Kyrgyzstan is located in the very heart of
Central Asia on the Great Silk Road, and has been praised by many poets and
philosophers of the East. This area of the world is fast becoming a prime
tourist destination as many people are now interested in understanding more
about the history of the people living here.
You can visit the lake of Issyk-Kul , known as the Pearl of Central
Asia, and the snowy peaks of the majestic Ala-Too mountains, which attract
mountain climbers and rock climbers from all over the world. A number of ski
bases are also now welcoming visitors. Adventure tourism, such as trekking,
hunting and rafting, are also on offer.
Should you visit our country, you will receive a very warm welcome, and
cherished memories. We hope that once you visit, you will want to return!
For example the foreign experts characterize Kyrgyzstan : “ …
there are small numbers of countries in the world with such surprising
combination of natural and cultural features, as Kyrgyzstan.
is a capital, a soul and heart of Kyrgyz Republic, its political, economic,
scientific and cultural center, the main transportation junction. Its
territory is 160 sq. km, the population is about 1 million people. Bishkek
is situated in the center of Chu valley, at the foot of snow - white Kyrgyz
mountains Ala-Too, 750 meter height above the see level
Geography of Kyrgyzstan
Due to its topography the country is very
much split into a northern and a southern part. In the north of the country,
there are big valleys like the Chui-valley (where the capital
Bishkek is situated), and the Talas-valley, as well as the lake
Issyk-Kul . The Kyrgyz also call the lake "Blue Pearl of
the Tien-Shan" or "Sea of the Kyrgyz" (more in the section List of main
touristic places / Lake Issyk-Kul).
Directly to the south of those big valleys,
there's the heart of the Tien-Shan Mountains . The word is
Chinese, meaning about "Heavenly / Celestial Mountains ". Its highest peaks
can be found in the triangle of Kyrgyzstan , China and Kazakhstan : The Peak
Pobedy (Peak Victory) with an altitude of 7439 m and the Khan-Tengri with
6995 m above sea level. Peak Pobedy is also the most northern situated
7000m-high mountain of the world. Also in this fascinating High-altitude
mountain area, that usually is explored starting from the town of Karakol at
the eastern end of lake Issyk-Kul, there are the famous glacier Enylchek and
the mysterious Lake Merzbacher, that is being emptied once a year, but then
refills completely. Because of that, many years scientists and explorers
were questioning whether it is existing at all - some of them mentioned it
on their maps and in their descriptions, some did not - depending on the
time of the year and the level of water.
The Tien-Shan mountain range is a very varied
area and offers all kind of mountainous landscapes one could imagine: green
and fertile high-altitude pastures, lower situated valleys with woods, sandy
and rocky mountains and valleys, rocky and snow-covered high-altitude
mountain regions, and those very famous mountain lakes: Apart from the
popular lake Issyk-Kul, which is used mainly for beach-holidays, one should
mention the regions of lake Son-Kul at an altitude of about 3000m, and lake
Sary-Chelek at about 1900 m above sea level (see also List of main touristic
places / Son-Kul ; Sary-Chelek)
The powerful mountain range is not only
famous for its landscape, but first of all very much visited because of its
fauna: Rare animals like the Marco-Polo sheep and the snowleopard live in
the area, and very common birds are eagles, falcons and vulture, while you
could also at an altitude of 3000m watch seagulls and find rare species
everywhere around the country
In the south-west, the Tien-Shan mountains
are divided into two parts and embed in their middle the Ferghana-valley
. This lowland is situated for its biggest part in Uzbekistan , but
the east borders also reach into Kyrgyz territory. It is famous mainly for
its fertility and rich, juicy and fresh choice of fruits and vegetables. In
this part of Kyrgyzstan naturally, population is quite dense, and also the
second-biggest town of the country is situated here: Osh ,
with about 300.000 inhabitants.
