As we evolve right into a extra digital age, the place info is shared within the blink of an eye fixed, the mysteriousness of locations world wide begins to shrink.
We plan our journeys on blogs and get impressed on Instagram, and we regularly know fairly a bit about a spot earlier than we ever step foot off the airplane there. The extra I journey the world, the more durable it’s I’ve discovered to be fully shocked anymore; that preliminary pleasure of “wow, I wasn’t anticipating that” is way much less frequent, the extra stamps I acquire in my passport.
Once I hopped off the airplane in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I knew I used to be in for lots of surprises.
Whereas I did some planning and analysis earlier than I flew midway world wide to Central Asia, I averted taking a look at visible websites and restricted my critical planner aspect, hoping to be shocked.
And guys, shocked I used to be!
If I needed to hanker a guess, I might say most of you guys don’t know something about Kyrgyzstan, from the place it’s situated to learn how to spell it to what’s well-known for, Kyrgyzstan has undoubtedly been flying underneath the radar for worldwide vacationers for years.
However not anymore. With a strategic objective of boosting tourism, and figuring out they’ve obtained rather a lot to supply, Kyrgyzstan is working exhausting to get the eye it deserves.
Whereas I didn’t know a lot about this beautiful nation, I actually left two weeks later nearly overwhelmed with issues I discovered and with a newfound love for this superb land and folks.
Bottled down, listed here are 12 stuff you in all probability didn’t learn about Kyrgyzstan. Take pleasure in!
1. There are some big mountains
Greater than 90% of Kyrgyzstan is roofed in mountains. There are even three 7,000 meter peaks right here. So if you’re a mountain fiend like I’m, effectively that is the place for you.
They’re pretty accessible in the event you’re prepared to stroll or experience. It’s actually low cost to rent guides and porters and horses to move into the hills, and belief me, it’ll be the spotlight of your journey.
2. And likewise a ton of lakes
There are about 2000 lakes in Kyrgyzstan, most of them small mountain lakes. In Kyrgyz, the phrase for lake is “kul” one thing you’ll see rather a lot.
Lake Issyk-Kul is the place we spent most of our time on the journey. It’s the area with a few of the finest infrastructure and tourism growth, and the massive lake there’s magical. It’s the second largest mountain lake on the planet, 182 kilometers lengthy and as much as 60 kilometers large. It’s a whopper.
However what makes Issyk-Kul actually superior is that it’s heat and by no means freezes. In truth, it’s a bit salty. Much more random, the Black Plague is believed to have originated right here.
three. It’s the definition of a cultural melting pot
One of many greatest surprises for me in Kyrgyzstan is the wide range of tradition and ethnic teams that make up the nation. The principle language is Russian but additionally everybody speaks Kyrgys too. Believed to be descended from 40 unique tribes, the principle present faith is Islam. However, if I’m being sincere right here, it didn’t actually really feel like another Islam nation I’ve ever been to earlier than.
About half the individuals are ethnic Kyrgyz, the remainder are Russian, Uzbek, Tatar, Ukrainian, and even ethnic Chinese language Muslims referred to as the Dungan folks.
We spent a good bit of time in Karakol with a few of the native Dungan people, and it was so fascinating to study how they ended up there. And don’t even get me began on the meals.
four. Yurts, yurts all over the place
Should you go to Kyrgyzstan, you’ll spend a variety of time in yurts. They’re all over the place.
Although the realm we have been in was extra trendy, and whereas conventional nomadic tradition is being preserved, most individuals dwell in homes and trendy flats within the cities. We solely noticed the extra “genuine” type of yurts as soon as we have been excessive within the hills among the many nomad shepherds, and even then the yurt is usually been changed by a extra trendy tent.
The most effective methods to remain is on the yurt camps; they’re all over the place and tremendous low cost. It’s a type of lodging that kinda jogs my memory of Southeast Asia however even higher, holing up by the lake in a yurt of your personal consuming .60 cent beers and getting a tan and gorging your self on selfmade meals within the communal yurt.
They’re an superior technique to keep in Kyrgyzstan.
5. Bridenapping is certainly a factor
Now right here is one thing I’ve by no means seen earlier than and barely, if ever, heard about on my travels. Bride kidnapping, ala kachuu in Kyrgyz, which implies “seize and run.”
