10 strange facts about Kyrgyzstan you probably didn’t know

September 23, 2019

Far away from the touristic routes, Kyrgyzstan is a destination full of surprises, especially for trekking lovers and those who want to know a different lifestyle.

Field of flowers and yurtas in the background, Kyrgyzstan

Still untouched from mass tourism, Kyrgyzstan boasts a pristine nature and a vibrant tradition that is rooted in nomadism and the over 80 ethnic groups that peacefully live together, making this nation a successful cultural melting pot.

Two white yurtas of nomads in Kyrgyzstan
Nomadic yurtas

Travelling in Kyrgyzstan is a unique experience: endless lakes melt into the night offering a duplicated Vault of Heaven, mountains draw rugged boundaries between earth and sky and local people are among the most hospitable in the whole world.

Thanks to its uniqueness, Kyrgyzstan is rich with traditions that look bizarre to our occidental eye, and it’s able to transform every journey in a diary full of emotions that speaks to the soul, changing it forever.

Kyrgyzstan is one of easiest Central Asian countries to visit

Good news for Europeans that are planning to visit Kyrgyzstan: for tourist and business stays lasting less than 60 days, a Visa is not necessary.
Showing your passport is all that you have to do in order to be admitted into the nation, as long as it has a validity of at least 3 months from the day you are getting across the border.

How do you pronounce Kyrgyzstan?

The US pronunciation for the name of the Country is: k EE r - g ih z - t AA n.

The name comes from a Turkish word, Kyrgyz, that means 40; the same number is on the national flag, which represents a sun with 40 rays.
The choice of this number is not random: forty is the number of tribes in Manas Epic, the great Kyrgyz epic poem that still gives name to the university, to some streets and to the airport of Biškek, the capital of the Country.

How to deal with an invitation for a tea

One of the greatest experiences you can live in Kyrgyzstan is the contact with the local population, one of the most welcoming in the world.

During your trip in this fantastic country you may be invited for a tea, a popular drink in Kyrgyzstan.

You must accept so as not to offend your host, who will fill your cup up to a half and keep on serving you tea little by little; you will probably think that this is weird, but it’s a very good thing: this strange habit is symptom of kindness and education, meaning that the landlord wants you to stay as long as possible.

Nomadic yurta in Kyrgyzstan
Beautiful interior of a yurta

Before entering the house (or the yurt) remember to take off your shoes and take a seat on the floor; your host will show you where your place is.

You’ll find bowls filled with sugar, honey and jam to be used to sweeten the tea; if there are cakes and other pastries just take the one you’d like to try not thinking too much, but keep in mind that showing gratitude and appreciation is due.

Food is delicious!

Kyrgyzstan’s culinary tradition is very good.

Among the typical dishes the Beshbarmak (literally "five fingers") is the star, a delicacy with meat and noodles to be eaten with one hand. Other foods to try are Kuurdak, meat slowly cooked with potatoes and onions, Shahlik, marinated mutton’s grilled skewers, and Sujuk, horse sausages.

Meat is the main ingredient in Kyrgyz diet, and preparations are usually very rich and savory.

Sleeping in a yurt under the Kyrgyz sky: a unique experience

Kyrgyz people come from a nomadic tradition, and the yurt is the traditional mobile home.

It is a big tent that can quickly and easily be set up and dismantled.
Large rugs cover the floor, while the cozy bed that is inside during the night is rolled up as soon as the sun comes up, leaving space for tables and chairs where to eat.
Heating is guaranteed by a small stove that burns dried dung.

A nomadic settlement and yurtas in Kyrgyzstan
Yurtas in Kyrgyzstan

If you decide to spend a night in a yurt, an experience that we recommend, remember to take with you wool socks and warm clothes to endure the Kyrgyz cold night.

Crazy about the Kymyz

Even though this country is far from tourist classic paths, or maybe because of this reason, Kyrgyz people are very welcoming, always happy to meet foreigner travelers.

This is why almost everyone who’s been in Kyrgyzstan has tried Kymyz, a drink made with fermented mare’s milk that tastes acid to westerners’ mouth.

When someone offers you Kymyz, and this happens very often, declining is not a good choice, unless you want to be rude.

Someone says that Kyrgyz people offer Kymyz so often to foreigners because of their funny reaction when they taste it… But this is nothing more than gossip.

Biškek: the capital where one can breathe energy

At a first glance Biškek, the Kirgyz capital which still looks like a Soviet city, may leave you disappointed.

But when you go deeper, you discover that only a few other cities are able to give you the same emotions of Biškek.

What makes this city exceptional and changes those who are lucky enough to visit it is the energy you can feel everywhere, from Osh Bazar, beating heart of the capital, to Ala-Too square, where young people skateboard among the institutional symbols; from concerts that populate the streets to cultural events which pop up when you least expect it.

Horses are the favourite transportation

Public transportations in Kyrgyzstan are quite inadequate, mainly because of the lack of fuel that affects the Country, and roads are generally in bad conditions.

The best way to go from a city to another and discover the breathtaking nature is relying on a local expert driver, on foot or riding horses, also known as “men’s wings”.

In Kyrgyz tradition men and horses are deeply bounded, so deeply that in past times they were also buried together.
Today horses are still one of the favorite ways to travel outside the cities.

Field in Kyrgyzstan and horses
Horses are still used as a means of trasportation

World Nomad Games

Every two years, in Kyrgyzstan, the World Nomad Games take place.

Teams from over 60 countries challenge in sports of the nomadic tradition, keeping local traditions alive and offering big shows of horse riding, archery and falconry.

Among all the activities, one of the most loved is Kok Boru (literally “grey wolf”), the traditional Kyrgyz sport.
Two teams play a sort of rugby match but, instead of the ball, they use a goat’s carcass.

Between mountains and alpine lakes

More than 90% of the Kyrgyzstan’s territory is made up of high mountains; this fact, together with the amazing and untouched nature, makes Kyrgyzstan a great place where to go hiking.

Most of Kyrgyzstan's territory is mountains
Landscape with mountains

The country is landlocked, but the enchanted alpine lakes are a great substitute to the sea; Issyyk Kol is the most famous basin of Kyrgyzstan, well know also for a unique peculiarity: it never freezes, not even during the cold Kyrgyz winter.

You probably don’t know many people who visited Kyrgyzstan, but those who did can assure you that this journey is like no other one!