fine Arts
in Bishkek, there are mostly views of Kyrgyz applied arts, fabrics, ornaments, carpets and appliances that represent the tangible and intangible culture of the nomads of the steppes. There are some examples of local art and even replica artifacts from ancient Egypt. It is a superb place to discover the tables of Kyrgyz, Russian, and other painters. The site is based on a bygone era with regular temporary exhibitions on the ground floor.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Bishkek is devoted to the Kyrgyz people and highlights the Kyrgyz traditional art and Russian art of the Soviet period. The museum includes an exhibition of art and national economy, such as yurts – here you can delve into the intricacies of the installation and the interior layout of traditional yurts, as well as see the Kyrgyz national carpets – shyrdaks, national clothes and jewelry. The museum has an exhibition of collections of works of art during the Russian era, Egyptian and Greek art reproductions, classical Western sculptures and a collection of works that are dedicated to the Kyrgyz epic “Manas”. It is interesting to see the culture of the Kyrgyz people in different periods represented in the museum and to get acquainted with the culture of Kyrgyzstan.
is an extensive concrete terrace that extends the two sides of Chuy Prospektesi, the main avenue of Bishkek, and around it are profiled some of the most important public buildings in the city like; the State Historical Monument, monument to freedom (Erkindik), the statue of national hero Manas, and a huge banner of Kyrgyzstan.
It is one of the centers of movement in the city. In the northern part of the Avenue Chuy is the Museum of History where the changing of the guard at the monument is made. Everything in the square reflects the method of construction of the Soviet era, in large spaces and huge sizes.
Issyk-Kul Lake (Karakol)
The trip on the north side of Kyrgyzstan is not that interesting; but after Karakol and all the way to the south of the
it is completely wonderful. You can view the sea on one side and the majestic mountains that rise on the other. There is excellent bathing places on this lake and it is much cleaner than the authorized swimming areas on the other side. The water in this lake is surprisingly warm and inviting. The Issyk-Kul Lake is the second largest lake in the world after Titicaca; it is a huge mirror where you can admire the Ala-Too Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The Lake is beautiful, but despite its name which means hot lake, the water is cold. It is a deep lake with various shades of blue. It’s a good place to rest and enjoy nature and there are several hotels for every type of needs and budget.
Issyk-Kul has a very different coast, there are sandy beaches, there are large boulders, and there is an impassable buckthorn lake. Within its proximity is a long shallow beach. The popular resorts can be overcrowded, but at the same time you can find a quiet wild beach. Issyk- Kul Lake is the postcard image of Kyrgyzstan because the beauty is indescribable with its sunsets, sunrises, the play of light and color in the mountains around, the starry sky at night, and its clean water.
is a very nice place and charms from the very beginning – that alone is worth the trip along the mountain road and a short trek to the river. Altyn-Arashan is a great place for walking; you can walk up the gorge, and for those who like a more serious hiking there is an option to upgrade to the lake Ala-Kul (3600 m above sea level).
There are several accommodation options, including – pitching your own tent near one of the guest houses (it will cost about 100 Soms per night). After the walk, you can relax in the small pool, which gets water from the hot springs. The accommodation price ranges (100-200 Soms per person per day). The place is reminiscent of the Alps you can see in Switzerland. It has its own share of beautiful fields, gorges, pine trees, and snow-capped peaks. The best option is to go there for a picnic after a long hiking trail.
Karakol Ski Base
Karakol Ski Base
is a smart choice if you need a budget and quality ski vacation. If you want to catch the snow season for sure, it is better to go in January and February. You can stay in a guest house in Karakol or at the Hotel Caprice or GB Karakol. If you have kids, it is better to choose a hotel that stands near the slope, it is much more convenient. You can ride on the modern chairlifts if you secure a local ski pass that is activated and valid for 1 day. There is a slope for beginners and more advanced trails, you can go off the track through the woods with local ski guides.
Food on the slopes is not expensive and tasty. The coffeehouses offer great espresso or cappuccino at the Caprice area. And also for a fee of approx 400 Som / hour you can enjoy the sauna and indoor swimming pool of the hotel, and even its nursery. The rental of the equipment is not expensive, but it is better to have your own equipment. At the hotel there is only one ski accessories store with minimal selection and the highest prices. This is one of the best skiing places in Kyrgyzstan and truly worth a visit.
Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral
Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral
is a church built exclusively in wood – with all the flamboyance used in churches elsewhere in the world and in a wonderful location in a park. It must be seen, both inside and out. It is built in typical Russian style, but it is not allowed to photograph inside. Make sure to check out the interior; it is colorful and stylish.
The cathedral is nearly 120 years and the wood are not so well preserved, it is not so much and quite curved, but it is still a must to see this church in Karakol. According to the guides, it was originally made of felt, then, rebuilt in wood later on. The parishioners here are not so much, but there is a relaxed atmosphere that is green, quiet, and comfortable.
Canyon Fairy Tale (Tosor)
Canyon Fairy Tale (Tosor),
one day is enough to go up to the waterfall and where you can make stunning photography. You can even reach the Yeltsin clearing and have a picnic with your companions. If you have the time and desire, you can organize a hike for 2-3 days or more. You may also climb inside the Jeti-Oguz gorge, look at other waterfalls and see other mountain streams. At the entrance, do not forget to take a picture of the rock called the “broken heart”. In the valley, at an altitude of 2200 m is a resort called the Jeti-Oguz, known for its healing geothermal resources. If you go further, you can stay in a Yurt Camp and experience a variety of entertaining things to do like; horseback riding (200 Som / person.), trekking to the waterfall (height 30 meters), a visit to the holy spring of living water, gorges and caves (entrance 50 KGS / person) and of course the trail to the endless forests and gorgeous landscape.
A tour of Kyrgyzstan is an eye opening experience and provides a great glimpse of a country that was once under Russian territory. It has a wealth of interesting attractions as well as diverse landscapes. It is considered as one of the best places to see in Central Asia. There are lots of historical monuments and statues, a busy capital city with a view of the imposing mountain in the background, canyon trails, and impressive old structures. Kyrgyzstan is an ideal destination if you are into history and idyllic sceneries with challenging trails to conquer.