Regardless of being unlawful in Kyrgyzstan, kidnapping brides is fairly frequent. It ranges from an elaborately staged consensual kidnapping between a pair have have been relationship and are already engaged (often in cities) to undoubtedly not consensual grabbing a girl and forcing her into marriage (extra usually in rural locations).
Even these days it’s estimated that half of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan resulted from bridenappings and two thirds are non-consensual. 1 out of ever 10 ladies is married earlier than they flip 18. So, um, yeah.
Watch two actually good movies about it right here and right here.
6. It’s one of many best Central Asian nations to go to
Kyrgyzstan is at the moment visa-free for 45 nations (a lot of the EU, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Austalia and many others.) for as much as 60 days, making it the best of the Central Asian nations to go to as a vacationer.
America has had sturdy ties to Kyrgyzstan for the reason that collapse of the Soviet Union, giving over $2 billion in financial and tourism growth by way of USAID (The U.S. Company for Worldwide Developmen, with Kyrgyzstan being is the one freely elected parliamentary democracy in post-Soviet Central Asia. I traveled to Kyrgyzstan with USAID and was fascinated by the shut ties with America.
Much more fascinating, after many years, USAID is ending in Kyrgyzstan subsequent 12 months after the US State Division awarded a human rights award to Azimzhan Askarov, a journalist and activist at the moment serving a life sentence in Kyrgyzstan.
7. The meals is pleasant
My solely comparability for Kyrgyz meals earlier than I headed over was Mongolia, and after a month there in 2014, I set the bar extraordinarily low when it got here to foodie expectations. My bag was stuffed stuffed with granola bars in preparation for meals of sheep’s heads and horse meat.
Nevertheless, let me let you know, the meals in Kyrgyzstan is fabulous!
eight. However the mare’s milk…
Overlook Coca Cola, like Mongolia and lots of of its Central Asian neighbors, fermented mare’s milk is usually the drink of selection. And to the untrained palate (mine), it’s revolting. And can in all probability provide the runs too.
Greatest averted. From private expertise.
9. The World Nomad Video games are a should!
Each two years the World Nomad Video games are held in Cholpon Ata in an area that rivals one thing from Gladiator, and it’s principally the Olympics for Central Asian nomad tradition the place they compete in 16 conventional video games and sports activities.
Whereas I missed it visiting in 2017, it appears to be like prefer it’s on for 2018 and you may be relaxation assured I’ll be again for it.
10. Let’s play, naming your ancestor
One in all our younger guides advised me that in Kyrgyzstan each child learns and memorizes seven generations again of their fathers and grandfathers.
Rising up American (effectively I suppose I’m nonetheless American) I really feel just like the respect on your ancestors has been culturally misplaced in current many years. I actually can’t title anybody previous my grandparents, what about you? Be sincere.
It’s refreshing and borderline jarring to be confronted with a tradition who’s major significance, i.e. household and the previous, is so completely different than your personal which actually simply focuses on the current. It places issues in reasonably harsh perspective and it makes me want I targeted extra on household. Sorry mother!
11. If you wish to slot in, put jam in your tea
Tea consuming is a big a part of the tradition in Central Asia and isn’t any exception in Kyrgyzstan. You meet somebody, you share a cup of tea. There are sometimes elaborate rituals round how the tea is served, who serves is, what all of it means, that’s nearly incomprehensible to us outsiders.
However if you wish to slot in with the locals, subsequent time you’re provided a cup of tea, add a spoonful of jam into it. Go for the raspberry.
Whereas I’m fairly positive it is a custom that dates again to Soviet occasions (don’t quote me however I feel they do the jam + tea factor in Russia too) it’s one I undoubtedly can get behind.
12. It’s essentially the most stunning place you’ve by no means heard of and now’s the time to go
Everyone knows the phrase hidden gem is completely overused relating to journey, however on this case, it’s an ideal match.
Tourism has solely not too long ago begun to be extra established in Kyrgyzstan, and solely in sure components of the nation. If you’re an intrepid, curious traveler who desires to get off the crushed path (sure sure YES) then begin taking a look at flights to Bishkek.
Now could be the time to go to Kyrgyzstan. Simply wait to be shocked.
Have you ever been to Central Asia? Is Kyrgyzstan in your bucketlist? What place has shocked you essentially the most touring? Spill!