Vacation in Kyrgyzstan
10 things to do in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan, the 90% territory of which is located on the height of 1500 meters and above, first of all, is famous for its beautiful mountain peaks and high-mountain pearl of the country – Lake Issyk-Kul. Vacation in Kyrgyzstan is not only golden sand beaches of Issyk-Kul and mountain resorts, we will tell you about 10 things to do in the country glorified by “Manas” epos; without them your trip won’t be complete.
1. See Lake Issyk-Kul - the pearl of Tyan-Shan. Crystal clear mountain lake Issyk-Kul does not freeze even during the coldest time. Its inspiring beauty reminds a fairy-tale. People say that a journey here presents more impressions than a month long travelling. Protected with the mountain chains, the valley of Issyk-Kul has several climate types: sea, steppe, mountain and the zone of glaciers. Issyk-Kul attracts with its golden sand beaches, alpine meadows and coniferous forests. The Lake is well-known for its resorts, sanatoriums and spa treatment. The resort area is rich for its thermo-mineral radon springs and offers wide range of mud and thermo-mineral treatment. It’s hard to imagine vacation in Kyrgyzstan without diving into the turquoise waters of beautiful Issyk-Kul Lake.
2. Climb the Burana Tower. No other architectural monument on the Kyrgyz land is as famous as the minaret of the Karakhanids Khanate – the Burana Tower. The tower was erected in the 11th century from bricks. Brick tower differs much from other towers built earlier in Central Asia, thus founding a new direction. According to various evaluations, the initial height of the tower was from 40 to 45 meters. Today the tower is no more than 20 meters. Make sure you take a trip there, where once there was Balasagun – the capital of the Karakhanids Khanate owning at those times a huge territory. Burana Tower was erected in the period of Khanate’s heyday and you will definitely hear many beautiful and sad legends related to the tower from your tour guides.
3. Hear the roaring sounds of the waterfall in Arslanbob. Did you know that the origin of the walnuts (known in Russian as “Gretskiy orekh”), beloved in different parts of the world, is in the valley of the Arslanbob river with the biggest nut woods. So is the opinion not only of those who live in this resort area located 1700meters above the sea level, but many other scientists as well. The story goes back to the Alexander the Great and his legions. The square of the reserve of the Arslanbob valley makes 16,300 hectares, out of which 7,255 hectares are planted with nut woods. At present around 1500 tons of walnuts are harvested annually. The mountain resort with its waterfalls, cliff gorges, nut valleys and fruit forests (pistachios, apples and cherry plums) and healing air has been the most beloved vacation resort for the dwellers of the Ferghana Valley. If you are on your vacation in Kyrgyzstan, make sure you visit Arslanbob and climb there where there are icy mountain river streams falling down the cliffs into a waterfall. There are well-known Big and Small Arslanbob waterfalls. According to one of the versions, it is the Big Arslanbob waterfall falling down from the 80 meters resembling the sound of a roaring lion had given the name to this paradise valley – Arslonbob – “Lion gates”.
4. Touch the holy rocks of Tamga-Tash. Tamga-Tash is a chain of three rocks engraved with the Tibetan inscriptions. On the first rock, a huge boulder, there is inscribed in Tibetan: “Om mani badme hum”. It is a mantra of bodhisattva Avalokiteshravra – the oldest and one of the most famous mystic formulas of Buddha tantrism. Its meaning is much wider from its literal translation: “O, pearl, shining in the flower of lotus”. Inscriptions are made on two more boulders, each of which is one km away from another. The approximate creation time of the inscriptions differs: not earlier than 8th century and not later than 17th century. And during all these centuries, Buddhist pilgrims walked to the Tamga gorge on the south shore of Issyk-Kul, to see with their own eyes and feel with their palms the roughness of the rocky sanctuary. Experience the mystery of the holy place.
5. Draw some water from the “Yellow cup” of the Sary-Chelek Lake. If Issyk-Kul is the most famous lake in Kyrgyzstan, then the Sary-Chelek is doubtlessly the most picturesque, mysterious and fantastic. The lake, located in the height of 1873 meters above the sea level, stretches for 7,5 km long. The width of the lake ranges between 350 and 1500m. It is not that easy to get here as the lake is situated on the territory of the Sary-Chelek State Biosphere Reserve, in the western part of Tyan-Shan, on the southern ridge of the Chatkal mountain range. The reserve stretches for 23,868 hectares and is situated on the height of 1200 till 4247 meters above the sea level. There are flora and fauna being preserved there, most of which have entered the Red Book. There you can see bears, wolves, lynx, foxes, deer, boar, porcupine and rulers of the snowy cliffs – snow leopards. Fishing in rivers flowing into the lake is prohibited, but in the lake itself you can try your luck on fishing. The lake is called “The Yellow Cup” due to its amazing feature of reflecting the autumn forest on its deep waters that gets till 234 meters.
