I have been asked to pen a few words about our recent holiday to Kyrgyzstan, as a slightly unusual holiday destination. In the months before our trip, most people’s first response when we told them about our plan to visit Kyrgyzstan tended to be “Where?” Kyrgyzstan is in Central Asia, bordering China and Kazakhstan, and is located on the Silk Road, as well as being part of the former Soviet Union. The next question that people tended to ask was “Why?!” We have a keen interest in travel and enjoy seeing different cultures, and as soon as we read a small article about Kyrgyzstan we were keen to go.
Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country with many outdoor activities to take part in, which is something that we particularly enjoy. It is very easy to travel around, very reasonably priced and extremely scenic. As an added bonus it offers visa free travel to encourage tourism, but sees few enough tourists that visitors to the country are generally given a very warm welcome, and have to deal with very little hassle from touts. As somewhere that sounded very different to anywhere that we had been before, it sounded like a great place for an adventure.
We started our trip with a three day horse trek to the Song-Kul lake through mountainous summer pastures, staying with local families in yurts along the way. Despite the fact that we were absolute novices the horses looked after us and calmly took us to our destination, giving us plenty of time to appreciate the incredible scenery. We spent time in the villages around Lake Issyk-Kul, the second largest mountain lake in the world, surrounded by snow-capped mountains (but just warm enough to swim in). And finally we spent three days trekking around the mountains of Karakol.
In practical terms the food was not something to write home about, but generally hearty with generous portions, (although there was always a risk that horse might be on the menu). We felt very safe moving around the country – often arriving at small villages with no prior bookings and being welcomed into people’s houses. We only encountered one hairy moment when a couple of confidence tricksters tried their luck in the capital (as with any capital), but after holding tightly to our passports we were able to walk away unscathed.
It would have been helpful if we could speak a few words of Kyrgyz/Russian so that we could have had a bit more of a chat with the locals, but we managed fine for all practical purposes by pointing. Transport was easy to find and arrange, and the hospitality that we experienced from almost everyone that we met was a real highlight of the trip. All in all a great trip and although it isn’t for everyone, we would highly recommend a trip to Kyrgyzstan to anyone who likes going off the beaten track or simply getting lost in the great outdoors.
Stephen Kirby, Parish Councillor