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„For work?“ I was was asked when I told I was travelling to Kyrgyzstan. No it was not for work – yes you can make holidays in Kyrgizstan. The idea of that trip came early this year. Via Internet I found a local tour leader – Talant Asemov – that runs individual tours for individuals and small groups.  Without speaking (or reading) any Russian I do not want to do this tour on my own. Together with him I planned an 11 day tour through the North-East of the country and this time I could convince 3 friends (Rita, Ines and Torben) to join :). End of May/ beginning of June was the time of the year we go – a little before the season. We all met in Istanbul flying in from all over Europe  (Rita from London, Ines from Paris, Torben and me from Stuttgart). With Turkish Airlines there is a 5 1/2 hours flight from Istanbul to Bishkek that arrives early morning (at 2.40) in Bishkek.
After the chaotic pass control (there is nothing like lines) we entered the country. Since a couple of months you do not need a Visa anymore and just get a stamp in the passport. From here on we were in the hands of our Tourleader. This was not Talant, instead we had a young Kirgyz student called Aiturgan plus a Sprinter and driver.

The North-East Region of Kyrgistan is the main tourist destination. Main means once and then you see other tourists (did not happen every day). Bishkek itself lays close to the mountains and Ala Archa National Park. This was our first destination. Actually it reminds a little of the alps. Already here we had the first encounter with the Kyrgyz people and experienced their great hospitality. We were invited to take some pictures of a family and joined their picnic. The city tour of Bishkek was short – due to strong rain. In the evening we had a private performance of a (famous) Kyrgyz folklore band – a fantastic performance. The name of the Band was Kambarkan but they currently renamed themselfes to Dastan. The musik does sound really good in our ears – unlike a lot of other Asian music or sounds.
From Bishkek we drove to lake Issyk Kul – a huge lake surrounded by high snow covered mountains at 1600m above sea level. On the way to the lake we stopped at Burano Tower and a old German village called Rotfront near Tok Mok. At Lake Issyk Kul we first travelled at the Northern Shore for 2 days. We did a little tour into the Grigorievka Valley for a little hike and a picnic at the river. A lot of locals were on the bumpy roads with their cars or had their weekend bbq in the valley.
Two nights we stayed in Karakol. One full day we drove into the mountains to Altyn Arashan. A russian driver picked us up with an old stinky mini bus. It was a VERY bumpy but fantastic 2-3 hours ride up a horrible road into the mountains. Altyn Arashan is at the end of the valley and has hot springs :). The weather was cold and rainy, the hotsprings were fantastic. Due to the weather we only did a short 1 hour hike.
From Karakol we drove to Jeti Oguz and again into the mountains. First we stopped to buy some honey and to take some pictures of a Kyrgyz family and kids. Again we did a short hike, this time to a waterfall. Due to the cold weather we did not stay overnight in a yurt. Instead we drove back at the lake Issyk Kul to stay at a guesthouse in Tamga.
Another trip in the mountains was the drive into the Barkshoon valley. Unlike the other days the road was very good and constantly repaired. This is due to the many and heavy trucks for the mines. The road went up to above 3800 meters. On a little road we drove a little further to a pass above 4000m – the highest point of our tour – of course in snow (but not much). From here you could see the Chinese mountains. The afternoon we spend back at the lake Issyk Kul in the sun before heading to a place called Farytale Canyon with beautiful stones and canyons. I felt a little bit like Utah. The weather was getting better and better. For the first (and only) time we could take pictures of the sunset and the beautiful sourroundings.
Some more canyons were visited the following day – close to the lake – and with a fantastic view point. Here we also had our daily picnic. The rest of the day we drove to Koshkor.
Highlight of the trip were the 2 days at lake Song Kul. This lake is above 3000m and most of the pictures known from Kyrgyzstan are shot here. Flat and dry land with a big lake and jurts in the forground mountains in the background. Here we spent some time with hiking, horseback riding, taking pictures… We stayed one cold night in a yurt. Due to the weather we again drove back into a guesthouse in a town called Naryn. Dinner was quite late and suprisingly our restaurant turned into a Techno disco ;).
Also suprisingly my stomach turned bad so and I had a fun night… 🙁
Next day I did not do much except looking horrible and eating nothing at all… We drove back to Bishkek that day. Again on a really bad road…
The following day we were already leaving very early – the flight was at 6:40… 3 times! my luggage got checked…  but noone did say anything about the full bottle of coke…

Like expected before, 11 days is not even enough to visit the country. But at least it gives the chance to see a little bit and to get an good impression.
Kyrgyzstan is a country far off the beaten paths and tourism is just at the start point to grow. Especially with the locals not used to tourism (and all the bad influence with tourism) it gives a great travel experience.
The organization of the trip was fantastic the four of us had a great time. Thanks to Talant and our Tourleader Aiturgan.



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