What should I know about Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan: The most beautiful hikes and sights

Songköl Lake, at over 3,000 meters above sea level, is popular with nomads. From June they will set up their white yurts on its bank. The road to Songköl winds through the mountains and gets lost in nowhere. Perhaps that is why it is called "Last Lake". Up here you can wonderfully hike for many days over the vast alpine pastures, spend the night with families in yurt camps and listen to the legends surrounding the still water around the campfire. By the way, anyone who believed that edelweiss belonged in the Alps and nowhere else will be taught better in Kyrgyzstan: On numerous hikes, you walk across vast meadows full of silvery flowers. This is probably one of the reasons why Kyrgyzstan is sometimes called "oriental Switzerland".

You are amazed by this country all the time. Even in the most remote corners, where one would not expect it, one meets agricultural economists, nurses, lots of well-trained people. That is probably still a legacy of Soviet rule, I noticed it especially with women. Also how self-determined they are and how much drive they have. I felt a great lightness in Kyrgyzstan and found the Kyrgyz people to be very life-affirming.

Our hiking guide Begaim, for example, was originally an opera singer in the capital Bishkek. One evening around the campfire we were amazed to learn from her that in addition to a state opera including ballet, there is also a philharmonic orchestra in Bishkek - you wouldn't necessarily have expected that in the middle of the mountains in Central Asia. But Begaim has given up singing, she loves the mountains and knows her way around nature incredibly well. At the same time, she is good at leading people. But she remains consistent when singing: Even if everyone is sitting around the campfire and singing songs - you won't hear a sound from Begaim.

As an architect, I was also thrilled in Bishkek: The city is a kind of open-air museum for successful Soviet urban planning, designed on the drawing board. There is sophisticated concrete architecture from the early modern era, prefabricated buildings with oriental motifs, spacious parks and avenues. All of this still offers a high quality of life today. True flowers can be discovered behind the former Iron Curtain. The parks and boulevards are full of strollers, and live music ranging from traditional to rock can be heard from pubs.

Many different ethnic groups still live in Kyrgyzstan today. Islam plays a rather subordinate role in public life. Although traditional Muslim festivals are celebrated, they like to drink a beer or, better still, a vodka. In the country, the older women wear headscarves, but more from tradition and because of sun protection. In Bishkek in particular, you will meet very revealingly dressed women, and even during the fasting month of Ramadan the restaurants are well attended during the day.

The Kyrgyz have high hopes for the slowly developing tourism. In the meantime there is also a really well-functioning tourist infrastructure, such as the overnight stays offered by the "CBT" (Community Based Tourism). In the village of Kochkor, for example, the emerging tourism brings a family a direct income: a whole group of hikers has plenty of space in the large family house, and the guest rooms all have their own bathroom. Diana, the wife of the house, used to be a nurse. At the excellent dinner with dumplings, lamb dishes and vegetables, she told us that the pension was low and that she was therefore happy to be able to increase the family income by catering to tourist groups. There are many other options for gentle tourism in Kyrgyzstan: staying in yurts, dining with families or hiking through the mountains with nomads. Many local guides are perfectly trained and incredibly nice and helpful.


The best travel time for me is ...
If you want to go hiking in the mountains, you have to come in summer = mid-June - mid-September.

The best hike I've done there is ...
A five-day crossing in the Tien Shan Mountains to Lake Issyk Kul, alpine hikes at Lake Songköl and in the valley of flowers "with its famous red Jety-Ögüz rock formation at the entrance to the valley", which we all also have in our program for worldwide hikes.

What makes the hike special?
Practically no other hikers, overnight stays with local families in yurts.

I think this hiking guide, this map is great
I think the Kyrgyzstan travel guide from the Trescher publishing house is good.
Djamilja, childhood in Kyrgyzstan, a day longer than a lifetime, farewell to Gülsary from Tschingis Aitmatov

What do you have to watch out for?
For me, Kyrgyzstan is a really safe travel destination!

My personal insider tip:
My big "aha - experience" was the capital Bishkek, with numerous cozy cafes, beautiful parks and an amazing urban social life with music groups and many strollers. Swimming in the warm Issyk Kul lake with a view of the snow mountains is also extremely great!

Travel information: