Exciting activities to do in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is surely one of the best destinations in the world. More than 90 percent of its territory is covered by high mountains and it is home to semi-nomadic shepherds, proud of their traditions. There are a lot of exciting activities you’ll be able to do during your trip in Kyrgyzstan, including:
Travel around the Issyk Kul Lake
If you like mountains and lakes, you’ll find your piece of cake in Kyrgyzstan. The country of the Celestial Mountains (Tian Shan) has the world’s second largest alpine lake and one of the deepests. The Issyk Kul Lake covers a large part of the Kyrgyz territory at the east. It’s breathtaking with its 700 m of depth, its transparent water and the high snow-capped mountains that surround it. The highests of these summits reach 7000m altitude. They’re the only reminder that you’re looking at a lake, and not at the sea.
Travel around Issyk Kul by foot, on horseback, by car or on a bike to enjoy its comfortable beaches on the north shore and its wild beaches on the south shore and explore its many valleys and their stunning landscape.
Spend the night under a yurt with nomads
The Kyrgyz have always had a nomad way of life, until the Soviet Union which brought the first permanent constructions to the country. The Kyrgyz still proudly keep their nomadic culture even if Kyrgyzstan is now modern and in line with the rest of the world, A large part of the population is still semi-nomad, going to summer pastures called jailoos with their herds in the summer.
There, shepherds sleep with their families under yurts, the traditional Kyrgyz home. Built with no nails and from natural elements only (felt, leather and wood), the yurts are very resistant and keep warm in winter and cool in summer. The Kyrgyz yurts are very light and easy to transport from one jailoo to the other. During your trip in Kyrgyzstan, you’ll be able to live the nomad life by sleeping under a yurt in Son Kul, Tash Rabat, on the south shore of Issyk Kul Lake or in the Sussamyr Valley, for instance.
Make a felt rug
The Kyrgyz are excellent craftsmen who have always lived a simple, traditional way of life in unity with nature. The main craft in Kyrgyzstan is felt, which is used to make yurts, clothing and decorative objects. This tradition of felt making is passed down from generation to generation, generally from mother to daughter, and is still mastered today in Kyrgyz villages. Designers now gave a new life to felt and this new fashion is sold throughout the world.
During your trip in Kyrgyzstan, you’ll be able to visit a felt fabric and watch how women make the traditional Kyrgyz felt rug. You can even try yourself.
Climb above 7000m altitude
Kyrgyzstan is one of the most mountainous countries in the world, and as you can imagine, it’s a real paradise for treks and mountaineering. There are two main mountain ranges in the country: the Tian Shan in the North and the Pamir in the south. There are three summits that tower above 7000m: Pobeda, Khan Tengri and Lenin. This last one is known as being the easiest of the 7000m in the world – it doesn’t mean that it’s easy, but it’s more accessible and less technical than the others. It attracts many tourists every year who want to take up the challenge.
If you’re not ready to climb the Lenin Peak, no worries, you’ll find your dream summit in Kyrgyzstan. You can try climbing the Uchitel Peak at 4530m altitude in the south of the capital Bishkek, take on the huge Inylchek Glacier to the base camp of Khan Tengri, or simply go for a one-day hike in a valley.
Listen to the longest epic in the world
The Odyssey might be the most known epic in the world, but it’s not the longest. The longest epic in the world is the Kyrgyz epic of Manas, so going to Kyrgyzstan is a great opportunity to learn about it and see a recital.
You’ll quickly notice that Manas plays an important role in the Kyrgyz society. He is considered to be the founder of the Kyrgyz identity, and roads, monuments and even mountains are named after him. The epic was transmitted orally from generation to generation of nomads. It’s recited by Manaschis, who wear a traditional Kalpak and clothing and go into a trance when they tell the story of their hero Manas. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to attend a concert of traditional Kyrgyz music and see a demonstaion of Manaschi.
Cross the country on a horse
Nomadic country, Kyrgyzstan is also the land of excellent horse riders. You’ll probably be amazed by young children who ride their horses with dexterity and elegance.
Kyrgyz culture and nature make it an ideal destination for horse lovers but also for beginners. The best way to visit Kyrgyzstan is on a horse, because you’ll be able to go to isolated places, enjoy wild nature and live like a real nomad. You can go on a multiday horse trek in any region of the county. It’s a unique experience to try out at least once in your life! And there’s no place like Kyrgyzstan to start horseback riding if it’s a first for you, because the local horses are quite small and the guides will just make you love this way of life.
Build a yurt
Spending the night under a yurt will literally put stars in your eyes because the night skies in the jailoos and the Milky Way are just unforgettable, but you can even do better: try to build a yurt with a local family in the village of Kyzyl Tuu. On the south shore of Issyk Kul, this village is inhabited by families who make yurts from A to Z from generation to generation.
Watch a game of Kok-Boru
This game played around Central Asia is a famous nomad game. Kok-Boru, also known as Buzkachi, is a masculine game played on a horse where riders, in teams, have to catch a sheep carcass and throw it in their goal. It’s a very impressive game to see, but make sure to keep your distance from the field to avoid being hit.