Kyrgyzstan is a country in the heart of Central Asia, 85th in the world in terms of area and 117th in population. Kyrgyzstan has borders with Kazakhstan, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The capital of Kyrgyzstan is the city of Bishkek, with a population of more than a million people. Kyrgyzstan is a parliamentary democratic republic, a member of the UN, the EAEC and the SCO.
Kyrgyzstan is a multiethnic country, but the majority of the population is Kyrgyz. In addition to the Kyrgyz, a large number of Uzbeks, Russians, Dungan and Uighurs live here.
Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, among the professed religions, are mainly Islam (80% of the population) and Christianity (10%).
Kyrgyzstan is an officially bilingual country. Most people in the country speak the Kyrgyz language, the Russian language is used as the language of interethnic communication and is prevalent mainly in Bishkek and large cities. In the southern part of Kyrgyzstan, the Uzbek language is also common. English is not widely spoken, but it is quite possible to explain something in English in Bishkek and tourist places.
Geography and Climate
Kyrgyzstan is located in the center of Eurasia. This is a place where the ancient mountains of the Tien Shan and the Pamirs are connected. The mountains are the most remarkable part of Kyrgyzstan – they cover almost 80% of the country’s territory. Among these mountains, there are 3 peaks higher than 7,000 meters. The average height of the country is approximately 2,500 meters above sea level. The mountains of Kyrgyzstan are famous for their wide expanses, rough rivers and beautiful mountain lakes. The most famous lake is Lake Issyk-Kul, one of the largest and deepest in the world. In the eastern part of the country, the slopes of the mountains are covered with spruce forests, however, forests occupy only 6-7 percent of the country’s territory and are located far in the mountains.
The climate in Kyrgyzstan is sharply continental. In winter it is cold and in summer it is hot. Due to a large number of mountains, the climate is rather mild and there are no extreme temperatures in Kyrgyzstan. Precipitation does not occur very often, but in the mountains, it often rains. The average summer temperature in the daytime in the plain is 30-35 degrees Celsius, while in winter it is around 0 degrees Celsius.
Best time to visit Kyrgyzstan
The best time to visit Kyrgyzstan is summer, mostly from May to September. The mountain slopes are covered with vegetation. This is an ideal time for trekking, hiking and cycling. Also from June to the end of August there is an excellent opportunity for a beach holiday on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul.
However, in other seasons, there is also something to do. If you are not afraid of the cold and bad weather, visiting many sights in winter, spring and autumn will give you a lot of fun, amazing landscapes and a tranquility, since even the most popular places in the cold season are deserted.
For lovers of mountain skiing and snowboarding, the best season is winter. Near the cities of Bishkek and Karakol there are comfortable ski resorts, with trails of all levels of complexity. Well, if you are a fan of freeride, backcountry or just want a new feeling, the vast expanses of the Kyrgyz mountains can give you a lot of amazing emotions.
What do you need to enter Kyrgyzstan?
Kyrgyzstan is the most non-bureaucratic country for visiting tourists. Visa regimes with 62 countries of Europe, Asia and America. A full list of countries with a visa-free regime can be found here.
Getting to Kyrgyzstan is also quite simple, despite the seeming remoteness of the country. Daily direct flights to Bishkek are carried out practically from all airports in major Russian cities, as well as from Istanbul, Dubai, Delhi and Beijing.
It is also possible to get to Bishkek by train. Long-distance trains arrive in Bishkek from many Russian cities, including Moscow.
Things to do in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is an ideal country for recreation if you are interested in natural beauty.
Among the inhabitants of the CIS countries, Kyrgyzstan is still popular as a place for beach recreation on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, which is rightly considered to be the Central Asian Sea. The large size of the lake, the warm climate, amazing natural conditions (the lake is surrounded on all sides by mountains and located at an altitude of 1700 meters above sea level) make this place one of the best options for recreation in Kyrgyzstan.
In addition to lovers of classic beach holidays in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan attracts mountain-lovers: mountaineers, climbers, backpackers, cyclists, hikers, etc. There are two largest mountain ranges – Tien Shan and Pamir, which are a very interesting place to travel. The vastnesses of the Kyrgyz mountains are so great that in the depths of mountain ranges and canyons you can travel literally for weeks, without meeting people on your way.
Kyrgyzstan is also interesting with its ancient nomadic culture. This is one of the few countries in the world where people have preserved their traditional way of life. Yurts, vast herds of sheep and horses, colored felt with ethnic patterns, amazing Asian cuisine preserved through the centuries in Kyrgyzstan.
Traveling around Kyrgyzstan
Travel within the country due to its small size can be quite fast and budget. The main transport in Kyrgyzstan is the automobile. All cities and large villages of the country are interconnected by taxis and marshrutkas. the price ranges from 4 to 20 $ per person, depending on the distance. The private taxi is widely developed and practically in any village, it is possible to find a taxi and order it to the place you need.
The railway network in Kyrgyzstan is poorly developed. The only option is the Bishkek-Balykchi that connects the Chui and Issyk-Kul regions, but it only works in the summer. The average ticket price is around 1$.
There is also domestic fligts in Kyrgyzstan, which connects the southern and northern regions of the country. The most popular domestic flight is Bishkek-Osh, which flies several times a day. The average ticket price for Bishkek-Osh flight is around 30-50$. There are also several flights a week from Bishkek to Jalalabad, Isfana and Batken.
The national currency in Kyrgyzstan is the Kyrgyz som, which is the only means of payment in the country. In general, only cash is used, payment by bank cards is not common even in large cities. Money can be exchanged in any bank branch, when presenting a passport or in an exchange office.
Kyrgyzstan is quite inexpensive for a tourist country, especially in comparison with popular tourist destinations. The average price for a night in a hostel or hotel vary from 6$ to 50$, depending on the location and comfort level. The average price for lunch in a cafe for one person will be from 3$ to 8$. Travel by public transport in the city will cost 0.15$.
Mobile Network and Wi-Fi
All populated areas of Kyrgyzstan are covered by GSM-networks of mobile operators. However, it is worthwhile to know that due to a large number of mountains, in remote areas communication may be absent. The mobile Internet is well developed, in large cities there is an Internet connection of the standard 3G and 4G, there are quite inexpensive unlimited tariffs from 0.80$ per week.
In Bishkek and Osh, many hotels and cafes have free Wi-Fi.
Kyrgyzstan is a fairly safe country, but there are some things you need to know. First of all, you need to be very careful on the road: the driving culture in the country is at a rather low level. This applies to both pedestrians and drivers.
Also, you should be careful at night walks – sometimes it can be unsafe.
It is worth remembering that Kyrgyzstan is a traditional country with enough religious people and some things such as defiant behavior in public places can cause unhealthy interest.