The visitor finds a calm atmosphere in the
country side with lots of fields, especially sunflowers, an abundance of
The far south of the country is dominated by
the Pamir mountain range, which establishes the borders to Tadjikistan and
China . Here, there is another high, famous peak: Peak Lenin (7134m), which
is popular with mountaineers from all over the world, also thanks to its
technically not too demanding ascent.
All in all, a very diverse, mostly
mountainous landscape, that offers something special for every taste!
Kyrgyzstan Travel industry has been steadily
developing, including quality hotels in big cities including Bishkek and Osh
. Travel to Kyrgyzstan , with its virgin nature, will make you trip
Diversity of flora in Kyrgyzstan is
determined by the altitudinal zoning. Slopes, varying by humidity, create
different kinds of vegetation. On northern slopes steppes, meadow-steppes,
meadows, bushes and forests are wide spread. On southern slopes, because of
dry climate there are no zones of forests and alpine meadows; semi-deserts
and deserts prevail here.
Flora of Kyrgyzstan numbers more than 3676
plants of lower species and 3786 plants of higher species. 600 types of
useful wild growing flora are found in the territory of the Republic, among
them 200 types of officinal plants are found: vasilistnik, Karakol akonit,
big elecampane, Turkestan motherwort, Turkestan termopsis, St John’s wort,
coltsfoot, origanum, sea buckthorn, horse-tail ephedra, Veratrum lobelianum
Bernh. etc. Wild plants having an economic importance include tinning
joinweed, saltwort, barberries, rhubarb, Leafless Echinochloa, ferulage
types, Fergana spurge, golden drop, types of thyme etc. A unique natural
formation in the south of Kyrgyzstan is the walnut forests. Walnut, Siverse
apple tree, Sogdy alycha, standard pear, Korjinsky pear, Tian-Shan cherry,
barberries, almonds, pistachio, Djungar and Turkestan hawthorn and many
others are growing here and represent a valuable genetic material.
The most known plants of Kyrgyz Republic are:
Tulips of Greig (Tulipa greigii Regel)
Tulips of Kaufmann (Tulipa kaufmanniana Regel)
Tulips of Kolpakowsky (Tulipa kolpakowskiana Regel)
Edelweiss (Leontopodium ochroleucum Beauverd)
Tien-Shan Fir (Fir of Shrenk) (P. schrenkiana Fisch. et Mey)
Fir of Semyonov (Abies semenovii)
Archa (Juniper) (I. turkestanica Kom.)
101 types of protozoa, 10242 insects and
other arthropods represent fauna of Kyrgyzstan. There are more than 1.5
thousand other invertebrates, 75 fish species, 4 amphibious, 33 reptiles,
368 birds and 83 mammals.
At an altitude of 3400-3800m grey marmots, silvery and narrow-skull field
vole are particularly distinguished. The Brown bear can be found in the
alpine meadows in the summer time. A lot of wild rams, marmots, hares, and
mountain goats are concentrated in the Alpine meadows as well. Wolfs can be
found here also. At the altitude of 3800-4000m there are no mammals as
permanent inhabitants but sometimes the grey marmot or narrow skull and
silvery field voles can be found. Higher than the snow line, at the rock
juts (up to the height of 4,4 km.) some types of birds make nests: red belly
redstart and alpine mountain finch. There are a lot of other birds: mountain
goose, rock pigeon, partridge, Alpine jackdaw, and big desert bullfinch.
Mountain goats can be found at the height of approximately 4500-m, along
with beasts of prey – snow leopard.
The rarest species of animals such as wild ram, aurochs, wild mountain goat,
roe, red deer, bear, deer, lynx, and snow leopard are included into the Red
To help preserve the priceless, pristine,
virgin, natural resources that it possesses, Kyrgyzstan has a total of 83
specially protected natural territories, with a total area of 761300
hectares, which is almost 4% of Kyrgyzstan’s total land area. Perhaps, the
most famous of these specially protected regions is Ala Archa – just outside
One of the main tasks of the National Parks
is to organize tourism that is not harmful to the nature.
