Tourism has only recently begun to be more established in Kyrgyzstan, a relatively unknown country that can offer a lot in terms of culture, landscapes and events. Let's find out some of the main attractions and curiosity about Kyrgyz people together! If you are a curious traveller who wants to get off the most touristic sites, we suggest you start looking at flights!
Culture and Events
Many Kyrgyz people live a semi-nomadic way of life; they live in small towns and villages during winter while they set up camp in the Jailoos (alpine meadows) in summer. Being hosted in families' Yurts -A traditional yurt or ger is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by several distinct nomadic groups- is a unique experience to learn from them and participate in their daily life. While Yurt exteriors are usually grey and monotone, the interiors are traditionally flush with colour and warmth.
Shyrdaks, hand-stitched felt carpets, typically cover both floor and sidewalls of a yurt. They are used as decoration and insulation (provided by heavy wool). Their colours and designs are full of symbolism and meaning.
World Nomad Games
World Nomad Games are held in Cholpon Ata every two years and include 16 traditional games and sports. It's the Olympics games for Central Asian nomad culture. Central Asia is the birthplace of the ancient tradition of eagle hunting, and Kyrgyz are masters in this, having passed this tradition from generation to generation. Witnessing the World Nomad Games can reveal much of the Kyrgyz people tradition and culture.
Policies of the Soviet state have contributed to the disappearance of many cultural nomad activities of Kyrgyz peoples', but it seems that during the last 20 years and after the independence of the country, traditional music and arts have been making a comeback. One example: the Switzerland-based Aga Khan Foundation supports 70 musicians across Kyrgyzstan who study traditional music with older masters. That style of music is strictly linked to the daily life tradition: the strings of qyl-qiyak, a violin-like instrument, are made from a horse’s tail. Kyrgyz used to ride horses everywhere as part of their nomad life.
Kyrgyz Burana Tower
Kyrgyzstan Burana Tower, dating to the 10th century, was a lookout for the city of Balasagyn, a big ancient medieval village. Fortunately, it was not destroyed at the arrival of Genghis Khan's Mongols, and it has been preserved to this day. One suggestion: climb the 25-meter-high tower through the interior staircase to finally see the panoramic view from the top. An experience not to be missed!
Food and Drink
If you like barbecued meats, noodles, flavour and spices, then Kyrgyzstan is the country for you! Tea drinking is a massive part of the culture and an occasion to share time with people too. There are often rituals on how the tea is served, who serve it, but often incomprehensible to outsiders so…follow the flow and enjoy the moment!
Tips and Curiosity
Forty: Kyrgyz’s Favourite Number
“Kyrgyz” probably comes from the Turkic word “forty”, a reference to the 40 ancestral clans, and the country’s flag features a 40-ray sun too. So the number 40 has a special meaning for Kyrgyz people and is often seen as a kind of lucky charm.
Land of Ladas
Ladas are Russian-made cars that persist in Kyrgyzstan after the USSR disbanded. They are singular and cute, especially in electric yellow. More than this, they represent a part of the country's history.
Easy Country to Visit
Kyrgyzstan is visa-free for 45 countries for up to 60 days, making it the easiest of the Central Asian countries to visit as a tourist.
What about Nature?
Mountains and Lakes
Issyk Kul Lake
Mountains cover the country for more than 90% of the surface and peaks can touch even 7,000 meters. A perfect place for hikers, as hiring guides, porters and horses to head into the hills are very affordable. Mountain lakes are about 2000 in Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan's Issyk Kul Lake is the world’s second-largest lake in high-alpine environments. The surrounding of the lake is a UNESCO "biosphere reserve", and it ranges from desert to alpine tundra, and hosts endangered animals such as snow leopards and Ovis ammon polii (“Marco Polo sheep”).
Kyrgyzstan has the world’s largest stands of walnut-fruit forests. You can find them in the western part of the country where it is possible to see walnuts growing alongside apples, pistachios and other crops suited to the dry climate. Thanks, to the Swiss government, attempted to help Kyrgyzstan in reforming its Soviet-designed forestry sector introducing walnut-fruit forests between 1995 to 2010.
Three Unesco World Heritage sites
Tien Shan mountains
The Tien-Shan mountain range, the network of routes that made up the historic Silk Road and the Sulayman Mountain on the outskirts of Osh are the three UNESCO sites of the country. UNESCO mentions it as "a complete example of a sacred mountain anywhere in Central Asia". See and believe!
NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM
Plan your trip checking out the Kyrgyz in our Tribes section.
Cover photo Kyrgyz Hunter Eagle iStock.com/ugurhan