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Overview

For anyone who has ever harbored dreams of riding horses with nomads across the Central Asian steppe, overnighting in yurts and passing at the feet of snow-capped mountains, Kyrgyzstan will be the ultimate destination. Dominated by the high peaks of the Tian Shan bordering China, the country is a patchwork of gorgeous alpine valleys, high pastures and Silk Road settlements. The capital Bishkek is a pleasant introduction to the country but Kyrgyzstan's big draw is its community-based tourism, a system that links tourists directly with local drivers, herders and guides to open up a huge range of horse treks, homestays and pilgrimage trips that ...

For anyone who has ever harbored dreams of riding horses with nomads across the Central Asian steppe, overnighting in yurts and passing at the feet of snow-capped mountains, Kyrgyzstan will be the ultimate destination. Dominated by the high peaks of the Tian Shan bordering China, the country is a patchwork of gorgeous alpine valleys, high pastures and Silk Road settlements. The capital Bishkek is a pleasant introduction to the country but Kyrgyzstan's big draw is its community-based tourism, a system that links tourists directly with local drivers, herders and guides to open up a huge range of horse treks, homestays and pilgrimage trips that benefit traveler and host equitably. Get a taste of the nomadic past, breakfasting on a bowl of fresh yoghurt, making felt in the summer pastures or watching horse games that still carry echoes of the Golden Horde. The trekking is some of the best in Asia and the high Torugart and Irkeshtan passes offer the most exciting overland routes into China. Simply put, this is Central Asian travel at its most enjoyable and in simple dollar terms you won't find a better travel bargain this side of Kathmandu.

Bradley Mayhew
About the Expert

Bradley Mayhew is the author of more than 25 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, including Central Asia, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and Jordan, and is coauthor of the Odyssey guide to Uzbekistan.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Asia, country in Central Asia. Landlocked and mountainous, it borders Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and the People's Republic of China to the southeast.
  • Language: Kyrgyz, Russian
  • Currency: Som
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall