Unspoiled & Undiscovered: Central Asia’s Best-Kept Secret

The soaring peaks and broad valleys of the Tien Shan Mountains blanket most of landlocked Kyrgyzstan. Semi-nomadic Kyrgyz herders have had this little prize to themselves until now. The country’s dramatic beauty is balanced by vital cultural traditions and warm hospitality. With politics cooling down and tourism heating up, Kyrgyzstan is still an unspoiled and adventurous place to explore.

Why Travel with MIR to Kyrgyzstan
  • 30 years of Kyrgyzstan travel experience
  • Travel programs such as Harvard University and the Harvard Museum of Natural History have chosen MIR to guide them to Central Asia
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”
  • MIR affiliate office in nearby Uzbekistan
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
Signature Why end mights

We regularly garner applause from our travelers for the inspired opportunities we provide to help them get to know the local people.  Below is just a sampling of the Kyrgyzstan experiences MIR has designed to take our clients far from the familiar.

Ways to Travel to Kyrgyzstan with MIR

We love traveling in gorgeous, hospitable Kyrgyzstan. We make a point of introducing you to the people in the countryside. From felt yurt to glass and steel high-rise, MIR can get you there.

Take a look at your options, from small group escorted tours to independent trips and custom and private travel:

Small Group Tours
Journey Through Central Asia: The Five ‘Stans

Journey Through Central Asia: The Five ‘Stans

A Classic Silk Road Survey

Travels to: Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

21 Days / Departures in April, May, August, September, October 2018

Small Group land tour from $7,895, plus $350 internal air

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Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia

Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia

The Silk Road Through Western China and the Five ‘Stans

Travels to: Central Asia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

24 Days / Departures in May, August 2018

Small Group land tour from $8,095, plus $900 internal air

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The Pamir Highway & Across Fabled Frontiers

The Pamir Highway & Across Fabled Frontiers

The Silk Road Less Traveled from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan

Travels to: Central Asia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

18 Days / Departures in July 2018

Small Group land tour from $7,795

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In Search of Nomads & Mountains: Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan

In Search of Nomads & Mountains: Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan

A Silk Route Adventure with World Nomad Games

Travels to: Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

20 Days / Departures in September 2018

Small Group land tour from $7,295, plus $75 internal air

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Rail Journeys by Private Train
Essence of the Silk Road & Beyond by Private Train

Essence of the Silk Road & Beyond by Private Train

From Almaty to Tashkent aboard the Orient Silk Road Express

Travels to: Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan

16 Days / Departures in August 2018

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $5,795

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Custom and private travel is our specialty. We’ve been designing unforgettable custom itineraries across the steppe and up into the mountain pastures of Kyrgyzstan for 30 years; a majority of our guests travel on custom itineraries.

For ideas, peruse one of our Regional Travel Planners, a roundup of the must-sees from our savvy staff.

Take a look at our suggested Private Journey, Essential Kyrgyzstan, or read more about how to design your own trip. Also, consider this: You can customize our Pamir Highway & Across Fabled Frontiers small group tour or other MIR small group Central Asia tour to match your preferred dates of travel.

Design Your Own Custom Trip

Traveling privately on a custom program means flexibility:

  • You set the dates, the focus and the level of accommodations.
  • You are met on arrival and seen off at the end of your trip.
  • Your in-country transportation is pre-arranged hassle-free.
  • Your own expert local guides ensure that you get the most out of your visit.
  • And the best part? You travel at your own pace on an itinerary exclusive to you.

Check out just a handful of our Kyrgyzstan signature experiences below and then get in touch with a MIR Private Journey Specialist to craft an itinerary that suits your travel goals, budget and style. Or get started planning now.

 

Suggested Itineraries for Private Travel

Whether you’re looking for a compact trip with all the highlights or something a little roomier with some of the extras, MIR offers itineraries that are available on a private departure basis with your choice of dates. They can also serve as inspiration for your own custom itinerary.

Our itinerary, your dates – great for solo travelers, couples or small groups.

Essential Kyrgyzstan

Essential Kyrgyzstan

Nomadic Traditions and Village Culture

Travels to: Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan

Departures in April, May, June, July, August, September, October 2018

This itinerary available as a private journey

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Weather
Our Favorite Places in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek

The capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek is set before a backdrop of the northern edge of the Ala-Too mountain range, and was originally a heavily forested rest stop on the Silk Road. Appropriated and re-named Frunze by the Russians in 1877, the city became Bishkek again when Kyrgyzstan achieved its independence at the break-up of the Soviet Union. An exploration includes visits to Victory Park, the Frunze House Museum and the State Museum of Fine Arts, featuring Kyrgyz embroidery, jewelry and unique felt rugs.

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Kyrgyzstan

Lake Issyk-Kul

Kyrgyzstan’s beautiful Lake Issyk-Kul is the second-largest high-altitude lake in the world, after Titicaca. A slightly saline lake with no outlet, Issyk-Kul is surrounded by the rugged Tien Shan Mountains. Some evidence suggests that a 2nd century BC trade center is submerged under the lake water. Issyk-Kul means “warm lake,” which refers to the fact that it never freezes, despite its high elevation.

