Posted on August 13, 2015
Welcome to my 12-day diary from Kyrgyzstan, a country of many mountains and many nomads. The reason for visiting this Central Asian country was to discover beautiful nature and find more about the local nomads and their culture. Do you want to know the reason behind? I am a digital nomad and I’m very interested in the stories of different nomad groups, especially the ones that have 1000 years of experience and tradition. I hope that you will enjoy this travel diary and photos 🙂 In case you have questions, please ask me in the comments below the article.
DAY 1: CITY LIFE IN BISHKEK
I started the trip with a fellow traveller Maroš from Slovakia. The reason why we choose Kyrgyzstan was that we heard a lot about the beauty of this country, hospitality of the locals, safe conditions, no need for visa for 44 countries and we found
flight tickets for a good value.
We took a Pegasus flight from Prague through Istanbul to Bishkek. The flight was 1hour delayed in Prague and the same happened in Istanbul, so we made it all on time and after the long flight (4.5h) we landed in the capital – Bishkek. It was 5am in the morning, so we decided to take a taxi to our first destination. We paid 10 USD for a 40km ride to Andrey’s place, who was our first couchsurfing host.
Andrey and his family took a great care of us. I am used to couchsurfing and I used it many times during my travels, but this family was exceptionally friendly and hospitable. Andrey’s mom made us breakfast and gave us the biggest watermelon I’ve ever seen in my life, so “spasiba” for that 🙂
After taking a long nap in the morning, we went for a quick walk through the city center of Bishkek. It was very hot and there was not that much to see, but still, we enjoyed watching locals having fun in the fountain, spotting some mind blowing central asian architecture and tasting the first local food – manty (dumplings stuffed with meat).
We went to sleep early, however we couldn’t rest because there were millions of mosquitos ☹ Do bring mosquito spray when you visit Bishkek during summer.
DAY 2: HIKE IN ALA ARCHA NATIONAL PARK
Our second day in Kyrgyzstan was a hiking time in the beautiful Ala Archa national park, very close to Bishkek. It was a bit exhausting experience to hike to Racek hut (3300m), but the views were worth it and the ice cold spring water was tasty 🙂 More about the trail: *Waterfall & Racek Hut – 3.75km to waterfall 5.75km to Racek Hut (low to medium) strenuous sections at lower elevations, and some eroded sections leave the trail exposed to extremely steep slopes.
Thanks to Silk Road Explore for guiding us and making our day so funny and positive 🙂 https://silkroadexplore.com
DAY 3: TRAVEL TO LAKE ISSYK-KUL
Third day in Kyrgyzstan started with a rainy morning but we didn’t care that much because it was a travel day. It was around 11am and we took the first “marshutka” (local bus) to the city center. We had to take some money from an ATM. Here was our first bigger challenge – the language. They have two languages in Kyrgyzstan: Russian and Kyrgyz and we spoke 1% Russian and 0% Kyrgyz. After asking and explaining our situation to several people on the street who didn’t understand a word in English we found a man who sent us to a bank nearby. Here we were with wallets full of soms – local currency! We took a taxi (150som) to the bus station “West” and while we were in the taxi the rained has stopped.
When we arrived to the bus station many private drivers approached us with their offers. It reminded me of Latin America. We refused their offers and we went to look for our marshutka. We had a 5hour bus ride in front of us, so I went to use the toilet. The reason why I want to mention this information is that I was surprised by the “design” of the bathroom. I knew how Turkish style toilet looks like, but I didn’t get why the walls and the doors were only half the regular size, so when I stood straight I saw other women’s heads while “sitting”… I have images in case you want to see the bathroom ☺
Finally, we left Bishkek with the direction to Kadji Sai and the cost of the marshutka ride was 300 som for a 5 hours (4.50eur). Kadji Sai is a picturesque village on the southern shore of the lake Issyk-Kul, which is the second largest alpine lake in the world. Kadji Sai was recommended by the locals who said that it’s less touristy and more authentic than the famous Cholpon-Ata, although it’s still full of local and Russian tourists (which I didn’t mind at all).
