Backpacking Kyrgyzstan

Hello to all seasoned and aspiring backpackers!

Since Kyrgyzstan has only recently opened its doors to tourism, it’s not surprising if you don’t know much about this country or haven’t yet thought about travelling there. However, it’s a unique destination that offers beautiful and interesting culture – almost untouched by European tourists.

The country is packed with gorgeous mountains, lakes, and valleys as well as famous Silk Road sites, and the Kyrgyz people are kind and hospitable – and really know how to cook. Kyrgyz cuisine is delicious and incorporates the best parts of the country’s Russian, Asian, and Turkish influences. You can also get to know nomad culture, as Kyrgyzstan hosts the World Nomad Games.

Kyrgyzstan is a wonderful place to enjoy nature and a simpler way of life. Since this country is undiscovered by the mass tourism industry, you can really experience real Kyrgyz culture when you visit. So, grab your backpack, buy a ticket, and get ready for a breath-taking adventure!

See below for the perfect Kyrgyzstan itinerary for an unforgettable trip:


Important Basics

Official Language ( Kyrgyz )
EnglishKyrgyz
HelloSalam
GoodbyeKosch Bolonous
Thanksrochmat
Yesoo-ba
Nodjok
Capital City

Bishkek

Form of Government

Parliamentary Republic

Phone Country Code

+996

Currency

Kyrgyzstani som

Climate

Highest temperature by day: 18 to 30 degrees Celsius

Highest temperature at night: -5 to 6 degrees Celsius

Fun Fact

The ancient city of Osh lies in Kyrgyzstan and was built around 3,000 years ago!

Cities

Bishkek

Bishkek is the perfect first stop for your Kyrgyz adventure! You’ll definitely want to stay a few nights in Bishkek to get to know the city – but remember that you’ll come back again at the end of your trip before you fly back home.

This capital city is situated in the central-northern part of Kyrgyzstan and is home to unique gardens, markets, and magnificent monuments. Stroll through the city and check out Soviet-era statues of Lenin, the Parliament building, and Victory Square with its monument to World War II. After monument-hopping, take a break and relax in one of the city gardens or enjoy Kyrgyz crafts and local dishes at the Osh Bazaar, the city’s main market and a great place to learn about the culture.

Looking for suitable accommodation for a stay in Bishkek? You can find a capsule room in a hostel for only €8 per night.

Cholpon-Ata

The town of Cholpon-Ata lies on the northern shore of Lake Issyk Kul. There is a lot to do and see in Cholpon, as it’s both a health resort and cultural oasis. To get to Cholpon-Ata, it’s best to take the local bus from Bishkek, which costs about €4.

One of the biggest events in the city is the biennial World Nomad Games. This event offers you the chance to see traditional Central Asian sports in action. The Games take place in the city's hippodrome, where concerts and live events are also held. If you want to learn more about nomadic culture, make sure to visit the Nomad Museum.

Spend some time outdoors at Lake Issyk Kul or visit the glacial boulders north of the city. The landscape in this region is beautiful, but the petroglyphs carved into the rocks are the most exciting things here. Be sure to try the local seafood, too, which tastes even better with a view by the shore!

You can also visit the Snow Leopard Rehabilitation Centre or relax in the Orto-Oruktu hotsprings. If you have some time left, it's also definitely worth it to take a hike around the area.

A hostel in Cholpon-Ata is the perfect accommodation at an affordable €7 per night for a single bed in a four-bed dorm.

Karakol

Continue by bus to Karakol, a city surrounded by mountains located in the eastern part of the country, the perfect destination to dive deep into the local culture. The city is home to fascinating sites, including the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Dungan Mosque, and Karakol History Museum, making it a haven for history lovers. After sight-seeing, head to a local Banya, a Russian bath house, to unwind from the day.

Travellers who want to experience the culinary aspect of the culture should consider themselves lucky, too, as there are several great dining opportunities in Karakol and amazing local markets like the Ak-Tilek Bazaar. If you want an even more unique experience, take a Laghman noodle making course or enjoy a Dungan Family Style dinner tour. Just make sure to come with an empty stomach, because up to 150 courses can be served. Delicious!

In Karakol, you can get a hostel for €4 per night for a six-bed dorm.

Kaji-Say

The trip from Karakol to Kaji-Say costs about €2 by bus. Kaji-Say is located directly on the south side of Lake Issyk Kul. In Kaji-Say, you’ll realize that nature is the biggest attraction, but there are some remarkable historical sites, too, such as the Soviet-era Lenin statue and the deserted Pension Utyos.

Here in Kaji-Say, explore the Manjyly-Ata Valley, which is known as the Valley of Sacred Springs, as it is believed that each spring cures a different disease. In total, there are about 17 larger springs in the whole valley. You can also hike through the Kadzhi-Saz Gorge and enjoy the view of Issyk Kul – the lake is truly an incredible sight.

