If you enjoy trekking, Kyrgyzstan is the destination for you. With 94% of the country elevated at more than 1,000m and an average elevation of 2,750m, mountains dominate Kyrgyzstan’s landscape. You can be sure that every road trip in Kyrgyzstan is a scenic one as most roads climb around mountains, lakes, rivers and beautiful forests. Even if trekking is not your thing, you can visit lakes, stunning alpine villages and picnic spots by car or on horses. There are more than enough activities to keep you on your toes!
The main tourist areas are around Issyk-kul lake, the second largest alpine lake in the world. There are beaches all around the lake for those who love a relaxing day or a dip. For the adventurous, you can explore the stunning mountain ranges that surround Issyk-kul lake. Be prepared to spend at least three days if you would like to do some hiking, as the most spectacular spots are still quite remote.
One of the most beautiful, and considerable more accessible hikes is to Ala-kul lake. Ala-kul lake is 3,560m above sea level, and the trailhead starts from the city of Karakol. Karakol is located at the eastern tip of Issyk-kul lake, and most hikers start their journey from Karakol. It takes three days on average to ascend to Ala-kul lake and return back to Karakol. Though I have heard of a traveller who did the entire circuit in 13 hours!
Apart from the Issyk-kul region, you can also explore the legendary Song-kul lake and the Sary Chelek Nature Reserve. Both boasts stunning landscapes and have multi-day hiking trails deep in the forests and mountains. You can be assured that these hikes do not disappoint!
If you go to Kyrgyzstan hoping to see beautiful old buildings, ancient cities and evidence of magnificent civilisations, you will be disappointed. The Kyrgyz people have always been nomads up until the Soviet occupation. As such, what you can see instead are traditional Kyrgyz nomadic tents, Kyrgyz people riding horses and a Kyrgyz cuisine full of meat, milk and cheese. The Kyrgyz diet and way of life have evolved to suit their nomadic lifestyles. As such, do stay in a yurt, eat their hard, salted cheese and drink horse milk!
Kyrgyzstan may be one of the poorest countries in Asia, but the people are also one of the friendliest. The Kyrgyz hospitality is one that is full of kindness, care, tea and food. Kyrgyz people love to share and they would go all out to ensure that you are well taken care of. Even if you are not a big fan of trekking, you should definitely visit Kyrgyzstan to experience its nomadic culture and explore the accessible sights that it has to offer.
The map below marks the places that I have visited in Kyrgyzstan. Hover over them to see the names of these places. Soon, you will be able to click on them to discover what exactly these places are!