The landlocked Central-Asian country of Kyrgyzstan is a secret unknown to many. Its diverse mountainous terrain, amusing nomadic culture and distinct cuisine cannot be summed in a single trip as there’s always more to explore in this country than travel guides can tell you. Did we say, travelling here is visa-free? Here’s a peek at things you can do and see in Kyrgyzstan. By Shubhanjana Das
1. Stay in a Yurt
Staying in a traditional, old-school nomadic yurt in Kyrgyzstan is peculiar to the country. These unique tents pop-up all over the country during summer and qualify as the best accommodation option in Kyrgyzstan. However, in the last few years, the yurts have evolved to accommodate the wishes of western travellers. Make sure you find an original one owned by the Kyrgyz families.
2. Issyk-Kul Lake
The second-largest mountain lake in the world, Issyk-Kul is as blue as blue can be. Surrounded by towering scow-capped mountains, bathing in Issyk-Kul is a ‘warm’ experience, quite literally. You might feel like you have been teleported to Italy, but with far lesser crowd and much higher mountains.
3. Watch the Buzkashi game
All you sports enthusiasts make sure to catch a live game of Kyrgyzstan’s national game—Buzkashi when there. While it may look a lot like Polo, in reality, the game of Polo itself is derived from the horse games of Central Asia. There’s a game almost every week, wherein every village sends its own team. If you happen to be there in August, do catch the Independence Day game on August 31.
Kyrgyzstan’s fourth largest city, Karakol was founded by the Russian military as their outpost and is a reflection of its colonial days. The blue shutters and white-washed buildings from the colonial period stand in contrast to the towering mountains as Karakol offers the perfect gateway to the divine alpine treks and some of Central Asia’s best skiing slopes. The city itself is worth exploring and the markets in Jolgolot, the famous Karakol Animal Market, the Karakol History Museum and the Holy Trinity Cathedral are some famous places to visit.
5. Visit the Sary-Chelek Nature Reserve
This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is worth exploring with seven lakes along with stunning indigenous flora and fauna. However, if you are pressed on time, make sure you include the Lake Sary-Chelek in your itinerary. The craggy landscape of mountains standing tall around the mineral blue lake is something no pictures can do justice to.