Date visited: Late June / Early July 2016
Total amount of days: 16
Total amount of coffees consumed: 14232543511
Coming into Kyrgyzstan we were unsure whether this place would be similar to Mongolia, but after two weeks in this country (we barely scratched the surface), we can safely say that it is very different and well worth the trip from wherever you are in the world.
As you may already have noticed (in our vlogs and blogs), we are not the most informative travellers out there (sorry) but we thought we would recap our trip for those who are wondering what we did.
KEY THINGS TO NOTE
Visas – Kyrgyzstan is visa free for many countries, so it is the easiest country to get in within Central Asia. (For Aussies, it is visa free for up to 30 days).
Language – They speak Russian and Kyrgyz here, so its really handy to learn the cyrillic alphabet and a few words of Russian and Kyrgyz here and there. (I think the local Kyrgyz people really appreciate it when you speak Kyrgyz too.) English is spoken by some people, but not many.
Ala-kul, in the Tianshan Mountains
Day 1 – 2 BISHKEK
Alvin did a callout on instagram to find a powerlifting gym in Kyrgyzstan, and luckily within minutes, we were put in contact with Tanya (Asian Powerlifting Federation, Board Member of Central Asia, if you were guys are wondering), who offered to show us around town, as well as the gym she trains at.
We met at Tsum, walked down Chuy Avenue, and made our way past Ala-too Square and Oak Park. We stopped by a restaurant, ate some boso laghman, horsemeat and beshbarmak (and tried some maxim) and then headed down to Osh Bazaar.
Osh Bazaar was great for buying fresh and cheap fruit, as well as trying to some interesting cheese balls and tobacco drugs.
Then off to the gym we went.
Day 3 – 4 – CHOLPON ATA
Caught a marshrutka (mini-van) down to Cholpon-Ata (about 5 hours) to a very touristy resort town at the Northern shores of Issyk-Kul. We just visited the beach, ate and took some pretty pictures.
Do visit the main public beach (unless you have the $$ to stay at the resorts with privates beaches), you can see some amazing views over the lake of the Tianshan Mountains on one side, and the Ala-too ranges on the other.
There are some water activities you can do here (jet ski, boat hang gliding etc), but we just went for a swim and tanned.
Day 5 – 9 KARAKOL
Caught a marshrutka down to Karakol (about 2 hours from Cholpon Ata). This is a small town forming the base for many treks and other mountain activities.
Shout out to Bed and Breakfast Nice (guesthouse) which was so lovely, clean and modern. The family who run it are really amazing. They are also associated with Nice Hostel, if hostels are more your thing. Note that the twin room at the Guesthouse is only AUD $19 anyway, which I think may only be a dollar or two more than the hostel.
We went for a 3 day trek starting at Karakol Gorge to Altyn Arashan (via Ala-kul Lake and Ala-kul pass). We are noobs so we hired a guide (as well as tents, sleeping bags, survival things etc.) from Ecotrek. Read this informative blogpost if you want to know whether you want to hike with or without a guide.
For us, the hike was bloody hard and by the end of Day 2, we had vowed to never trek again. But it was really really worth it.
We only went on one trek, but there are many others, as well as ATV tours, horse riding tours etc.
Also, if you are looking for a cafe in Karakol, visit Karakol Coffee. For food, our favourite place was Kench.
Day 10 and onwards
Back in Bishkek, we did a day hike to Kol-Tor with the Trekking Union. They organise weekend day hikes on Saturdays and Sundays to different locations, and include transportation and guides.
This was a fun day hike which was not difficult (compared to what we had done already). The lake was a highlighter colour (see below).
The rest of the days were spent running errands (haircut, gym, drinking coffee, eating fried chicken).
There are many more things to see and experience in Kyrgyzstan (living in yurts, horse trekking, kayaking, skiiing and snowboarding in the winter, Osh, trekking the really high mountains (second highest mountain ranges after the Himalayas (which we didn’t), so please visit, it is really really worth it.
Watch our Kyrgyzstan series from Episode 23