Unique Places in Kyrgyzstan

  • Mountain view
    Mountain view
    by Tobbelkp
  • Lots of horses everywhere
    Lots of horses everywhere
    by Tobbelkp
  • Lake Issuk Kul
    Lake Issuk Kul
    by Tobbelkp

Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Kyrgyzstan

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    The Torugart Pass, road to China and Kashgar

    by budapest8 Updated Oct 20, 2010


    Being the first Westerners, or Capitalists as our reluctant
    host Dr.Bek regarded us as, did cause even more suspicions
    when I spent a long time oogling the detailed Soviet map
    he had of the area, and asked him all sorts of questions about
    border crossings and which border crossings were open.
    I was dreaming of maybe coming back and making the
    trek overland to Kashgar in China. I knew there were flights,
    but having spent since Sept 1989 in the Soviet Union/Russia,
    knew how tricky visa's and restricted borders were.
    I had heard rumours that some Westerners had crossed over,
    and there were some Tours getting through, but no hard data.

    The Torugart Pass (Elevation-3,752 m (12,310 ft))
    is a remote mountain border crossing
    between Kyrgyzstan and China .
    Until 2002 when the Irkeshtam pass was opened for passenger traffic
    between the two countries it was the ONLY border crossing between
    China and the Kyrgyz Republic which could be used by tourists –
    for example, those traveling the Silk Road .

    View from Border of Kirgiz side

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    Barskoon, the reason we came to Kirgizstan.

    by budapest8 Updated Oct 20, 2010


    It all started some months before Yeltsin stood on a tank,
    before Kirgiztan gained independence, in the kitchen of
    my Russian girlfriend in Leningrad where I was living when chatting
    to a Kirgiz boy who was studying there in the city.
    The USSR was such a vaste nation and I wanted to see
    places not yet seen by other westerners, hidden in the
    far corners tucked away on the UNTRODDEN PATH:
    Dr.Bek was an olf friend of his family and we got an address
    in Barskoon and a phone number.
    4 days and nights on a train to Alma Ata, a lift across the mountains
    to Bishkek, then 4 more nights later we arrived.

    Barskoon. Barskoon and Tamga are twin Kyrgyz and Russian villages at the mouth of the Barskoon valley - which has an impressive waterfall and is a good centre for trekking and horsering.
    The 11th century scholar Mahumud al-Kashgari (also known as Barskhani) was a native of this area. He is best known as the author of the first Turkic languages comparative dictionary which he wrote whilst living in Baghdad in 1072-1074. His map of the then known world has Barskoon at the centre of the world. His tomb is South of Kashgar - on the road to Pakistan.
    The road from Barskoon which passes up the Barskoon valley, (the A364) used to be one of the routes of the Silk Road, passing over the Bedel Pass (4284 m) into China.
    It is now the main road leading to the Kumtor Gold mine - hence it is well maintained and there is a reasonable amount of traffic - including lorries making their way up to the mine and back.
    There are two interesting things, along the road - a Soviet lorry mounted on a plinth and a bust of Yuri Gagarin, (Our host Dr.Bek told us it was his idea to erect this bust, who knows?) who holidayed on the South shore of Issyk Kul after his historic first manned space flight.
    In the mountains to the East is a region known as Sytyr - an «alpine cold desert».
    In Soviet times the road turned East along the upper Naryn River and looped round over the Yshtyk Pass (3689 m) to Ak Shyrak, Enilchek and eventually back to the city of Karakol. Unfortunately, some of the bridges are now down and the road, (never an easy route), is no longer passable

    Nino in front of the Gagarin monument Issik Kul 1991 our visit to Barskoon school
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    Ak-Shyrak. on the road from Barskoon.

    by budapest8 Updated Oct 20, 2010


    We stayed in Barskoon several nights, we were the first ever Westerners to
    visit this town. We stayed in the house of Dr.Bek and his wife was a school teacher
    in the local school in Barskoon. There were only Kirgiz people in the town/village,
    but up on a nearby hill, some Russians in some sort of scientific station.
    We visited many places surrounding and Ak-Shyrak was one just up the road.

    Ak-Shyrak. The furthest up the A364 that it is possible to reach following the A364 from Barskoon. Achaeologists have discovered evidence here of early ore excavations in the canyon here.

    Hunting with the eagles the Kirgiz way
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    At-Bashi & ruins of a small citadel at Kara-Suu

    by budapest8 Updated Oct 20, 2010


    Although we spent 6 weeks in and around the Issik Kul Lake, because it was winter, we didn't make many
    places because the roads are blocked by snow and ice in the winter, or just darn dangereous.

