October 9, 2014

What Does Kyrgyzstan Have to Offer in the Spring?

108296112_large_d0adf3_Riley-JordanWhen winter finally comes to a close in Kyrgyzstan and spring starts breathing life back into the land, the whole tone of the country changes.  People start coming out of the woodwork, shedding their coats and making their way into the mountains to enjoy the blooming flowers and alpine lakes. The air buzzes with rejuvenating energy as everyone starts engaging in their favorite outdoor hobbies, going on picnics, and relaxing out in the sun.  Excitement is so heavy in the air you can practically taste it!

If you’re looking for things to do in Kyrgyzstan this spring, you won’t find yourself with a lack of options. I highly recommend off-road motorcycling, regular off-roading, cycling, trekking, and horseback riding because they get you out into the beauty of the country and potentially to some pretty remote locations.  To get a big picture view of Kyrgyzstan, there’s also paragliding tours of the country you can take.kyrgyzstan16-800x533

Now, as far as which places are good spring destinations to visit, let’s start with Lake Issyk Kul.  Lake Issyk Kul is the world’s second largest alpine lake (6,236 sq km, 2,408 sq miles) and by far the most visited natural feature in Kyrgyzstan. Its slightly saline waters are a brilliant blue encircled by green mountainsides topped with snowcapped peaks, and is a great place for swimming and various water sports.  The villages and cities around the lake are also excellent places to visit as they’ll give you a taste of local culture.  Hit up some of the surrounding bazaars, museums, and festivals while you’re there.

Fans of photography and nature should check out Skazka kyrgyzstan08(Fairytale Canyon), Jeti-Oguz, and/or Ala-Archa National Park.  Skazka and Jeti-Oguz have some stunning rock formations.  The ones in Fairytale Canyon bear striking resemblances to various animals, the Great Wall of China, and even entire castles!  Jeti-Oguz actually means “7 bulls” because its formations look like 7 enraged bulls trapped inside red rock.  Close to Jeti-Oguz is also a waterfall that you can hike to that only takes about 30-40 minutes to reach.

Ala-Archa National Park and Gorge are gorgeous in the spring! Back in Soviet times, this area could only be visited by VIPs or those granted with special permission.  It’s a perfect place to go trekking and contains 20 glaciers, 50+ mountain peaks, rivers, waterfalls, and a fascinating alpinist cemetery. 742012447322353_павел_косенко

Those interested in some of Kyrgyzstan’s historical destinations can visit Tash Rabat and San Tash Pass.  Tash Rabat was used during the heyday of the Silk Road as a caravanserai, or inn, for merchants and travelers to stay in to protect them from bad weather and marauders.   It’s not far from the town of At-Bashi and sits at 3000 meters.  The layout of Tash Rabat is actually symmetrical.  There’s a large room with a domed roof at the center with another 30 domed rooms extending out from it.

San Tash Pass is near the Chinese and Kazakh borders and is famous because of a story surrounding a massive pile of stones that you can see at this location to this day.  The story goes that an ancient Khan was leading his men to war for the purpose of accumulating riches.  During their march, he was stopped by an elderly gentleman who made a request of him Vlad-Ushakov-photothat involved his men making a large pile of stones.  By the end, the Khan learned an invaluable lesson from his elder regarding the cost of war.

If you’re looking for cultural tourism opportunities this spring in Kyrgyzstan, you can dive into the inner workings of nomadic culture via a couple different avenues.  Kyrgyzstan has a rich nomadic heritage with traditions that they’ve perpetuated to this day.  Nomads in Kyrgyzstan love hosting people and showing travelers more about their life, so if you want to spend some time staying at a nomadic yurt camp, opportunities are available for that.  If you want to learn how to cook traditional Kyrgyz dishes, herd sheep, learn nomadic hosting IMG_0224_kandroverlandetiquette, horsemanship, etc., there are actually classes available where you can learn skills necessary to nomadic life directly from Kyrgyz nomads.

So really, Kyrgyzstan has a lot of options for things to do in the spring.  Just decide what you’re looking for: trekking in Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan Mountains?  Spending time with nomads?  Learning more about Kyrgyz history?  Treating yourself to some down time next to a mountain lake?  There’s no wrong choice; just dive in and go for it!

Photo by Riley and Jordan, photo by Michael Shmelev, photo by Vlad Ushakov, photo from source: www.mountpix.livejournal.com

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