The road to the lake was spectacular. It reminded me of the roads in Peru because of its mountains and colors. The drive was bumpy and it took around 5 hours to get to our destination. We found a cozy guest house “Marina” (500 soms per person per night and with an ok wifi!) and we ran to the lake for the sunset. I was impressed. It was very windy and there were waves like in the ocean and the surroundings of the lake seemed like a painting.
Day 4: DAY AT THE LAKE ISSYK-KUL
Day four was a bit of relaxing day for me, because I didn’t feel that well so I just stayed around Kadji Sai. First of all I went for a walk and I found an abandoned gigantic hotel from the Soviet times. It was like walking in a space-ship museum. I met one old lady who lives in a yurt which used to be a hotel room and she sells her hand made stuff there. Later on I hitch-hiked back to Kadji Sai and enjoyed the afternoon on the beach. There was a festival of some fight (sorry, that I didn’t get what kind of fight) and it had an interesting cultural program along to it. The best part of the day was to see the sunset and enjoy the millions of colors this lake has to offer. Just beautiful.
DAY 5 and DAY 6: TRAVEL TO KARAKOL AND A DAY IN BED
After 2 relaxing days at the lake Issyk-Kul we decided to move to the Kyrgyz center for hiking – Karakol. As usual, we travelled by marshutka and it took us less than 2 hours from Kadji Sai to Karakol (150 soms). When we arrived to Karakol, I went for a “discovery tour” and I ate in a local restaurant (200 soms). I hope that I won’t disappoint anyone when I say that there is not that much to see and do in Karakol besides having it as a base for many hikes. We stayed at Hostel Nice which was really nice and it was a great spot to meet other travelers and exchange travel experience (420 soms/person in a shared dorm).
We planned a 3-day hike from Karakol to Ala-Kul lake – through Altyn Arashan – back to Karakol… but, travel plans change very quickly and here was a second challenge of this trip… On the morning of the day 6 I woke-up with a really bad stomach ache and the hike was canceled. Maybe it was from the local food (I don’t eat meat) or maybe it was from the russian ice-cream (why did I buy it???!!!). I stayed all day in bed reading Jack Kerouac and I walked a bit in the town and played with Google Translate app – which was recommended by one of you and it helped with the language challenge 🙂 My stomach problems were solved by taking “black coal” pills that were “sponsored” by ukrainian alpinists, I drank half liter of Coca-cola which kills all bacteria haha and I didn’t for the rest of the day.
DAY 7 and DAY 8: HIKE TO ALA-KUL LAKE AND TRIP TO KOCHKOR
Seventh day in Kyrgyzstan was my favorite because of the hike to Ala-Kul lake, although I didn’t hike the whole track because of my earlier stomach problems. We took a “taxi” to the yurt camp above Karakol and from there (2500m) we hiked to Ala-Kul lake in the elevation of 3500m. This hike was not the easiest one, because of the elevation and many steep parts, but I can recommend it to everyone who loves mountains and beautiful views. The taxi ride was the most expensive thing we did in Kyrgyzstan. It cost us 6000 soms in total which was a very reasonable price for what we’ve got. The driver had to drive through a road in a forest with many holes, rivers and he waited for us for 7 hours to get back to the taxi after the hike.
The day after the hike was a half working day (I’m a digital nomad, remember? 🙂 and a half travel day, because we moved to the last destination: Song Kul lake.
DAY 9 and DAY 10: SONG KUL LAKE AND TRIP BACK TO BISHKEK
When I planned the trip in Kyrgyzstan, I left the highlight – Song Kul lake – at the end. This lake is in the elevation of 3000m above the sea level and it’s very different from the other lakes that I’ve seen before. It’s so still and peaceful that you feel like in heaven. The colors of the nature were unbelievably beautiful. It is true that in the last 6 years it became very touristy, but the reason is that it’s simply unique. We spent a night in a yurt and we did a short horse-back ride and finished the day with a tasty local dinner: vegetarian manti and fish from the lake. This dinner made me very happy, because the last and the third challenge I had in Kyrgyzstan was their food. I don’t eat meat (I eat fish), so it was pretty hard to buy food unless I cooked it myself. Just between you and I… I haven’t tried the famous horse milk: kumis. Maybe next time 🙂