Bokonbayevo is a small town of 12,500 inhabitants located on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, 160 km from Karakol and 280 km from Bishkek. The village gets its name from a Kyrgyz poet. Every year, Bokonbayevo, Kyrgyzstan's ecological tourism centre, welcomes many tourists who come to enjoy the picturesque nature of the region and to get acquainted with Kyrgyz traditions.
Bokonbayevo experienced a glorious time during the Soviet era that offered full employment. Nowadays, the city suffers from a very high unemployment rate, and sees many industries shut down. Thus, locals are returning to their roots, practicing farming with traditional techniques to make ends meet.
Despite its unkindly appearance, the small village will be appreciated as an overnight stay. The city serves as a base for hiking in the hinterland, especially in the eastern peaks and valleys of the south. This altitude village, rising to 1,800 meters above sea level, offers its passing guests a museum and some reminders of its Soviet past, including a war memorial and a bust of Lenin with hammer and sickle. Now, a recent mosque took its place in the city at the corner of Atakan and Turusbekova, recalling one of the dominant religions in the region. The small city museum proudly exhibits a collection of paintings by local artists representing manashi, eagle hunters and other local scenes.
For those who are interested, Bokonbayevo is home to a small local craft factory producing shyrdaks (carpets) and other felt products. You can stop there to discover the manufacturing techniques, and get some of the felt pieces.
The eagle hunting festival takes place during the peak of the tourist season. Many falconers then go to Bokonbayevo to show their skills and make a few presentations. However, Bokonbayevo enjoys a certain reputation from travellers for its surrounding nature with the Terskey Ala-Too mountain range, hot springs, waterfalls and lake. Several guesthouses and yurt camps were installed on the shores of the Issyk-Kul lake in order to relax in an exceptional setting while immersing in Kyrgyz culture and traditions. You can swim in the lake and do some fishing. In the evening, relax by the firepit, and listen to Kyrgyz songs.
This little unexplored region is a jewel for mountaineers and hiking enthusiasts. Many species of woodpeckers are still spared from human contact, and have yet to be named.
How to get to Bokonbayebo?
There are three buses to Bokonbayevo leaving from the bus station, located west of Bishkek. The bus leaves as soon as it is full, and takes between 3 and 4 hours to reach the village. Collective taxis are also available.