Four climate zones are determined here:
Valley zone (from 500-600 to 900-1000m heights). Hot summer
(to +28 degrees) and moderate cold and snowless winter characterize it.
Average annual temperature is +20-25 in summer and -4 -7 in winter. In some
places temperature reaches +47. It drops as the height increases and the
absolute temperature minimum is -22-30,only in some places it drops lower
Middle mountainous zone (from 900-1200 to 2000-2200 m heights)
has typical moderate climate with warm summer and moderate snowy and cold
winter. Average annual temperature is +18-19 in summer (July) and -7-8 in
High mountainous zone (from 2000-2200 to 3000-3500 m heights)
is characterized by cold summer and very snowy winter. July temperature is
+11-16, January - 8-10. Winter is long (from November to March). In the
upper part of this zone the freezing period lasts 3-4 months.
Nival zone (more than 3500 m heights) is characterized by
severe and very cold climate. This is a zone of snow, rocks, glaciers and
moisture accumulation. Even in the lower part of the zone July temperature
doesn't exceed +4-7 and in January it drops lower than -19-22.
are more than 40,000 rivers and streams in Kyrgyzstan , with a combined
length of roughly 150,000 km and draining some 47 cubic km of water a year.
The main source of water for the rivers is
melt water from the numerous glaciers and snowfields in the mountains. The
contribution of rainfall amounts to less than one fifth of the water flow.
Most of the mountain streams are not really
navigable due to the extreme drop in altitudes, the complicated relief of
the riverbeds and the velocity of the river flow. Many of them, however, are
suitable for white water rafting and similar activities.
The River Naryn is the longest river in
Kyrgyzstan , ( 535 km in length) and is in fact a river famous from
antiquity. Formed by the confluence of the Big and Litlle Naryn Rivers, just
above the town of Naryn, it collects the waters of several large tributaries
such as the At Bashi and Kekemeren until flows into the Toktogul Reservoir
and the flows south breaking through the Ferghana Range into the Ferghana
valley and then amasses yet more tributaries until eventually it flows as
the Syr Darya (the ancient name by which it was known) into the Aral Sea.
Lakes: In total, there are almost 2000 lakes in the
Kyrgyz Republic , with a combined area of 6836 sq km. Most of them are small
mountain lakes, located at altitudes between 2500 and 4000 meters above sea
level and were formed as a result of glaciations. Only 16 of the lakes have
a surface area of over 1 sq. km.
Issyk Kul Lake -is Kyrgyzstan 's
largest Lake and at about 180 km long by 70 km wide and 668 meters deep at
the deepest point, (the average depth is about 300 meters ), it is the
world's second largest mountain lake – and the fifth deepest lake in the
world. Lake Issyk-Kul, which means "the hot lake" in
the Turkic languages of Central Asia, holds the title as one of the largest
alpine lakes in the world. At an altitude of 1609 meters above sea level it
is exceeded only by Lake Titicaca in Bolivia as one of the highest of large
mountain lakes.Two mountain chains of the Central Tien Shan range border the
lake - in the north the Kungei-Alatau (in Turkic: "facing the sun"), and in
the south the Terskei-Alatau (in Turkic: "turned away from the sun"). About
one hundred large and small rivers flow down into the lake from these peaks
carving gorges and canyons into the mountain flanks. The largest of these
rivers, the Tyup and the Jergalan, debouch into the lake in the east. In the
south, the largest rivers are Karakol, Kyzyl-Suu, Juuka, Barskoon and Ton;
in the north, there are two rivers called Aksu and three rivers called Koisu
(Chon "Big" Koisu, Orto "Middle" Koisu and Kichi "Small" Koisu). There are
no outlets for the waters of Lake Issyk-Kul so the lake has a higher
salinity than fresh water, actually tasting salty to bathers.
