Jailoo, when translated from Kyrgyz, means “summer pasture” and refers to a particular tourism experience in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz nomads live in the villages of valleys in winter and move to the mountains in summer. The reason why they do this is very practical. In winters, it is cold in the mountains, while in summers they have better pastures up there. Many Kyrgyz people have this kind of semi-nomadic lifestyle because the mountainous landscapes of Kyrgyzstan are more suitable for animal farming than crop cultivation. So, the locals who own a herd practice jailoo, so that their horses, sheep and goats can eat fresh grass of the wild fields. But jailoo is more than just animal agriculture. It is a philosophy of life when a human is one with nature. So, if you are ready to sleep under the starry sky of Kyrgyz mountains, let me guide you!
As soon as the mountains become green, villagers pack all they will need during summer on their horses and move with their families to wild pastures, that usually don’t belong to anyone in particular and can be used by everyone. In general, the season starts as from the beginning of May and lasts till mid-September.
They build portable, artisanal houses called “yurta”, a structure of a round shape that is made of wood and wool. In the past, people lived there all year long, but now Kyrgyz live settled or semi-nomadic life and use yurtas only in summers or for special celebrations. It is believed that the ecological materials used for yurta keep the temperature warm in winter and cool in summer.
Food is one of the most attractive reasons to visit a jailoo. The pastures of the mountains have unique soil and flora. It allows the herd to produce organic milk, that differs from the one made in the animal farms. You can taste 100% artisanal cheese “kurut” and fermented horse milk “kymyz”, which is prescribed for stomach diseases, blood pressure problems and generally has a good effect on health. This food is to be found only in jailoos and is not sold in the local bazaars. Needless to mention that there is no electricity or other luxuries of civilization in jailoos. So, all the food is prepared on a bonfire.
Since Kyrgyzstan is covered by mountains (80% of its territory), jailoos can be found in any region, but the most picturesque jailoos are around Son Kol Lake, 3000 meters above the sea level, in the Susamyr Valley and the Karakuldja Region in the south.
Many tourist agencies in Kyrgyzstan provide different jailoo tourism services. One of them is “kymyzolechenie”, which is a kymyz-drinking vacation. Since many believe in the benefits of kymyz on health, they book a vacation (2-3 weeks) in jailoos, where they can drink fresh kymyz every day. It is a very popular attraction among the locals, who live in the cities and don’t have relatives in the jailoos. The good thing about kymyzolechenie is that it is targeted towards the locals, and therefore it is more affordable than “jailoo tourism” targeted towards foreign tourists, while it is almost the same as kymyzolechenie. You can still enjoy the ascetic nomadic lifestyle and meet local people, but without spending a fortune on it.
Jailoo tourism is like agricultural camping that lasts all summer and involves attributes of traditional nomadic lifestyle: horse-riding, living in yurta, bathing in a river, eating delicious animal products and sleeping under the starry sky.
Cover picture © Credits to to iStock/A-G-N-I
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