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Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide

Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country in Central Asia, bordering Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. We started our travels in Bishkek and traveled to Karakol with the intention of hiking. Unfortunately, we had to cut our trip short due to health problems. Definitely read our Bishkek City Travel Guide to find out where to stay, where to eat and what to do. We’ll return to this beautiful country someday to finish what we started. Below, you’ll find our future 20-day itinerary, with helpful tips and additional resources, which we assembled while planning our trip.

 
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Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide

Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide Overview

  • Kyrgyzstan Travel Basics
  • 20 Day Kyrgyzstan Itinerary
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Osh Bazaar, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan Travel Basics

Official Name: Kyrgyz Republic

Capital: Bishkek

Government: Unitary parliamentary republic

Regions: Kyrgyzstan is divided into seven regions, known as oblasttar (singular: oblast). 

Population: 6 million

Language:  The official languages are Kyrgyz and Russian.

Currency: Kyrgyz som

Tipping Etiquette: Tipping isn’t common. In restaurants,  a 15% service charge is automatically added to bills.

Water Quality: Even though the tap water is chlorinated, it’s not very good quality. You should boil water, or drink bottled water. 

Something Interesting: 70% of Kyrgyzstan is covered in mountains. 

Naan bread, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

20 Day Kyrgyzstan Itinerary

Season: Summer, Early Fall (mid-June - mid-September)

As stated in our introduction, we left Kyrgyzstan early for health reasons. This is what we intended to do with our time but only made it to Karakol. We’ve collected all our notes here so that they might help you plan your trip to Kyrgyzstan. We hope to do this 20-day itinerary someday in the future.


Days 1 – 2: Bishkek

  • Kyrgyzstan’s capital city is easily explored on foot. We spent a week hopping around Bishkek, but you only need 2 days to get a good feel for the city.
  • During your visit, you can shop at Osh Bazaar, bathe at the Russian-style public bathhouse Zhirgal Banya, see an opera or ballet at the Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre, and sample national Kyrgyz drinks on just about every street corner. Read more about these experiences in our Bishkek Travel Guide.
  • Stay in Viva Hostel – a clean, comfortable hostel located 5 minutes away from Osh Bazaar.

Day 3: Bishkek Day Trip: Ala Archa National Park

  • Ala Archa National Park is located 40 km from Bishkek and makes for a perfect day-trip destination from the capital. You can picnic in the valley, walk along the Ala-Archa River, or hike to the Ak-Sai Glacier.
  • Stay in Viva Hostel – a clean, comfortable hostel located 5 minutes away from Osh Bazaar.

Day 4: Bishkek – Karakol Travel Day

  • The journey to the city of Karakol takes 6-7 hours. Head to the Western Bus Station in Bishkek to catch a Karakol-bound mashrutka (minivan). Don’t worry about finding the right van. The drivers will direct you to where you need to go. The vans leave when they fill up, so depending on when you arrive, you could depart in five minutes or in an hour. The ride costs 400 som per person. The van drops you off at the Karakol Main Bazaar. From there, you can grab a taxi, or walk to your accommodation.
  • Stay in Riverside Guesthouse. This might be the best guesthouse we’ve ever stayed in. The guesthouse is run by a Kyrgyz and Dutch couple who go out of their way to help you organize your trip and answer your questions. They also serve a delicious breakfast.

Days 5 – 9: Karakol & Around

  • Use Karakol as a base to explore the many hiking options in the area. Most of the hikes are multi-day treks and require camping equipment. You can rent gear in Karakol. Depending on your expertise, you may need to hire a guide for some of these treks.

Karakol Trekking Options

  • Archa Tor Pass Trek (3 Days). This hike starts up the road from the town Kyzl-Suu, traverses the Archa Tor Pass and ends in Jeti-Ögüz.
  • Ala-Kul Lake to Altyn-Arashan (3-5 Days). This beautiful hike takes you to the gorgeous Ala-Kul Lake, over a high mountain pass and to Altyn-Arashan, where you can soak in hot springs. As long as there isn’t too much snow on the pass, you can hike this independently.
  • Ontor Pass (3 Days). Off-the-beaten-track trail for advanced trekkers.

