Kyrgyzstan is tucked into Central Asia’s geographical vortex amid a
massive knot of colliding mountain ranges. Monster mountains and their
associated scraggy valleys, glaciers, gorges and ice-blue lakes dominate
over 90% of the country. Keen on trekking or horse riding? Just pick a
range – there’s plenty to choose from – such as the Pamir Alay range in
or the Central Tian Shan. In true nomadic style, spend the nights camped
under a star-crowded sky or bed down in a yurt. Be warned though, the
Kyrgyz are renowned for their hospitably and guests are often treated to
fermented mare’s milk and bowls of fresh yogurt.
Indeed, nomadic traditions are alive and kicking in Kyrgyzstan. You can
take to the hills around Lake Issyk-Köl, the earth’s second-largest
alpine lake, with a trained eagle to hunt rabbit or cheer wildly
alongside the locals during a game of kok boru, a ferocious battle in
which mounted riders wrestle one another for the corpse of a headless
is a similarly picturesque spot, ideal for camping and getting to know
the herders who bring their animals here in summer months.
Cash-strapped locals, struggling to eek out a living in post-communist
have turned to tourism for help. The creation of sustainable projects
are revolutionizing budget travel, pushing Kyrgyzstan to the forefront
of community tourism and bringing in a little extra money for families.
By contrast, now that the long, unyielding arm of Russian law is no
longer on the scene, corruption by officials and political turmoil are
part of daily life.
Kyrgyzstan may be small, it may be often overlooked but, just like the
players in a game of kok boru, this tenacious nation packs a powerful
wallop and may yet run off with the prize as Central Asia’s most
appealing and accessible republic.