While Bishkek is the main hub for travelers, businessmen, and expats in Kyrgyzstan, the mountains in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan just skirt around the edge of the city, so if you want to get into the heart of Kyrgyzstan’s gorgeous mountains, a trip out of the city is definitely in order. For people that are looking to combine work and travel in Kyrgyzstan in 2015 or just need to get out of the city for a day or two, Kyrgyzstan has a lot to offer in the areas surrounding Bishkek. There are options for hikers, horseback riders, history buffs, skiers, snowboarders, train lovers, and even for people just looking for a beautiful place to relax.
Ala Archa National Park (Season: All)
The mountains in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (or rather, the mountains to the south of it!) give you just a small taste of what awaits you in Ala Archa. Ala Archa is an oasis just 40 kilometers to the south of Bishkek that contains 50+ mountain peaks, 20 glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, and springs. There are lots of trails to enjoy that reach throughout the park, a unique alpinist graveyard, and plenty of places to camp for the night. Winter tourism in Kyrgyzstan is particularly popular in this area because of all the great places to go ice climbing.
Burana Tower (Season: All)
Burana Tower is an ancient Silk Road monument you can find 80 kilometers east of Bishkek near the town of Tokmok. The tower was once a central point in the medieval town of Balasagun. Visitors can pay a small fee to climb to the top of the tower, just be careful! There is no good lighting inside the tower and the steps are steep. From the top you can see the entire surrounding valley. There is also a small museum on the premises, remains of ancient burial mounds, and a field of ancient stones carved to resemble warriors.
Kegety Gorge (Seasons: All)
Kegety Gorge is a beautiful gorge just 75 kilometers outside Bishkek with lots of alpine meadows, streams, spruce forests, as well as a 20-meter-high waterfall. In the winter, the waterfall is a popular attraction because it freezes and makes astunning sight, even attracting ice climbers. Kegety Gorge is not overrun with visitors, so it is a nice quiet destination to enjoy some horseback riding, hiking, or picnicking.
Issyk Ata Hot Springs (Seasons: All)
The Issyk Ata Gorge is 80 kilometers outside Bishkek and neighbors the Kegety Gorge. While the gorge is a beautiful area unto itself with royal peaks and several waterfalls, the hot springs within thegorge are the main draw for visitors. The springs are said to have healing powers for people with numerous diseases and have been visited by travelers for centuries.)
Arpa Tektir Village (Seasons: All)
Arpa Tektir is a small, traditional Kyrgyz village located behind the Kegety and Issyk Ata Gorges. Summer and wintertime tourism opportunities are both available in this largely unknown area of Kyrgyzstan. There are a couple tour companies in Bishkek that offer cross country skiing there in the winter. In the summer, mountain biking, horseback riding, and homestays are also possible.
Boom Gorge (Season: Summer)
Boom Gorge is Kyrgyzstan’s most popular white water rafting destination. It is located roughly 120 kilometers outside of Bishkek and houses the boisterous Chuy River. Even if you haven’t had much experience rafting before, this is a good place to start. The rapids in the Boom Gorge range from class 2-4.
Ski Bases (Season: Winter)
There are several ski bases located close to Bishkek: Zil, Orlovka, Chong Korchok, and Too Ashu. Skiers will definitely want to take advantage of these in the winter. Wintertime in Kyrgyzstan promises a lot of snow and ski bases are one of the few ways to engage in a more active vacation or getaway.
Osh (Season: All)
If you want to drive to Osh, it certainly won’t be a quick trip. However, if you hop on a 45-minute flight to Osh, you can get there early in the morning and have a whole day to explore the southern city of Osh. Visit the bazaar, the sacred mountain of Suleiman Too in the middle of the city, or the Great Silk Road Museum. This is an ideal destination for businessmen who plan to combine work and travel in Kyrgyzstan in 2015 because Internet is readily available to you in Osh if you need it.
Balikchi (Season: Summer)
If you are a fan of train travel in Kyrgyzstan, there is a train from Bishkek to the town of Balikchi you can take in a matter of 4-5 hours. The village of Balikchi is an older Soviet industrial town thatdoes not have a lot of popular attractions, but it is next to Lake Issyk Kul, the pride and joy of Kyrgyzstan! Take in the scenery during your train travel in Kyrgyzstan and then savor the beauty of the lake and maybe even go for a swim.
Chong Kemin Valley (Season: Spring – Fall)
Chong Kemin Valley is a picturesque farming valley roughly 170 kilometers outside of Bishkek. This peaceful area is ideal for hiking and horseback riding. If you need a breath of fresh air and want to just relax is an area filled with mountains, wildflowers, and gurgling rivers and occasional farming villages, this is the place for you.
TRAVEL IN KYRGYZSTAN 2015
Once you find the place you want to visit, the only question left is, “How do I get there?” Many of these places can be reached by public transit, but as of right now in Kyrgyzstan, that also means getting there will take much longer than you may want to spend due to the current organization of the public transit system. For traveling in Kyrgyzstan in 2015, I recommend doing one of the following: 1) Rent a car to drive yourself wherever you’d like to go or 2) Contact a travel agency that can set you up with a car a driver from a local tour company that knows how to get to these destinations to lower your chances of getting lost and who can translate for you if needed. Once you have got transportation figured out, you are good to go! Enjoy the fresh mountain air, Silk Road History, and chance to relax in Kyrgyzstan’s stunning mountains.
Pictures by Vasiliy Shumkin, pictures by Vlad Ushakov