Day 10: Karakol – Fairy Tale Canyon – Kochkor

  • Skazka, aka Fairy Tale Canyon, is located near the southern shore of Issyk Kul Lake. From what we gathered, you can get on a Balykchy, or Bokonbaevo-bound marshrutka and get off early, at the turnoff to the canyon, N 42.1745694, E 77.3526889. After exploring the canyon for 1-2 hours, head back to the road and hitch a ride to Balykchy, or if you’re lucky Kochkor.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, it’s expected to pay for rides even when you’re hitchhiking. So, make sure to agree to the price of the ride, before getting in. If you can’t get a direct ride to Kochkor, you’ll need to get to Balykchy, where you can grab a mini-van to Kochkor.
  • If this sounds like too much of a hassle, take a mini-van from Karakol to Balykchy and another one to Kochkor. There’s no direct Karakol-Kochkor transit line from our understanding (but please double check).
  • Stay in Kochkor 

Day 11 – 13: Kochkor – Köl Ükök Lakes

  • Köl Ükök is a mountain lake, located about 17 km from Kochkor. From Köl Ükök, it’s possible to hike to another glacial lake called Köl- Tör.
  • We didn’t plan this out in detail. We were hoping to do a combination of horse trekking and hiking here. We also wanted to overnight in Yurts. Reach out to Köl Ükök in CBT (Community Based Tourism) Kochkor to help plan your trip.

Day 14: Kochkor – Naryn Transit Day

  • TBD
  • Stay in Naryn

Day 15: Naryn – Tash Rabat Transit Day

  • The next segment of the trip should be organized ahead of time through CBT, or another tourist agency. You’ll need to hire a driver (4WD only) to take you from Naryn to Tash Rabat to Köl-Suu (also spelled Kel-Su, Kel Tetiri) Lake and back to Naryn. Whoever you work with will need to organize a border-zone permit (1,000 som) for you so that you can venture to this region close to the Chinese border.
  • Transit: Private Driver (4WD)
  • Stay in Tash Rabat Yurt Camp

Day 15: Tash Rabat – Chatyr Kol Day Hike

  • Day Hike to Chatyr Kol – 8 hours round-trip
  • Stay in Tash Rabat

Day 16: Tash Rabat – Köl-Suu (Kel-Su, Kel Tetiri) Lake

  • Transit: Private Driver (4WD)
  • Stay in Yurt Camp near Köl-Suu 

Day 17: Köl-Suu

  • Option (1) Hire a guide and horses and take a horse trek to the lake. Option (2) Hike to the Lake.
  • There’s an option to take a boat ride, but you’ll need to organize that in advance.
  • Stay in Yurt Camp near Köl-Suu 

Day 18:  Köl-Suu – Naryn

  • Transit: Private Driver 
  • Stay in Naryn

Day 19:  Naryn – Bishkek

  • Transit: TBD
  • Stay in Bishkek at Viva Hostel – a clean, comfortable hostel located 5 minutes away from Osh Bazaar.

Day 20: Bishkek

  • Depart Kyrgyzstan
 

Kyrgyzstan Travel Resources

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Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide
@moonhoneytravelers
  • Heading to Val Gardena this summer?

These are our favorite hikes in the region:

1. Seceda Ridgeline to Rifugio Firenze – Easy-moderate circuit trail starting in Ortisei. 

2. Resciesa to Rifugio Brogles and Seceda Ridgeline – Moderately difficult circuit trail. The panascharte is still closed, so you must cross the Odle Group via the Mittagscharte

3. Rifugio Stevia and Col dala Pieres – Difficult circuit hike starting in Selva di Val Gardena.

4. Lake Pisciadù and Pisciadù Peak Hike – Difficult loop, or point-to-point hike starting at Gardena Pass.

5. Monte Pic Summit Hike – Moderately difficult circuit hike, starting at the Praplan car park, above Santa Cristina.

6. Alpe di Siusi to Monte Pana – Easy hike starting at the Ortisei-Alpe di Siusi Ropeway mountain station and ending in Santa Cristina.

7. Sassolungo Loop Trail – Moderate day hike starting at Sella Pass.

More info: https://www.moonhoneytravel.com/best-hikes-val-gardena-dolomites-italy/
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  • A few reasons why we love coastal walking in Cornwall, England. 

🥾The whole Cornish coast is accessible to the public. There are no obstructions.

🍓Food is readily available. There are many casual take-away eateries, bakeries and pasty shops, tea rooms, and pubs along the coast.

👍Excellent trail etiquette. Locals are very friendly and courteous on the trail. People greet, let you pass, and smile. We’ve hiked in enough countries around the world to no longer take that for granted. 

🌳There’s no ugly infrastructure or crude developments along the coast. 

🪧Trails are well-maintained and signed. There’s no confusion about where to go. 

Have you been to Cornwall? What do you love most about hiking in England? 

📍Watergate Bay
  • The gorgeous Golden Bay to Ġnejna Bay coastal walk in Malta.
  • May is around the corner and we know some of you are traveling to the Dolomites.

Swipe right ➡️ to find out which huts are open. 

Full list on the blog:
https://www.moonhoneytravel.com/best-time-to-visit-the-dolomites/

📍Tre Cime di Lavaredo
  • Learn these words and phrases before you hike in Mallorca. ➡️ swipe right

💾 Save this post for future reference.

🥾Check out the blog for a guide to the best day hikes, where to stay for hiking, info on trail signage and more. 

📍Platja des Coll Baix