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Kyrgyzstan

Osh

Osh is Kyrgyzstan’s oldest and second-largest city, set in the fertile Fergana Valley near the border with Uzbekistan. The city was a center of silk production along the old Silk Road, and celebrated its 3,000th anniversary in 2000. Its Jayma Bazaar has been in the same spot for 2,000 years. Survey the city from sacred Suleiman’s Throne (King Solomon), a huge limestone and quartz mound where the prophet Suleiman prayed, and may be buried.

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Kyrgyzstan

Torugart Pass

The Torugart Pass is a 12,000-foot pass through the Tien Shan Mountains on the border of Kyrgyzstan and China. One of the routes used by the old Silk Road caravans, the road separates the red sand desert of western China and the green mountain pastures of Kyrgyzstan. Considered the most spectacular route into or out of Central Asia, Torugart Pass was formerly closed to foreigners because of its strategic location.

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Kyrgyzstan

Tash Rabat

Tash Rabat is a massive stone fortress and ancient caravanserai used by 15th century Silk Road merchants and caravans as a rest stop. There is some evidence that dates the original structure to the 10th century, when it is thought to have been a monastery for Christians who came here before the Mongolian invasion and the spread of Islam. Tash Rabat is the largest stone structure in Central Asia, and its architecture is similar to that of Samarkand. The fortress contains numerous underground passages, secret exits, and underground prisons.

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Kyrgyzstan

Karakol

Located at the eastern tip of Lake Issyk-Kul, the city of Karakol was founded late in the 19th century as a Russian military outpost and grew as a refuge for Chinese Muslims fleeing persecution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many buildings here are constructed in a Chinese style from wood and without metal nails, yet other architectural styles can be found here, including a lovely Russian Orthodox Church.

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Kyrgyzstan

Son Kul Lake

Son Kul Lake is the second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan after Issyk-Kul and due to its remote location, offers a glimpse into the life of nomadic Kyrgyz herders. The high-altitude lake is surrounded by yurts and lush pastures, called jailoo, where animals graze in the summer months. All the routes down to the lake offer spectacular views.

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Journeys that travel to Son Kul Lake

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Kyrgyzstan

Chon-Kemin

The beautiful steep-sided Chon (Big) Kemin Valley runs parallel to the border of Kazakhstan between two mountain ranges. The valley’s population is mostly Kyrgyz, of the Sary Bagysh tribe, and many traditions are still practiced here. At Chon-Kemin it may be possible to observe the traditional craft of felt making, a craft that has survived the centuries. Kyrgyz have always used felted wool to cover their yurts, and to make rugs, bags, slippers and hats. To make an ala-kiyiz rug, a second layer of felt of one or more colors is pressed into the original piece, creating a rug with a fuzzy pattern. A shyrdak is made with the appliqué method, and results in a crisper design.

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When to Travel to Kyrgyzstan

Local Festivals

Kyrgyzstan’s rich culture is the legacy of thousands of years of nomadic life, and festivals held throughout the year honor these ancient traditions. Because of the nature of daily life in Kyrgyzstan, the festival schedule is unpredictable and varies from year to year. Generally, Kyrgyz festivals celebrate the country’s heritage. Examples include the Birds of Prey Festival, which pays homage to Kyrgyzstan’s great hunting birds and their berkutchi, or trainers, as well as the felt festival, which celebrates the practical and decorative craft that produces yurt coverings and beautiful hats, blankets and rugs. Other popular events include the clean-up at Kyrgyzstan’s second largest lake, Son Kul, which prepares the lake for the summer season, and numerous national horse games, which often accompany holiday celebrations. Though difficult to plan for in advance, the festivals are that much more meaningful when happened upon by surprise.

Navruz (March)

The tradition of Navruz started as a Zoroastrian festival to celebrate the spring equinox. The ancient people closely followed the celestial cycle and noticed that when the hours of daylight started to equal the hours of darkness, the seasons changed and new life was born.

The Persians celebrated the start of the new year at this time, and spent the thirteen days following Navruz settling debts and mending relationships in order to set a positive tone for the upcoming year. In Kyrgyzstan, the holiday is commemorated with traditional horse games, national dances, prayer and a meal of beshbarmak, Kyrgyzstan’s national dish.

Ramadan (dates vary by year)

The Islamic holiday, Ramadan, is a time when Muslims focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and strengthening their relationship to God. The holiday lasts a month, and during this period, Muslims fast during daylight hours, eating only before sunrise and after sunset. Islamic teachings explain that without the distraction of attending to physical needs and worldly distractions, one is better able to focus on reforming one’s spiritual self. The religious pray more often than the rest of the year, and dedicate themselves to acts of charity. Some scholars believe the name is derived from the Arabic word for “scorching,” referring to the holiday’s power to “scorch” away past sins.