Just came back from a two weeks trip to Kyrgyzstan and I thought it would be interesting to list the 5 main reasons why you should definitely go there.
1) The kyrgyz nature is amazing
Need a breath of fresh air? Kyrgyzstan might be exactly what you need! Occasionally referred to as “the Switzerland of central Asia”, the country is actually 80% mountainous because of Tian Shan mountain range. However, you will see many different kinds of landscapes: high plateaux, snowy peaks, canyons, lakes including Issyk-Kul lake which is the second largest mountain lake in the world…
This is the perfect destination for trekking, horse riding excursions and skiing.
2) Kyrgyz people are very nice and hospitable
The nomadic culture is still deeply rooted in Kyrgyzstan and it might be an explanation for their incredible hospitality. Kyrgyz people are kind, very open and always ready to share a meal or a drink with you.
3) Travelling there is really cheap
The whole trip was very cheap! Here are a few examples of prices:
Round trip flight Paris – Bishkek (bought at the last minute) –> 300 €
Guide (divided by 5 people in our case) –> 35 €/day
Driver (divided by 5 people in our case) –> 15 €/day
One night hosted by local –> 4€
Meal cooked by local nomadic families -> 3/4 €
Meal in a high-end restaurant in Bishkek –> 10/15 €
4) The food is great
I think I rarely had eaten so much in 2 weeks. I was clearly not expecting such quantity and such quality! Apparently, Kyrgyz cuisine is similar in many aspects to that of their neighbors, particularly Kazakhstan. Again, the preparation techniques and major ingredients derive from the nation’s historically nomadic way of life.
However, I must admit this is probably not the best destination for Vegans. A lot of meals include mutton, beef and sometimes horse.
5) You’ll find there a very interesting cultural mosaic
The transition to this last point is actually pretty obvious because the cultural mosaic can be found in Kyrgyz cuisine where various international cuisines can be found. Non-Kyrgyz cuisines that are particularly common and popular in Kyrgyzstan include Uyghur, Dungan, Uzbek, and Russian cuisines, representing the largest minorities in the country.
Ethnic groups: The country’s largest ethnic group are the Kyrgyz of course, a Turkic people, who comprise 72% of the population (2013 estimate). Other ethnic groups include Russians (9.0%) concentrated in the north and Uzbeks (14.5%) living in the south. Small but noticeable minorities include Dungans (1.9%), Uyghurs (1.1%), Tajiks (1.1%), Kazakhs (0.7%), and Ukrainians (0.5%) and other smaller ethnic minorities (1.7%). The country has over 80 ethnic groups
Religion: Even though Islam is the dominant religion of Kyrgyzstan with 75% of the population being Muslim, you will still see some orthodox churches because of the Russian influence (20% of the population is orthodox).
Languages: The country also has two official languages: Kyrgyz and Russian while 14.4% of the population speaks Uzbek (even though it’s not an official language).