    At-Bashi. a town, which stands on the site of settlements that date from the 8th to 14th centuries.
    The main road from Naryn to Torugart takes you over the Kyzyl-Bel pass with views along the crest of the At-Bashi mountain range, to the village of At-Bashi, and the nearby ruins of a small citadel at Kara-Suu dating from the 10th or 12th century. The 5 metre high walls are known as Koshoi-Korgon and are where the legendary Kyrgyz hero Manas is supposed to have buried his friend Koshoy. Just before the end of the asphalt, and the start of the gravel road - the highway widens and was an emergency military airstrip built in the Soviet period to be used in the event of hostilities with China (apparently it was never used and is poorly maintained today). Further on is the Tash-Rabat caravanserai - an architectural monument from the middle Ages. It is about 125 km from Naryn, and 80 km from Torugart border post, at an altitude of 3530m. The road continues around the end of the At-Bashi mountains, past Chatyr-Kul lake to the border post.

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    Ala-Bash valley

    by budapest8 Written Oct 20, 2010


    Ala-Bash,
    valley - (southern shore of the Issyk-Kul).
    Ala-Bash is a small mountain, dotted with sharp black and red cliffs,
    which proudly stands in the center of the valley. By the south -
    eastern foot of the Ala-Bash was once a medieval village,
    the ruins of which are clearly visible from the slopes.
    Many Petroglyphs with hunting scenes and images of wild goats
    remained on the mountain. At the foot of the mountain is a rock
    with carved Buddhist mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" on it

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    The Chinese mosque in Karakol

    by lovesjetlag Updated Jan 12, 2006

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    I guess not so many mosques around the world have such a distinct Chinese style. This is because the border with China is so near. The Mosque is located 600 meters from the Main Bazaar in direction of Ak Suu; it was build without nails by architects and artisans belonging to the local Dungan community (Dunga: term used in the former Soviet People to define Muslim people of Chinese origin who feld China in the 19th century).
    Non Muslim women cannot enter the mosque itself, they have access to the gardens and to the backyard as besides in all the mosques I've seen in Kyrghyzstan.

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    At Bashi in Naryn

    by His_Beloved Written Jun 16, 2005

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    At Bashi is pretty far off the normal beaten path, but well worth the visit just to see the majestic mountains here that seperate Kyrgyzstan from China. Shepherd's Life runs a program to let tourists stay with locals in their Yurts in this area, so be sure to look them up when you're in Naryn.

    Festival at At Bashi for New Bridge
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    Jety Oguz Valley

    by His_Beloved Written Jun 13, 2005

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    Meaning "7 bulls" in the local language, this valley is famous for the 7 red sandstone cliffs that local legend gives an interesting history to. On the other side of these cliffs is Broken Heart Rock, which has an entirely different legend to go with it. Even besides the interesting local legendry, the valley is beautiful and fully worth the effort to visit for a day hike or light camping. It's located about an hour from Karakol City on the south shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

    CBT Karakol can help arrange transportation to and from the valley.

    Broken Heart Rock
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    Amazing little waterfall

    by MrRandMcnally Written Sep 2, 2003

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    Follow the Road From Song Kul to Naryn south. After an impossible number of switchbacks lead you down from the high vally the raod looks to level off as a mountian stream begins to parralel the road. Take a break, you'll need one after the hairraising downhill drive, and walk up stream a bit, maybe a 1/4 mile. Hidden from the raod is a beautiful and powerful waterfall. the fall is only about 20 feet high but the volume of water is impressive. A beautiful and hidden sight.

    The Falls
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    Lenin at the Resoviour

    by MrRandMcnally Written Sep 2, 2003

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    Near Talas(ask directions in the town) there is a resoviour held into a valy by a large dam. Carved into the wall of the mountian, right over the dam, is a huge Lenin head. With his slightly asian looks he watches over the dam built by communist forces and watches a world very different from Lenins stomping grounds in St. Petersburg.

    See Lenin on the Far Side
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    Karkara Valley: remote border with Kazakstan

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 25, 2003

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    This ride is really fantastic as you will enjoy amazing mountain scenery, interesting birdlife, tiny remote villages and -in summer- yurts and cattle everywhere in the lush and quiet valley!

    An interesting option for the more adventurous, If you want to travel to/from Kazachstan or just do some sightseeing or hiking in the Valley.

    Arriving from Kazakstan there's no public transport between the border and Karakol, but the relaxed Kyrgyz border officials will help you to get a ride (if there's anything passing).

    Otherwise for a good looking $10 note one of the guys was certainly prepared to bring take me the 90 km in his Lada to Karakol!

    entering the Karkara Valley
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    Torugart Pass: exciting overland route to China

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 21, 2003

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    This 700km trip over the 3752m Torugart Pass between Bishkek and Kashgar (China) is one of the most exciting road trips I undertook during my travels

    The scenery is breathtaking on both sides of the border. At the Kyrgyz side mostly uninhabited wilderness and icy mountains, on the Chinese side it's dry, with steep, red coloured canyons, a red coloured river and some Kyrgyz or Uyghur villages.

