Kyrgyzstan is located in Central Asia, tucked into a geographic nexus of mountain ranges that seem to collide. Massive mountains split by plummeting valleys, deep gorges, icy glaciers, and beryl lakes cover almost all of the country’s topography. These monstrous ranges beckon hikers and horseback riders, from the Central Tian Shan to ranges throughout the Alay Valley. Visitors can bed down under the star-filled sky like wandering nomads or tuck into a traditional yurt. In Kyrgyzstan, traditional nomadic lifestyles are prominent. A trek around the largest alpine lake in the world can be accomplished via the Lake Issyk-Kul hills. Locals partake in one of the most fascinating, and head-shaking, battles in a friendly game of Kok-Boru where men on horseback grapple for the golden prize of a headless goat. Filled with herds and their herdsmen, the scenic area around central Kyrgyz Republic’s Lake Song-Kol is perfect for pitching a tent and enjoying the scenery.
The largest city and capital of Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek, a destination that either can’t seem to decide what it is exactly or can’t quite seem to get there. That’s not a negative point, though. The city is fascinating even though its history doesn’t really predate World War II. Public buildings with marble facades and wide avenues feature Russian-style apartment buildings that envelope central courtyards built upon a grid pattern. Thousands of residential homes sit outside the center, laying the groundwork for the city. Located off the north edge of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range, Bishkek sits at more than 2,500 feet high with an incredible backdrop of mountains creating a magical scene. A gently rising and extremely fertile plain extends into the country’s northern area, giving way to Kazakhstan. A spur-line unites the city with the Turkestan-Siberian Railway. Local attractions include an array of museums, several bustling bazaars, and nearby valleys and gorges ideal for skiing and hiking.
Music of Kyrgyzstan
The music of the Kyrgyz Republic is both rural and nomadic and characterized by utilization of undulating, continued pitches. There are prominent sounds involved in the music that are clearly associated with traditional Russian music and also close ties to the music of Turkmenistan. The national instrument, called a komuz, is a very old stringed instrument made of a single wooden piece. It is fretless and related to the lute. Kyrgyzstani folk music includes several other traditional instruments including a side blown flute called a sybyzgy, a jaw harp (mouth komuz), and the Kyl Kiak, which is a upright bow instrument with two strings. The Manaschi are the traveling shaman and musicians of the Kyrgyz Republic and are famous for playing the komuz and singing epic tales of heroism.
History of Kyrgyzstan
History of Kyrgyzstan
Nomads who have roamed the lands of Central Asia for centuries, the Kyrgyz people are directly related to the ancient Turkic people. The country was ruled by the Soviets for more than seven decades, until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. It was then that the tourist ban was lifted. Dominated by agriculture, the diminutive, mountainous country has become Central Asia’s most progressive, adopting new democratic foundations and executing reforms.
The Kyrgyz people’s ancestors likely lived in parts of Siberia up until the 10th century. Once the Mongol invasions began, they began spreading to the south. In later years, in the area that is present-day Kyrgyzstan, under the 18th century Manchus, was officially part of Kokand Khanate, a historic Central Asian state. A 19th century Russian invasion led to an amalgamation of Kyrgyz land into the Soviet Union. Long ago, the ancient town of Osh, the country’s oldest city, held a decisive place along the old Silk Road.
It comes as no surprise that the largest number of Kyrgyzstan hotels are located in the capital of Bishkek. There are more than a dozen options throughout the city, most of them on par with Western hotels in terms of amenities and services. A little unexpected for some, the Hyatt Regency (pictured) is a popular hotel in central Bishkek at the Tian Shan foothills. In Karakol, near Issyk-Kul Lake, there are several hotels available to accommodate tourists enjoying lake activities. In the beach town of Cholpon Ata, July through August is packed and it can be hard to get a room. Popular hotels here include Le Meridien and the Four Seasons. For an authentic experience, staying in a traditional yurt is a must. There are also scores of guesthouses that are basic, usually family-run, operations in smaller buildings or homes.