What sets Kyrgyzstan apart from other countries is its incredible, jaw-dropping beauty combined with its modern nomadic culture. Nowhere else in the world will you be able to experience the same pristine, celestial mountain landscapes combined with an old nomadic way of life that the Kyrgyz people have perpetuated to this day. So as you get away from the everyday grind of life by taking anything from trekking tours of Kyrgyzstan to cultural, historical, or off-roading tours, make sure that your travel agency in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan organizes at least a night or two of yurt stays with nomads for you during your tour. They’ll be the most memorable, unique accommodations you’ve ever tried!
WHAT EXACTLY IS A YURT ANYWAY?
A yurt is the traditional dwelling place of pastoral nomads in Central Asia. Yurts are portable, sturdy, round felt-covered tents that you’ll see often as you are taking tours of Kyrgyzstan. A nomadic family can set up one yurt within a matter of 4-5 hours. The walls of a yurt are made of wooden latticework and the roof of curved poles that run from the latticework to a central circular wooden piece up above. This circular opening provides an outlet for smoke as well as the entrance of sunlight. The yurt is central to nomads in Kyrgyzstan; it provides a place to eat, sleep, host guests, and provides protection from the elements.
You will see yurts tucked away in the mountains as you travel around Kyrgyzstan, but just from the tentative dates of May to September. Nomads in Kyrgyzstan do not live in yurts during the brutal winter months that the Tien Shan Mountains bring. However, as spring rolls around and the snows melt off of the high mountain pastures, nomads will take their yurts and herds and move to the now lush alpine fields. Many nomads move twice a year during the warm months, the first time to pastures at lower elevations, the second time to higher pastures. Due to the seasonal availability of yurt stays, make sure that your trip to Kyrgyzstan in 2015 is planned accordingly.
TRIP TO KYRGYZSTAN 2015
There are several things you can expect when staying in a yurt as you travel around Kyrgyzstan. First of all, the nomadic family hosting you will no doubt serve you lots of tea and local food. Hospitality is an integral part of the culture of nomads in Kyrgyzstan, so expect to be treated very well. Staying at a yurt as opposed to a high-priced hotel will give you a chance to experience the local culture and try authentic Kyrgyz cuisine.
A second thing to be prepared for is sleeping on padded sleeping mats at night. Nomads don’t have beds. They set up their bedding before going to sleep and put it away in the morning so the yurt can be used for other purposes. The yurt you stay in may or may not have a stove that heats the yurt at night. Don’t worry though. Even without a stove, the bedding is sure to be quite comfortable and warm.
Thirdly, staying in yurts as you travel around Kyrgyzstan means that you’ll be out in the middle of nature away from city lights, electricity, running water, and most likely cell signal. Instead of honking horns, you’ll hear crickets and the bleating of sheep. Instead of street lights, starlight. Instead of speeding cars, the galloping of horses. Businessmen that are planning to combine work and travel in Kyrgyzstan should be aware that staying in a yurt means a break from the Internet and yes, sometimes phone calls. I realize this could be either a plus or minus. However, if you need or want to take a break from the intrusion of technology, leave work, and travel Kyrgyzstan purely for your own leisure, yurt stays are a perfect way to get a taste of traditional, rural Kyrgyzstan away from the busyness of the city.
SETTING EVERYTHING IN MOTION
If you’d like to try a yurt stay, make sure to speak to your travel agency in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan about it. Many travel agencies in Bishkek either already offer tours that include yurt stays or can put together a custom tour for you to make sure you get to spend as many nights as you want in yurts with nomadic families. Tours of Kyrgyzstan that take you away from the cities and villages and deeper into the mountains will certainly provide plenty of opportunities for yurt stays. So as you plan your trip to Kyrgyzstan in 2015, leave the cookie cutter hotels behind and indulge in a truly unique nomadic experience in Central Asia.
Picture by Michael Shmelev, picture by Vladimir Trofimov, picture by Daniel Korzhonov