The lake has been held in high regard by the
Kyrgyz – it is known as the “pearl of the Tien Shan ” – and in 2004, the
government declared the lake as the “property of the nation”. One source
even suggests that, at one time, it was even forbidden to swim in the lake.
Legends about Issyk-Kul Lake
1. Long ago there was a beautiful city on the
place of Issyk-Kul. One day, the young girls who lived in this
city went to the mountains to pick brushwood for fire. While they were away
a tremendous earthquake took place. The whole depression was flooded and all
inhabitants perished. When the girls came home, they found a big lake that
occupied the place of the town. They were seized by such a grief because
of this accident, that they came to this place every day and mourn over the
destiny of their relatives and friends. Their bitter tears made the lake
salty and scalding, that’s why it has never frozen. This legend reflected
the name of the lake, «Issyk» means hot
(as a tear), «Kul»- lake.
2. Once there was a wonderful city and one cruel khan governed it. One day
he saw a beautiful girl on the riverbank. The khan wanted to marry her. The
girl didn’t like him and refuse to this proposal. She asked townsmen to be
on her side, but nobody cared about the fate of the unhappy girl. The khan
imprisoned her in the highest tower until she would agree to marry him. She
shed bitter tears and prayed to heavens to take pity on her. Her prayers
were heard. The river, which flew through the town, over flew the banks, the
ground slipped away from the feet.
The river flooded the whole city. All of them: the girl, the khan and all
indifferent citizens of the town perished. Since that time the lake has been
salty and very changeable. Sometimes it is quite and still, like the dead
girl, sometimes threatening and terrible, like the mention of the tragedy,
sometimes it splashes indifferently.
Son Kul Lake is a mountain lake in the
Central Tian Shan range, virtually in the centre of Kyrgyzstan . One
translation of the name is “The Last Lake”.
At an altitude of 3016m a.s.l.; 29km long and 18km wide and a maximum
depth of 13.2m - it is Kyrgyzstan 's second largest lake.The average
temperature is about -3.5°C, and in summer it is about 11°C . Winter
temperatures can fall as low as -20°C , and there are something like 200
days of snow. In winter is often impossible to reach the plateau. Unlike
Issyk Kul ( Kyrgyzstan 's largest lake) it does freeze over in the winter –
between September and June. It is situated on a treeless, high mountain
plateau, and is surrounded by lush mountain meadows (jailoo). As such it is
used by the shepherds of the Kochkor, Naryn and At Bashi regions for summer
pastures for their flocks. In fact, there is evidence that it has been used
for pasture from very ancient times. (There are some strange arrangements of
‘standing stones' and stone circles – nothing on the scale of Stonehenge –
but they provide an interesting stimulation to speculation about how they
got there and what was their purpose). Possible
activities are of course hikes and horse-back riding, but especially liked
are the demonstrations of how to build up a yurt (the traditional felt
dwelling of Central Asian nomads) and in general the experience of the
every-day life of todays Kyrgyz half-nomads and shepherds. Accommodation in
yurt camps (no running water, no electricity)
Merzbacher Lake - Sandwiched between
the Northern and Southern branches of the glacier lies the mysterious
Merzbacher Lake , which form every summer and then, sometime in August,
burst through the ice banks and the waters flow into the Enchilek River .
(Actually, the timing varies – for example in 2002 and 2004 it happened in
August, but in 2003, as early as July.) In reality, only part of the lake
drains – the lake, which is 6 kilometers long and one kilometer wide, is in
fact divided into two by a bridge of ice and whilst the lower half empties
regularly, the upper part is always full of water. Also, the lakes empty
twice a year – once in the summer and once in the winter – but most people
only know about the August event.
In 1903 the German geographer and
mountaineer, Gottfried Merzbacher, first discovered the lake while leading
an expedition into the Tian Shan mountains aiming to reach the summit of
5,067,000 (UN estimate 2002).