The best accommodation in Kaji-Say is a guesthouse for just €5 per night for a single room.

Song Köl

The next stop, Song Köl, can be reached by taxi from Kaji-Say for €45. Try to spend at least two whole days here.

In the middle of the country is the beautiful Song Köl Lake, an alpine lake in the Tien Shan Mountains. Explore the area on horseback (Kyrgyzstan is famous for its horses). There’s no better way to experience the lake and horse culture than on a ride through this breath taking landscape. If that’s not your thing, no worries: there are also very beautiful paths and trails for hikers.

As you explore the region, you’ll certainly notice the yurt tents that are scattered everywhere. They are part of the local culture and staying in one is perfect way to make your outdoor experience in Song Köl something very special and authentic. You can stay in a yurt for just €11 per night.

From Song Köl, it is best to drive back to Bishkek to fly back home. The trip to Bishkek costs about €32 by taxi and train.


Bishkek

Bishkek

Bishkek is the perfect first stop for your Kyrgyz adventure! You’ll definitely want to stay a few nights in Bishkek to get to know the city – but remember that you’ll come back again at the end of your trip before you fly back home.

This capital city is situated in the central-northern part of Kyrgyzstan and is home to unique gardens, markets, and magnificent monuments. Stroll through the city and check out Soviet-era statues of Lenin, the Parliament building, and Victory Square with its monument to World War II. After monument-hopping, take a break and relax in one of the city gardens or enjoy Kyrgyz crafts and local dishes at the Osh Bazaar, the city’s main market and a great place to learn about the culture.

Looking for suitable accommodation for a stay in Bishkek? You can find a capsule room in a hostel for only €8 per night.

Cholpon-Ata

Cholpon-Ata

The town of Cholpon-Ata lies on the northern shore of Lake Issyk Kul. There is a lot to do and see in Cholpon, as it’s both a health resort and cultural oasis. To get to Cholpon-Ata, it’s best to take the local bus from Bishkek, which costs about €4.

One of the biggest events in the city is the biennial World Nomad Games. This event offers you the chance to see traditional Central Asian sports in action. The Games take place in the city's hippodrome, where concerts and live events are also held. If you want to learn more about nomadic culture, make sure to visit the Nomad Museum.

Spend some time outdoors at Lake Issyk Kul or visit the glacial boulders north of the city. The landscape in this region is beautiful, but the petroglyphs carved into the rocks are the most exciting things here. Be sure to try the local seafood, too, which tastes even better with a view by the shore!

You can also visit the Snow Leopard Rehabilitation Centre or relax in the Orto-Oruktu hotsprings. If you have some time left, it's also definitely worth it to take a hike around the area.

A hostel in Cholpon-Ata is the perfect accommodation at an affordable €7 per night for a single bed in a four-bed dorm.

Karakol

Karakol

Continue by bus to Karakol, a city surrounded by mountains located in the eastern part of the country, the perfect destination to dive deep into the local culture. The city is home to fascinating sites, including the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Dungan Mosque, and Karakol History Museum, making it a haven for history lovers. After sight-seeing, head to a local Banya, a Russian bath house, to unwind from the day.

Travellers who want to experience the culinary aspect of the culture should consider themselves lucky, too, as there are several great dining opportunities in Karakol and amazing local markets like the Ak-Tilek Bazaar. If you want an even more unique experience, take a Laghman noodle making course or enjoy a Dungan Family Style dinner tour. Just make sure to come with an empty stomach, because up to 150 courses can be served. Delicious!

In Karakol, you can get a hostel for €4 per night for a six-bed dorm.

Kaji-Say

Kaji-Say

The trip from Karakol to Kaji-Say costs about €2 by bus. Kaji-Say is located directly on the south side of Lake Issyk Kul. In Kaji-Say, you’ll realize that nature is the biggest attraction, but there are some remarkable historical sites, too, such as the Soviet-era Lenin statue and the deserted Pension Utyos.

Here in Kaji-Say, explore the Manjyly-Ata Valley, which is known as the Valley of Sacred Springs, as it is believed that each spring cures a different disease. In total, there are about 17 larger springs in the whole valley. You can also hike through the Kadzhi-Saz Gorge and enjoy the view of Issyk Kul – the lake is truly an incredible sight.

The best accommodation in Kaji-Say is a guesthouse for just €5 per night for a single room.

Song Köl

Song Köl

The next stop, Song Köl, can be reached by taxi from Kaji-Say for €45. Try to spend at least two whole days here.

