Tired and weary from a 420-kilometer drive from Murghab, our last stop in Tajikistan, I finally arrived in the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan. That was a total of 9 stops along the Pamir Highway and perhaps an hour of traffic at the Immigration control. I was exhausted from the journey, especially after driving along high altitude roads but nothing can stop me, I’m bound to see my 128th country!
Known as the Land of Celestial Mountains, you’ll see plenty of them once you traverse the roads of Kyrgyzstan, especially along the Pamir and Tien Shan Mountain Ranges where you can see endless peaks in the horizon. Not only that, but you’ll also get to come across valleys, lakes, and rivers. This country is so underrated that even I didn’t expect it to be this beautiful.
I spent a total of one week in Kyrgyzstan where I traveled from Bishkek (North) and its nearby towns with Destination Pamir. Erali, the owner of this agency used to a tour guide until he decided to take a leap of faith and put up his own travel agency with the dreams of giving his daughter a better life. If you noticed, I’m starting to support small businesses and the dreams of the people behind it! I hope you can too!!
For this post, I’ll be sharing with you what we did and where we went in between Osh and Bishkek which Destination Pamir prepared for me 🙂
1. Explore the City of Osh
It was 8 on the dot when my tour guide and the owner of the small tour company (named Elishir) and the driver went down from a shiny land cruiser. I was almost finished with my breakfast and I’m glad that they weren’t even a minute late. They smiled and welcomed me with a gleaming smile saying that today is gonna be a great day as they’re going to show me around Osh.
True enough, I had such a wonderful time exploring the city with these 2 amazing locals! We went to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sulaiman-Too Mountain which gave me a stunning view of the city. Brace yourselves for a steep hike but it’s all worth it!
For lunch, we had a very good kebab from a local restaurant. Their kebabs are very tasty! We then headed to a big bazaar full of merchants selling bread, nuts, meat, fresh produce, clothes and probably all the things you can ever imagine. They are very popular for this marble shape cheese and their different designs of bread so that’s something you could look out for. This is also a good stop to buy everything you need for the journey ahead. I bought a very nice headscarf from a beautiful old lady and it is one of my favorite purchases for my Central Asia trip.
2. Stop by Uzgen
Uzgen is one of the oldest cities in Kyrgyzstan and is located close to the border of Uzbekistan. Being such, 90% of its population is from Uzbekistan. Located merely 34 miles from Osh, this is a perfect spot to just take a break. Visit the 11th Century Minaret Tower to get a glimpse of the city. There are also 3 mausoleums which you can explore in the area.
3. Stay in Toktogul for a night or two
Toktogul is a city just in between Osh and Bishkek. Being nestled between mountains and valleys, expect the view from your car seat window to be *extra*. This city is famous for the Toktogul Lake which boasts crystal clear water which is so clean that it reflects the surrounding mountains. Visit during the summer and you’ll surely enjoy a dip in its warm waters while taking in the beauty that Kyrgyzstan has to offer. The Toktogul Reservoir is a place where you can hike, swim, fish, enjoy a horse ride, have a picnic, and just chill as you prepare for another long ride. There’s a lot of guesthouses, restaurants, and cafes so you wouldn’t feel bored here at all.
In my case, I did a homestay with a local family so I can learn about their culture more. True enough, I was able to meet them and they even cooked delicious homemade meals for me. YUM!
4. Visit the Beautiful Sary Chelek Lake
A 300-kilometer drive from Osh will take you to this insanely beautiful lake which made it to the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Home to more or less 1,000 different plants and mammals, this lake and the locals living around the area will make you truly feel at home.
This lake is only a part of the bigger Sary Chelek State Biosphere Reserve which also houses 3 more lakes, albeit smaller than this one. This is one of my favorite stops in this Central Asia trip and I’d love to come back for that boat ride (which I, unfortunately, missed because the only boat here isn’t working)!
5. Stay with a Local Family
While staying in hotels is absolutely comfortable, I always prefer staying with local families, especially during my trip around Central Asia. Erali of Destination Pamir made sure I get to experience this and he organized my stay with a local family close to the Sary Chelek Lake. Not only did I get to eat delicious home-cooked meals, but I also got to meet a family of 3 generations and they even have such a cute baby whom I played with all day long. Bonus is that their house is located so close to the river that its sound served as a sweet lullaby for me.
6. Explore the City of Bishkek
After a week of exploring a small part of this country, we’ve come to our last stop. This time, I stayed in Art Hotel Bishkek which is located in the city center. I’ve traveled so long and all I want now is a comfortable bed, working wifi, and a long and hot shower. Good thing they have everything!
If you have more time, walk around Kyrgyzstan’s capital and chill by the Ala-Too Square, have some drinks at some trendy cafes, eat at local restaurants, visit their markets, and just watch the world go by. There’s nothing much to see and do here so I highly suggest you spend more time in the countryside.
7. Find accommodation in Kyrgyzstan
KYRGYZSTAN TOURIST VISA REQUIREMENT FOR FILIPINOS
Filipinos can get a Visa on Arrival in Kyrgyzstan if you’re entering by Bishkek airport. You can read my detailed visa guide here for Filipino travelers planning to visit Kyrgyzstan. However, you’ll need to get an e-visa if you’re traveling by land.
TRAVELING AROUND KYRGYZSTAN
There are undeniably many beautiful spots to see in Kyrgyzstan but the problem is it’s hard to get to these places. While public transportation is available, it usually takes longer than traveling by car. I strongly suggest you get the services of a tour agency like Destination Pamir. Having a knowledgeable tour guide and driver with you will assure you of a hassle-free and insightful journey.
My itinerary was customized according to the places I want to see and what Erali of Destination Pamir thinks are the best spots for me to visit with my limited time. You may contact them to customize your own itinerary and you can even get a discount if you name drop me– KACH! Haha.
That’s it for this post! Wishing you love, light, and laughter on your trip to Kyrgyzstan! 🙂
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