Kyrgy…what? No, not Kazakhstan, not Pakistan, not Afghanistan. I’m here to chat about a small, Central Asian country today called Kyrgyzstan. Here, it’s pronounced, kur-gi-stan, or at least that’s how I pronounce it 😉
It’s located in Central Asia and is bordered by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and China. It differs drastically in landscape, culture, and people from most people’s first thoughts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Kyrgyzstan is primarily a mountain country full of nomads. Not quite as mountainous as Nepal, but similar in feels.
Now, deciding to venture to this neck of the woods was a no brainer. I travel to experience cultures and regions and most importantly, foods, that are completely different from my own. And this was a place that was sure to deliver, I expected.
A little background on Kyrgyzstan:
Kyrgyzstan is one of the youngest nations in the world, it only became a sovereign country in 1991. Its people and their love of their country run deep though. As a part of the Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan was the crossroads of many great civilizations throughout history, and its roads and architecture reflect such history.
The country’s capital is Bishkek. It is located in the northernmost area of the country and is a popular stopping point for backpackers and visitors to Central Asia as Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the region where visitors don’t need a visa prior to arrival to enter. Travelers from USA, Canada, UK, Australia or New Zealand can get a 60-day stamp upon arrival at the airport. Bishkek also has embassies for all of the other countries in the area, so you can easily get your other visas taken care of there as well.
The country really wound up wooing me.
It really isn’t for the faint of heart but for those that choose to take the plunge, you’ll come out of your experiences in Kyrgyzstan better for it.
It’s a great country to spend some time outdoors. Trekking both on horseback and on foot is a perfect way to fully experience the natural beauty that is Kyrgyzstan. It’s also one of the only ways to.
The infrastructure here is beautifully under developed, which gives visitors an awesome opportunity to take in untouched countryside, serene lakes, and pristine mountains. I almost don’t want to talk about it, for fear of people catching on to the beauty of it all. Almost…
During my 10 day trip, I spent three days on horseback exploring the mountains near Song Kol Lake, fully experiencing the World Nomad Games and taking a few day trips around the Issy-kul lake region including Karakol.
I must say that the bathroom experiences in this country are probably something that are going to stay with me for some time.
Thailand has some charming toilets, but the mountains of Kyrgyzstan take you back to a time gone by 😉 There’s really nothing like nestling down into your squat position in a 3-walled “stall” trying to hit a small triangle cut out of planks of wood while gazing at the stars.
Beyond the toilets, the food and the people were the true shining stars. Sure, I didn’t speak a lick of Russian, but communicating without words and bonding with those that could speak English were well worth the trip. And everyone understands that when a big steaming plate of meat and potatoes is placed in front of you, you pass it around the table and eat until you may burst.
Sitting on the floor of a warm yurt in the mountains with a nomadic family feeding you meaty stews, piping hot tea and smiles is something I can’t recommend enough. These people only own what they can fit on horseback, and they didn’t hesitate to serve up seconds or thirds to our hungry crew.
Check out my food guide to Kyrgyzstan to learn about what the actual heck I ate here!
My trip was organized in cooperation with Discover Kyrgyzstan, and made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.