Beautiful Kyrgyzstan lies hidden behind the surrounding mountains of China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The country remains largely undiscovered by Western tourism, making it a top destination for those seeking solitude those who consciously avoid tourist hubs. The country is easy to navigate and offers low costs of living and traveling, features that make it even more appealing to backpackers.
Kyrgyzstan mostly draws Kazakh and Russian tourists for whom Cholpon Ata functions as a holiday resort to spend the summer months in. Nevertheless, tourism is growing in this small country. People have started to discover the various trekking and hiking options that the mountains behind Issyk Kul have to offer. This lake, the world's second biggest alpine lake, is an absolute beauty and the main reason why people visit the north of the country. One of the first stopovers is Cholpon Ata, a small city that provides easy access to the lake itself. Next to the small, but pleasant beaches, one can also enjoy the century-old rock carvings that were left behind by nomadic people. The second city next to the lake is Karakol, which people use as a base for trekking. Kochkor, on the other hand, is another popular destination, especially as an excellent starting point for those who wish to visit the smaller lake, Song Kul. Also in the north, but a bit more central, lies Kyrgyzstan's capital city, Bishkek. It can easily be explored in one or two days. A collection of nice, old soviet buildings and the famous Osh Bazaar prove to be the city's biggest attraction. Interesting spots in the south of the country are the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad. One can go hiking there, and silk road enthusiasts will also enjoy passing through the south of the country. Kyrgyzstan is a safe country to travel in, although the situation in the south can change easily. The country is well known for bride kidnapping, but female tourists have nothing to fear. Transportation in general consists of minibuses, called marshrutkas. They are quite time consuming, so if you are in a rush, plan on sharing a taxi.
Another one of the country's attractions is its nomadic history. You can witness the World Nomadic Games or other horse games. Besides that, you can enjoy a homestay in a yurt, which is a white, tent-like structure where mostly shepherd families live. Enjoy the local food, the home-baked national bread, Boorsok, and try to drink some Kumis, which is highly fermented horse milk. When looking for more standard accommodations, you'll find there are many options, at least in Bishkek, Osh and Karakol. Most smaller cities or towns only tend to have one or two hostels and more guesthouses, while the bigger cities have a varied selection of hostels, hotels, guest homes, and apartments. The cheapest options are always the hostels, which are mostly housed in old apartment buildings. On the outside, these give a wrong impression because inside they are almost always brand new and squeaky clean. Kyrgyzstan hostels are growing exponentially and are ahead of the future influx of tourism, so don't be surprised when you find yourself sleeping alone in a 10-bed dormitory. Hostels in Bishkek are more expensive in the center than on the outskirts.
Take into account the never-ending traffic which causes a lot of smog and noise, and you'll be happy to go for the cheapest hostels on the outskirts that will assure you a quiet night's sleep. Hostels in Kyrgyzstan are almost always very clean and perfectly adapted to the backpacker's needs: a nice kitchen, a social area, and a locker. Wifi is widespread and without charge. Kyrgyzstan hostels can be considered the best in the world for their price to quality ratio. Staff, and the Kyrgyz people in general, are incredibly friendly. They don't always speak English (only Kyrgyz and/or Russian), but they try to communicate as best as they can. Kyrgyzstan is a hidden gem, especially for the budget backpacker.
Hi, I'm Margaret,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Kyrgyzstan hostels. Welcome.