    Although there's a direct busconnection, foreigners are not allowed to use this (2001).
    In fact it was almost impossible to do it independently because of all the hassles and formalities.

    I'm not gonna list these here (that's what a guidebook is for), but almost all travellers have their crossing pre-arranged by a travel agent. You can only cross in summer, but even then it's occasionally closed.

    I used "Edelweiss" in Bishkek, they took care of everything, including putting me up with other travellers to share the 4WD car. It was not perfect but you are not very realistic if you demand so. It did cost an expensive $140 each with 6 persons including everything besides the night in Naryn ($4) and food.

    But it's absolutely fantasic to arrive in Kasgar after the 2 day journey.

    important note
    "A lot" of travellers nowadays cross the border at Irkestham between Kashgar and Osh. It opened recently and, according to reports, it's hasslefree, even for independent travellers (if you have the proper visa).
    The Torugart Pass still remains the complicated, minor crossing as described.

    approaching the Pass
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    Osh: important gateway and friendly people!

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 21, 2003

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    Osh is Kyrgyzstan’s 2nd biggest city, located in the Islamic Fergana valley and gateway to China (via Irkeshtam), Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as well as a base for trekking the Pamirs.

    I stayed in Osh for only 2 days on my way to Uzbekistan, and spend my time mostly in the Park, hanging around the open air Choykana’s (teahouses), where jobless and old men were socializing.
    The common seat is the takhta, a square raised platform that you share with some half a dozen of others while sitting on a carpet and leaning on cushions. The teapot is in the middle.

    Actually Osh is mainly Uzbek and to be honest I found the people here more welcoming and open than in the rest of urban Kyrgyzstan.

    Also don’t forget –although it’s difficult to overlook- to check out the huge and fabulous bazaar!!

    Flying to/from Bishkek cost around $35 one way I local currency. But if you're not comfortable in a modern plane I would think twice ;-)

    friends at a choykana
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    An exciting road trip to Osh

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 21, 2003

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    Just having lost $100 on the “militsa”-check **, I was really annoyed when sitting on the back seat of the shared taxi to Osh. But this 22 hour journey soon did me forget everything that had happened before!

    The road to Toktogul, over high mountainpasses and through dark tunnels, was covered in mist and mostly under construction, and traffic jams were abundant. It’s the only road connecting the isolated South with the rest of Kyrgyzstan.

    I had company of 3 young women, one of which Uyghur and 2 Kyrgyz.
    After about 6 hours in the car, around midnight, we stopped at a teahouse along the road where they also served fish from Lake Toktogul, which was not very nice, but with 2 bottles of vodka to wash it down, it was all right.
    The mood was improving fast. We moved some furniture away so that we had our own dance floor! Think we have been dancing their, along the road, for more than an hour!

    When we continued, I was hanging between the two exuberant and half drunk girls. Music loud, singing, the same tape a hundred times. Modern Talking “girl, you’re so sexy don’t you know”. We stopped couple of times to buy new drinks and buy snacks –mainly made from sour milkproducts.

    At dawn we stopped at a house on the shores of the beautiful turquoise coloured Lake Toktogul. I went with one of the girls to the lake. Sunrise! Outside the house –in the open air- a few beds were rented out to travellers. We used them for some hours. The driver had to rest.

    The second part of the journey, with daylight, was just as fantastic. Some of the most beautiful mountain scenery I ever saw. So many different colours, the Naryn River. Incredible!

    Eventually we arrived in Osh after 22 hours in the Daewoo Nexia. A great ride! I had to pay $11 +$3 for not taking the shortcut through Uzbekistan.

    Important: the Kyrgyz wanted to take a shortcut near Jalal Abad through Uzbekistan, but if you agree on this, you likely lose your Uzbek visa on just a 15 minute visit!!!!

    ** see under “tourist traps”

    in the teahouse
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    Bishkek: a bit of luxury between tough travels

    by Bonobo2005 Updated May 21, 2003

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    As I’m not a citylover, I didn’t explore Biskhek very well during my 9 days stay. Still I can say that it’s a pleasant and useful stopover to relax and do your formalities within a bit of luxury between tough travels.

    The highlights to me included enjoying the wide variety of restaurants with it’s nice terraces, hanging around the Ala-Too Square watching life going by, hanging around in the parks and meet some students, a quick walk over the lively markets and buying an English book at the Akademkniga shop on Moskva Road and reading them in my hotel.

    I stayed in Hotel Semetey, enjoying the most luxurious room I ever had, with TV, separate living room, sleeping room, balconies, bathroom with unlimited hot water, fridge and all that stuff for $14/room.

    But much of the time I spent on arranging my Turkmen and Uzbek Invitation Letters, a Kyrgyz re-entry visa and later –when I received the Letter- the Uzbek visa. It takes too much efforts to explain all this, but if you’re interested please mail me!

    Brilliant shot of the Lenin statue ;-)
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Kyrgyzstan Off The Beaten Path

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