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Kyrgyzstan, a post-Soviet country with rich nomadic heritage, is located in Central Asia, and 80 % of its territory is covered by the mountains Tian Shian, in the north, and Pamir Alai, in the south. The highest peak in Kyrgyzstan, called Jenish, is 7,439 m high and is considered the most northern 7,000-metre mountain in the world. Kyrgyzstan is often referred to as “a democratic island in Central Asia”. Neighbored by dictator regimes, Kyrgyzstan in its short history had two revolutions and was the first Central Asian country to elect a woman president. A heavenly beauty of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is a land where diverse cultures intersect, creating a unique ensemble of historical background, influenced by mountainous landscapes, Islamic and shamanic religions, Soviet past, Turkic language and a neighborhood with China.
As mentioned before, Kyrgyzstan is a land of mountains and sometimes is called “Central Asian Switzerland”. Skiing, snowboarding, trekking, rafting, alpinism, hiking are among a great number of outdoor sports you can choose from to enjoy in Kyrgyz mountains. The outdoor tourism infrastructure is developing fast, but nevertheless, the young country is still unknown to the rest of the world and is not overloaded with tourists. Nature is untouched by human influence, and breath-taking beautiful lakes are to be found locked between the mountains. So is the pristine waters of Son Kol, an alpine lake that lies on the altitude of 3016 meters, where you can enjoy hiking, horse-riding and sleeping in yurts.
In summers, villagers pack their yurtas and travel through mountains in search of better pastures for their herds. If you are hiking in the mountains, you can meet hospitable locals, who are always curious about foreigners and invite you to their yurts to drink kymyz (fermented horse milk, caution: alcohol). To host a traveller and at least offer some water has long been a tradition, and many Kyrgyz feel proud of being “most hospitable nation in the world.” I will let my readers check if it is true or not. Horses were always considered the wings of people. Therefore, Kyrgyzstan is a homeland for many unique horse sports like Atchabysh (horse racing), Kokboru (if polo and American football would have a child), Kyzkuumai (where a guy races with a girl who whips him, if he catches her, he can kiss her. We find it romantic). In 2014, Kyrgyzstan started organizing the World Nomad Games, an alternative sports Olympics that celebrated a nomadic lifestyle and host sportsmen from 82 countries. It is not only a unique sports event but also a celebration of nomadic world heritage and includes cultural program consisting of performances, concerts and fashion shows, cooking of traditional food and many more.
Because of its nomadic way of living, tribes of Kyrgyzstan developed a cuisine mainly consisting of animal products. You can find here lamb, beef, chicken, rabbit, goat, and even horse meat baked, boiled, steam cooked, grilled, fried, smoked or cooked in the special artisanal underground oven. Kyrgyz cuisine is rich with manty (dumplings), plov (similar to briyani rice), samsy (baked dumplings), shashlyk (grilled kebab), shorpo (lamb soup), besh barmak and lagman (handmade noodles with lamb) and many more. Kurut is a traditional cheese. Did I mention horse milk?
Citizens of 45 countries can enter Kyrgyzstan without a visa, and citizens of 20 countries can get a visa at the airport. The rest can get a visa even without attending the consulate, but just by making a few clicks on the governmental website. The first president of Kyrgyzstan called it “our common home”, emphasizing the multi-ethnic population of Kyrgyzstan and opening the doors to foreigners. Prices in Kyrgyzstan are very affordable to tourists. Renting a place in a hostel might cost from 5-8 Euros, the taxi costs from 1-3 Euros, and a dinner at the restaurant can cost from 3-5 Euros.
Kyrgyzstan, the heavenly beauty of Central Asia, is home of nomadic culture and welcomes nomads from all over the world with open doors, low prices, hospitable people, delicious cuisine and splendid mountains to be enjoyed during the outdoor activities. Check it out before it becomes a top tourist destination!
Cover Photo © Credits to iStock/AlexBrylov
Each month. Our best stories. Zero effort.