In the middle of the country is the beautiful Song Köl Lake, an alpine lake in the Tien Shan Mountains. Explore the area on horseback (Kyrgyzstan is famous for its horses). There’s no better way to experience the lake and horse culture than on a ride through this breath taking landscape. If that’s not your thing, no worries: there are also very beautiful paths and trails for hikers.

As you explore the region, you’ll certainly notice the yurt tents that are scattered everywhere. They are part of the local culture and staying in one is perfect way to make your outdoor experience in Song Köl something very special and authentic. You can stay in a yurt for just €11 per night.

From Song Köl, it is best to drive back to Bishkek to fly back home. The trip to Bishkek costs about €32 by taxi and train.

Kyrgyzstan Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home - Bishkek
Home - Bishkek
Flight
200
capsule
8
2. Bishkek
Bishkek
-
capsule
8
3. Bishkek
Bishkek
-
capsule
8
4. Bishkek - Cholpon Ata
Bishkek - Cholpon Ata
Bus
4
four-bed dorm
7
5. Cholpon Ata
Cholpon Ata
-
four-bed dorm
7
6. Cholpon Ata
Cholpon Ata
-
four-bed dorm
7
7. Cholpon Ata- Karakol
Cholpon Ata- Karakol
Mini van
2
six-bed dorm
4
8. Karakol
Karakol
-
six-bed dorm
4
9. Karakol
Karakol
-
six-bed dorm
4
10. Karakol- Kaji-Say
Karakol- Kaji-Say
Mini van
2
single room
5
11. Kaji-Say
Kaji-Say
-
single room
5
12. Kaji-Say
Kaji-Say
-
single room
5
13. Kaji-Say- Song-Köl
Kaji-Say- Song-Köl
Taxi
45
four-person tent
9
14. Song-Köl
Song-Köl
-
four-person tent
9
15. Song-Köl
Song-Köl
-
four-person tent
9
16. Song-Köl
Song-Köl
-
four-person tent
9
17. Song Köl- Bishkek
Song Köl- Bishkek
taxi+train
32
capsule
8
18. Bishkek
Bishkek
-
capsule
8
19. Bishkek - Home
Bishkek - Home
Flight
200

Total price.

Flights 400,00
Transportation 85,00
Tours 0,00
Accommodation 124,00
Total609,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Syrniki: A baked dough filled with cheese, this light, chubby pancake is prepared in the morning and is a popular breakfast for the locals.

Blinchiki: Also called Russian crêpes, these are made with Russian yoghurt and are often topped with fruit. A delicious start to the day!

Soup

Leghman: This is a noodle soup made from homemade noodles and spiced up with traditional herbs. This is usually accompanied by mutton and a piece of bread.

Main courses

Laghman: This is a favourite dish, especially in Bishkek, made from pasta, meat, and vegetables stir fried in a pan.

Manty: This dish is a bit like fluffy, steamed dumplings. You can also sometimes choose vegetable fillings, making it one of the few vegetarian dishes in Kyrgyzstan.

Chebureki: These are delicious fried dumplings filled with minced meat – and very popular among locals and tourists alike.

Drinks & Snacks

Tea: The Kyrgyz love tea (coffee is almost not offered here at all) and cultivate several different types. Make sure to try at least one!

Kyrgyzstan

The exchange rate for 100 Kyrgyzstan Som is around €1.31 (as of February 2020). See prices for certain products and the cost of living below:

Cost of Living 

Food

Free Time

Personal Hygiene

Dos

It’s better to be overly cautious. At the markets in bigger cities, pickpockets are not uncommon, and tourists make for an easy target. It’s best to carry your valuables close to you and pack only the most necessary things!

Go to the mountains. Kyrgyzstan is a paradise for all hikers and offers some of the most impressive landscapes of Central Asia.

Try the local honey. The country is very well known for this product, and it’s considered by many to be the best honey in the world. It’s very affordable in small shops by the road so don't forget to take a sample home with you!

Don'ts

Don’t wear sleeveless shirts. Leave your tank tops at home. In Kyrgyzstan, it's especially important to keep your shoulders covered. So, make sure to pack a light and loose long-sleeved shirt.

Don’t drive. Let the local drivers take the roads. Even if it’s fun to go exploring on your own in a foreign country by car or motorbike, we advise you not to in Kyrgyzstan. The roads are in extremely bad condition, and it’s also very difficult for inexperienced drivers to adapt to the traffic. So, you better play it safe here!

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

(Not necessary)

Vaccine

Robert-Koch-Instituts

Additional Remarks.

Travel documents and/or your visa must be valid for three months after the planned departure and should be undamaged. Missing or torn pages in the passport will result in refusal of entry. Persons against whom a wanted notice has been issued in a CIS state must expect rejection when entering the Kyrgyz Republic. Please also inform yourself about the current entry regulations regarding the corona virus. You can find up-to-date information on this at the Foreign Office.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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