24 Stunning Photos That Will Make You Want to Travel to Kyrgyzstan
24 Stunning Photos That Will Make You Want to Travel to
Kyrgyzstan is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited. The Tian Shan
mountains cover 80% of the country, making it a paradise for nature lovers.
No wonder that it’s known as the Switzerland of Central Asia! While hiking, you can also search for the elusive snow
leopard, one of the few places on the planet where it remains.
If you’re coming in winter, it’s likely to ski. While I haven’t personally tried it, I can imagine that it would be fantastic!
Glaciers cover ~ 4% of Kyrgyzstan.
You’ll also want to keep an eye open for camels. They’re released into the wild every winter to look for a mate and
can be aggressive if…well let’s just say if they don’t ﬁnd a mate
Kyrgyzstan has a history of at least 200 years. Due to its geographic isolation from mountainous terrain, much of its
ancient culture has been preserved. Try to time your visit with the World Nomad Games, held every two years in
September. It’s a celebration of nomadic culture and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Despite its isolation, it lies on
the Silk Road, so oﬀers something for culture seekers as well.
Despite its isolation, Kyrgyzstan lies on the Silk Road, so it oﬀers something for travellers interested in culture as
But rather than telling you how amazing Kyrgyzstan is, let me show you.
Photos That Will Make You Want to Travel to Kyrgyzstan:
The rugged peaks, mountainous landscape, and high alpine lakes make Kyrgyzstan a paradise for nature lovers.
Less than 8% of the land is cultivated. Everywhere you go, you experience the same thing, silence. It’s one of the
most peaceful places I’ve ever been. Just being there seems to cultivate a sense of calm inside you.
Jailoo is a summer pasture near Cholpan-Alta.
The Tian Shan Mountains are the backdrop for Jailoo, a summer pasture near Cholpan-Ata.
A cow relaxing in Jailoo, a summer pasture near Cholpan-Ata.
Lake Issyk-Kul and its Beaches
Lake Issyk-Kul is the second highest alpine lake in the world.You’ll want to take a cruise on the lake. Surrounded by
the Tian Shan Mountains, it’s stunning. Although it’s further away from the sea than any other country, the beaches
along the lake will make you feel like you’re at the ocean. Yes, that’s right, beaches. While Kyrgyzstan probably
doesn’t come to mind when you think beach holiday, you’ll ﬁnd some surprisingly good ones there.
You’ll ﬁnd incredible beaches along the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, the second highest alpine lake in the world! Remarkably it never freezes!
I highly recommend taking a boat ride on Lake Issyk-Kul. Surrounded by the Tian Shan Mountains, the scenery is spectacular.
Horses in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyz people were nomadic until relatively recently, and some still are. As a result, horses played a huge role in
daily life. Today, many Kyrgyz are excellent horsemen and women. I was fortunate to see their skills on display at
the World Nomad Games. I can’t think of a more beautiful place to go horse trekking as my friends Audrey and Sam
did. I’m adding this to my bucket list the next time I’m back.
Lake Issyk-Kul and its beaches with the beautiful Tian Shan Mountains as a backdrop.
Horses crossing the river in the summer pastures of Jai Loo in Kyrgyzstan.
In traditional Kyrgyz culture, people were nomadic. They lived in yurts, which could be transported and travelled by horse.
Cultural Highlights in Kyrgyzstan
The majority of people living in Kyrgyzstan are ethnic Kyrgyz followed by Uzbeks and Russians. Despite its 2000
long history, it only became a sovereign nation after the breakup the Soviet Union in 1991.
If you’re seeking culture, you’ll want to explore the Tian-Shan Silk Road, one of the country’s two UNESCO World
Also of signiﬁcance:
Petroglyphs at Cholpan-Ata
These petroglyphs date between 2000 BC and 400 AD and mainly depict hunting scenes. There’s no information
available on site, tourism is still very much in development mode in Kyrgyzstan, so I highly recommend going with a
guide. This site also has more info on getting there and what to look for once you’re there.
Burana Tower (Ruins of Balasagun)
The ancient city of Balasagun south of Tokmok in the Shamshy Valley dates back to the 9th century. It’s one of the
oldest settlements in Central Asia. Here, you’ll ﬁnd the Burana Tower, petroglyphs, small hill hiding a palace and
gravestones marking nomadic Turks who used to roam through the area. Visitors can explore the open-air
Camels don’t play a prominent role in Kyrgyz culture, but you do see them occasionally and roaming freely during the winter months as they search for a mate.
Burana Tower is the most visible of the remains. Legend has it that a witch advised a king that his daughter would
die when she was 18 years old. To keep her safe her, he hid her all alone in the tower, except for a servant who
brought food. However, there was a poisonous spider hidden in the princess’s food. The princess died as predicted
by the witch when she was 18.
Sleep in a Yurt and Support the Local Community
Yurts played a critical role in Kyrgyz nomadic life and thanks to Community Based Tourism; travellers have the
option of staying in a yurt and eating traditional Kyrgyz food. While I ate in several yurts, I didn’t have the chance to
sleep in one like my friend Leyla did. Read this, to see what it’s really like. I’d highly recommend sleeping in a yurt
when travelling to Kyrgyzstan to get a better understanding of the culture. Besides, it’s a unique experience!
I LOVED getting to know the Kyrgyz people. Although shy at ﬁrst, they are incredibly welcoming. This family runs a
yurt camp through a community-based tourism project and went above and beyond to make us feel at home.
Meeting the Kyrgyz people was also one of my highlights at the World Nomad Games. I had the opportunity to chat
with a camel herder, and meet Zura, one of the most impressive women I’ve ever met anywhere. (You can read
about it by clicking on the above link.)
The petroglyphs at Cholpon-Ata depict mainly hunting scenes, revealing what was important in earlier times.
Know Before You Travel to Kyrgyzstan
Plan your trip between late June to late September. Due to its high altitude, snow arrives early and stays long
On the other hand, if you’re into skiing, head to Kyrgyzstan in winter. Check out Stephen’s very thorough
guide to skiing.
Yurt camps are typically only open during the summer months so keep this in mind when planning your visit.
Kyrgyzstan is still developing its tourism infrastructure. The easiest way to travel is with a guide.
When planning to travel within Kyrgyzstan, schedule longer than you think you’ll need. Distances can be
deceiving with the poor quality of roads in some parts of the country.
Try to tie your visit around the World Nomad Games if possible. It’s held once very two years in Cholpan-Ata
and is one of the coolest events on the planet in my opinion.
Always travel with travel insurance. It’s especially important in remote countries like Kyrgyzstan and even
more so if you’re doing any adventurous activity like horseback riding, hiking or skiing. I recommend World
Note: My trip was organized in cooperation with Discover Kyrgyzstan, and made possible by the support of the
United States Agency for International Development (USAID). All opinions are my own.
Disclosure: This post may contain aﬃliate links in which I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. This
keeps the site ad free.
Gravestones from nomadic Turks who used to roam through Central Asia.
Travellers can stay at a yurt camp and support community-based tourism projects. This one is along the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul.
A Kyrgyz family that runs a yurt camp as part of a community-based tourism project.