Kyrgyzstan travel information, including maps of Kyrgyzstan, food, drink and where to stay in Kyrgyzstan plus the best time to travel in Kyrgyzstan
Set in the heart of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has few historical sites, thanks partly to a nomadic culture – and thanks, too, to Genghis Khan.
But what it does have is mountains. Lots of them. More than 90% of Kyrgyzstan is higher than 1,500m, making it a paradise for walkers, trekkers, climbers, riders and anyone who loves epic scenery.
While there are only a few people left living a truly nomadic lifestyle, the yurt is still highly symbolic and families still spend their summers in the high pastures with their livestock.
With the exception of hotels in Bishkek, and the very top yurt camps, toilets are usually longdrop and very basic. Take your own toilet paper and soap.
With the high altitudes and changeable climate, do take plenty of warm layers and a waterproof, even in the middle of summer.
The climate is continental and varies considerably according to altitude. In the summer temperatures in Bishkek can average in the mid/high-30°Cs, while in the mountains snow and rain can be falling.
Some of the mountain passes are inaccessible between October and the end of May. Average temperatures in the winter are 5°C in the lowlands and -30°C in the mountains.
Bishkek Manas (FRU) 30km from Bishkek.
Buses run between the main centres but to get anywhere else you need to hire a car and driver. Note that both the roads and the general standard of driving are pretty poor. Although the country is only the size of Great Britain, distances are huge between key sites. Taxis are cheap and plentiful in Bishkek.
Most accommodation is Soviet in style – don’t expect any boutique hotels here.
Yurt camp stays can be arranged through many companies. High-end ones have flush toilets, and a high (for Kyrgyzstan) standard of cuisine.
Community Based Tourism (CBT) is an organisation that can arrange homestays, yurts and B&Bs, some of them through an arm called Shepherd’s Life. They can arrange other tourism services too such as guides, horse-hire etc: www.cbtkyrgyzstan.kg.
The cuisine is a mixture of Central Asian (mutton!) and Russian, although Korean food is widespread too. Popular dishes include plov (rice with lamb and vegetables or fruit), shashlyk (kebab), laghman (stew with noodles) and manty (mutton-filled dumpling). Salads and vegetable dishes are usually available as starters. Flatbreads are ubiquitous and very good.
Vegetarianism is not generally understood, but many of the restaurant starters are suitable or can be adapted. The better yurt camps can cater very well for vegetarians.
Tea (chai), either green or black, is the most common drink and is served in small bowls. Cherry and other fruit juices are widely available.
The main alcoholic drink is vodka (surprise, surprise). However, the wine is surprisingly good. It is mostly from Moldova, although Georgian is available too. Take your own bottled water and alcoholic supplies to yurt camps and guest houses.
Many travellers seem to experience stomach problems; watch hygiene and take the usual commonsense precautions. Don’t drink the water. Medical facilities are poor.
Kyrgyzstan is safe for visitors but, again take the usual commonsense precautions after dark in Bishkek, and guard against petty theft and pickpocketing, especially in the bazaars.
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