Ethnic groups: Kirghiz 52.4%, Russian 18%, Uzbek 12.9%,
Ukrainian 2.5%, German 2.4%, other 11.8%
Religions: Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
Languages: Kirghiz (Kyrgyz) - official language, Russian -
official language (in March 1996, the Kyrgyzstan legislature amended the
constitution to make Russian an official language, along with Kirghiz, in
territories and work places where Russian-speaking citizens predominate)
Time: GMT + 5 (GMT + 6 from second Sunday in April to
Saturday before last Sunday in September).
Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin continental
plugs are standard.
Getting Around by Air
The Airport Company includes the three
main airports of the country, Manas (Bishkek), Osh and Karakol. Other small
airports and landing strips have virtually been abandoned.
Airport “Manas” - one of the biggest and modern airports in
Central Asia and the first aircraft was landed in 1974. At this moment "Manas"
Airport provides with international and domestic flights, it is able to
accept all types of aircraft and possesses the longest artificial landing
runway in the region. Transportation geography from "Manas' Airport
includes European countries, Asian countries and Near east. Because of the
air terminal has significantly
changed. There are 3 check-in halls intended for simultaneous service of
three direction - international, CIS, domestic flights. All information
about flights operating is reflected on the special information monitors at
real time operation mode. Special attention is paid to
aviation security Nowadays it is one of
the leading airports of the region, which meets international security
There are internal connections from Bishkek to Cholpan-Ata,
Kara-Kol, Naryn and Osh. Travellers should note that maintenance procedures
for aircraft operating internally may not conform to internationally
accepted standards. Access to the Central Tien-Shan region is via
helicopter, which takes climbers up the Inylchek Valley
Getting Around by Rail
Kyrgyz railways operate about 320 km of
single track lines (with a total track length of 428 km). There is a main
line in the North, running off the Kazakhstan railways to Bishkek and
Balikci on the lake Issik Kul and eight branch lines off the Uzbek railway
in the south of the country. There is no rail connection between the North
and the South of the country. Track condition is basically adequate for the
low level of traffic.
Getting Around by Road
Traffic drives on the right.
There are busses and electrical busses( trolleybus)
in capital of Kyrgyzstan- Bishkek They are very cheap but not
quick. Inside the country as well as in Bishkek there is an alternative city
transport- that is private minibuses- there are a lot of minibuses on the
streets. You can stop them in any place to pick you up and stop in almost
any place to leave the buss. Minibuses have a numbers and drive according to
the fixed route. They are cheap and quick.
Taxis can be found in all major towns. Many are unlicensed, and fares should
be agreed in advance. As many of the street names, particularly in the
capital, have changed since independence, visitors are advised to ask for
both the old and the new names when seeking directions.
Kyrgyz Som (KGS; symbol лв) = 100 tyin. Notes are
in denominations of лв1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1, and 50, 10
and 1 tyin.There are 1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 1 som denominations.
Kyrgyzstan is a country that operates only with cash currency. Credit cards,
travel checks, etc are accepted in banks and in some hotels.
US dollars are very common in Kyrgyzstan . You can exchange foreign currency
in banks or in numerous exchange offices. Hotels, great amount of
restaurants and shops also can exchange money but at less advantageous rate.
Currency rate is growing, especially in autumn and drops a little in spring.
Exchange offices are in all cities. Some of the exchange offices are opened
24 hours a day. We recommend you only $US 100 and 50 denominations issued
not later than 1996, otherwise they are exchanged at the lower rate. It's
also necessary to have USD note that $ 1, 5, 10, 20 are exchanged at the
Foreign currencies can be exchanged at commercial
banks and at authorised bureaux de change. The US Dollar is the easiest
currency to exchange.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
Credit cards are accepted in some of the larger
hotels in Bishkek and can also be used at banks to withdraw cash from the
There is limited acceptance of these, but some
banks in Bishkek accept traveller's cheques, with US Dollars probably the
best option; commission charges are high. Cash is recommended.
Usually Mon-Fri 0930-1730
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