6. See the “stone garden” of Cholpon-Ata. If you are on a vacation in Kyrgyzstan – you should definitely visit the museum of rock paintings under the sky stretching on the territory of 42 hectares on the shores of the Issyk-Kul Lake. Here, on the square of 4 thousand km and the width that ranges between 600m and 2000m lie thousands of boulders in the size of 0,5 and 3 meters that have petroglyphs inscribed on them. Many of the pictures of ancient artists have been done in Saka-Scythian “animal” style: pictures of hunters, scenes from hunting with tamed snow leopards. Easy to recognize are the exquisitely done pictures of argali and deer, bulls and horses. The main part of petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata date back to the period of the 2 B.C. – 4 A.D., though there are also later pictures too. Most of the stones face south-east and south-west thus they relate their origin to religious rituals and ceremonies. It could be that these cromlechs served as astronomical tools. The best time to visit the museum is early morning or late in the evening when outlines of the pictures are seen clearly.
7. Visit the rocky caravan-saray under the sky. Ancient caravan-saray Tash-Rabat is located on the height of 3500m above the sea level. The stone building has been restored where once there was an inn on the Great Silk Road, and had preserved the medieval atmosphere. The first building in this picturesque gorge Kara-Koyun turned out here already in the 10th century, and in the 15th century a fundamental building was erected on its place. Tash-Rabat was used for protection from bad weather and robbers of caravan going from the Chu and Ferghana Valleys to Kashgar and back. Also it was a resting and worship place. Gorge slopes are filled with meadows where herds of horses and yaks, flocks of sheep and goats are grazing. There are no similar caravan-sarays in the entire Central Asia.
8. Buy Uzgen rice in the markets of Osh. If you are on your vacation in Kyrgyzstan, then take a trip to Osh. And when you are finally in Osh, make sure you go to one of the oldest markets of the world – bazaar “Jayma” stretching along the west shores of the river Ak-Bura for a kilometer. This bazaar is famous for its location on the crossroad of trading routes from India to Europe for already more than 2000 years. There is everything there - literally everything. Food and household appliances, crafts rows and textiles, perfumery and souvenirs, fresh fruits and pistachios, hot bread and plov. There are even some stockyard rows too. Guests from all corners of Ferghana Valley and adjoining countries flow to this biggest bazaar in Kyrgyzstan. Make sure you leave bazaar with Uzgen rice in your shopping basket. How many people, so many opinions, but the best plov is made of Uzgen rice bought in the Osh bazaar.
9. Climb the Mount Suleiman. Four-headed mountain range of Suleiman-Too (Suleiman Mountain) is situated in the centre of the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan, the city of Osh. For centuries pilgrims have been going to this holy mount where, according to the legend, the biblical King Solomon had prayed. It is considered that forehead and knees of the prophet have been imprinted on the rocks of that period. Unique historical and architectural monument that the founder of the Great Mogol Dynasty Bobur had cared for, lived through different moments. The place especially suffered during the rule of the Communists. In 2009, the Mount Suleiman-Too had been included to the UNESCO World Heritage List. These days the biggest part of the mountain is included in the list of the National Museum-Reserve “Great Silk Road” and comprises of the Mausoleum of Asaf ibn-Burkhiya, mosque “Takhti-Suleiman” (The Throne of Solomon) and mosque Jami Ravat Abdullakhan; both mosques are of 9-11th centuries.
10. Visit the World Nomads Games. Plan your vacation in Kyrgyzstan to the ethnographic tourist festival “World Nomads Games” that is held in the city of Cholpon-Ata on the shores of the Issyk-Kul Lake. The event is the unique opportunity to take a trip through the time. You will see contests on ten kinds of sports: alish (belt wrestling), alaman bayge (hurdle-race on a long distance), jorgo salysh (races on amble horses), kazak kurosh, kok boru (goat bashing), kunan chabysh (races of 3-year old horses), Kyrgyz kurosh, ordo (Kyrgyz national game on bones), toguz korgool (Kyrgyz intellectual board game), er enish (wrestling on horses). World Nomads Games is not only a sport championship; it is also a rich cultural program. It also includes cooking numerous rare dishes; even the royal dish like lamb cooked in sour cream. You will also hear old songs, explore ritual dances and even the ceremony for expulsion of evil spirits.