Kyrgystan tours to places of interest. For mature & senior travellers who enjoy escorted small group tours exploring the culture & history of the place.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Coach services operate between Bishkek and several major towns in Kyrgyzstan. Train services are fairly limited, so might not constitute the best option for transportation while in Kyrgyzstan. Taxis are generally inexpensive and can be found in all major towns, though fares should be agreed upon in advance.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Environment, & Weather
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country, with a total area of 199,951 square kilometres. Mountains dominate the country, with the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain systems together making up about 65% of the national territory. Almost 90% of the country lies at an elevation of more than 1,500 metres above sea level, with an average elevation of 2,750 metres. There is considerable glaciation in Kyrgyzstan, with glaciers covering 8,048 square kilometres of Kyrgyzstan’s surface area, while a further 7,000 square kilometres are covered by lakes.
The climate in Kyrgyzstan varies from region to region, including temperate, dry continental, and polar climates. Temperatures can drop well below freezing in winter, especially in the mountain valleys, so depending on when and where you intend to travel, check the weather reports and dress accordingly.
World Heritage sites
Kyrgyzstan has 3 properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/kg). The World Heritage Sites in Kyrgyzstan include:
Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor, the historic former trade route linking China and Central Asia
Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, which features 17 places of worship and over 100 archaelogical sites decorated with ancient petroglyphs
Western Tien-Shan, the towering mountains that dominate the Kyrgyzstan landscape
Festivals & Events
Kyrgyzstan’s numerous festivals and events celebrate the unique culture and traditions of the nation. As a Muslim majority country, Ramadan is observed across the nation with fasting and prayer, the end of which is celebrated with the Eid al-Fitr holiday, featuring family parties and feasting. The nomadic traditions of Kyrgyzstan are celebrated in events such as the Bird of Prey Festival, where falconers and their birds take part in falconry contests, and the Kyrgyz Kochu Festival, which marks the traditional annual migration of nomadic herders and their flocks with national games, horse races, music, dancing, and celebrating.
Roaming Kyrgyzstan: Beyond the Tourist Track, by Jessica Jacobson
The Silk Road in World History, by Xinru Liu
Inside Central Asia, by Dilip Hiro
The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan
Eating & Drinking
The nomadic and pastoral traditions of Kyrgyzstan has heavily shaped the country’s cuisine, with meat a central part of Kyrgyzstani diet. Noodles often supplement meat in Kygyzstani dishes, including besh barmak (shaved lamb served with noodles and onions), laghman (meat, vegetables and noodles served with a spicy vinegary sauce) and ashlyam fu (a cold, spicy soup made of meat, vegetables and noodles). Like elsewhere in Central Asia, paloo (plov, or pilaf) is a popular dish, which features rice, carrots, onions and shredded meat. Breads and pastries also play an important part in Kygyzstan’s cuisine, with popular dishes including samsa (pastries filled with meat and onions) and borsok (small pieces of dough fried in oil).
Although Kyrgyzstan is a Muslim majority country, alcohol is consumed and is available in Kyrgyzstan, with popular alcoholic beverages including arak (vodka) and kymyz (fermented mare’s milk). Tea is widely consumed, with tea often offered to guests at meals.
Health & Safety
As of writing, smartraveller.gov.au advises a degree of caution when travelling through Kyrgyzstan. There is a potential for civil unrest in certain areas, so avoid demonstrations and street rallies. It is advised to reconsider travelling to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek and Kyrgyz-Tajik border areas and the Ferghana Valley due to a potentially volatile security situation.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Kyrgyzstan’s electricity supply runs at 220V and 50Hz. Kyrgyzstan uses Type C and Type F electric plugs, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
Kyrgyzstan has a single time zone, Kyrgyzstan Time (UTC+6). Daylight savings are not observed in Kyrgyzstan.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Generally speaking, tipping is not mandatory, though can be expected amongst drivers, guides and hotel staff.
Wifi should be available in many hotels, cafes and restaurants when travelling in Kyrgyzstan, though speeds can vary.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Kyrgyzstan. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Kyrgyzstan
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although some locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Before departing on your trip, contact your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of som in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.