Blog | Silk Road Part 2: Kyrgyzstan
Before arriving in Kyrgyzstan it was a country I knew very little about, though I at least knew of it’s existence and roughly were it is located on a map (which tends to be a lot more than most people I speak to). In the past I’ve had a pretty good idea of what to expect of places I’ve travelled to, but the appeal of Kyrgyzstan was that it was unknown and full of surprises. It turns out that most were good surprises which made it a highlight of the Silk Road trip.
When looking in to which of the ‘stans’ were the best to visit most travellers recommended Kyrgyzstan for nature, and Uzbekistan for history and architecture. Knowing this I was expecting Kyrgyzstan to have some nice scenery but was blown away by how stunning it was, and how underrated it was as a destination. The majority of the country is mountainous, largely populated by horse riding nomads who live in Yurts (transportable tent-like homes), and has the worst roads of any country I’ve travelled to. It’s also not a destination for foodies unless you’re in to fermented mare’s milk and mutton, though there were some nice home cooked meals along the way and good cheap vodka thanks to the soviet influence.
After crossing the border from China there was a sudden change from dry and rocky mountains, to green and vibrant alpine terrain. In the distance there was a lake with surrounding snow-capped mountains and it felt as if I was back in New Zealand. Having come from the noise, pollution, and crowds of China it was incredibly relaxing and serene. The first couple of nights were spent in Yurts high up in the mountains (about 3000m) and in almost every direction the landscape was stunning. Needless to say that most of the photos I took in Kyrgyzstan are landscapes.
After a couple of days in the wilderness it was back to the city for a quick stop. Bishkek is the capital and full of tree lined streets juxtaposed with cold Soviet architecture and statues of Lenin. As most of Kyrgyzstan is quite rural and traditionally nomadic, Bishkek is quite small and seemed pretty relaxed. Pity the weather was very average as I would have love to have taken a lot more photos.
After Bishkek it was back to the countryside to take in more impressive mountains, some horse riding, a steep walk up to a waterfall, a swim in the massive Issyk Kul lake, and more mutton and Vodka. The photos will do more justice than words so I’ll leave it at that.
It’s not the most comfortable place to travel and lacking a lot of infrastructure, though it’s an amazing country with very friendly people and I think one of the best kept secrets of places to visit.