Solo Travel in Kyrgyzstan
Types of GatGs – Nature GatG, Hiking GatG, Skiing GatG, Cultural GatG
Central Asia can be a challenging region to navigate your way around but Kyrgyzstan is one of the easiest countries in the region. There is still a lack of tourist infrastructure and because of the language barrier we’ve given it 3 out of 5 stars for women.
As a solo, people are respectful and don’t stare as they do in other countries in Central Asia. You don’t get hassled either. Drivers stop to let you cross the road and the country feels more welcoming than others in the region. However, you do need to be careful of pickpockets at the Bishkek bazaar and also the bus station. As with anywhere be careful at night especially in the city of Karakol.
The country is ideal for adventure GatGs with ski resorts, mountain biking and plenty of trekking. The tourist season runs from May to September so if you visit outside of this period some of the activities may not be available. Kyrgyzstan isn’t on many solo bucket lists so stay in hostels if you are hoping to meet others.
Because of its high altitude, you may want to take altitude sickness tablets with you to prepare you for any symptoms.
Below is our guide to how to travel solo in Kyrgyzstan as well as lots of practical information such as where to stay, which tour company to use and how to get around. Find out how to get from the airports and what to do in each place. All companies included have been recommended by solo female travellers and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Just choose the relevant section or read the full article.
- Things To Do in Kyrgyzstan
- Accommodation and Hotels in Kyrgyzstan
- Kyrgyzstan Tours
- Travel in Kyrgyzstan
- Kyrgyzstan Itinerary
- Kyrgyzstan Weather
- From the Airport in Kyrgyzstan
- Travel Insurance For Kyrgyzstan
- Travelling Onwards
- FAQs about Kyrgyzstan
- Map of Kyrgyzstan
- Plan Your Trip To Kyrgyzstan
Things To Do in Kyrgyzstan
A country in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country, bordered by China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. It has been described as the “Switzerland of Central Asia,” because of its untouched nature.
The country is divided into 7 regions and is dominated by the Tian Shan mountains which are also part of the old trading route. Two thirds of Kyrgrystan is mountainous terrain with 88 mountain ranges, over 100 lakes and more than 400 rivers and canals.
Kyrgyzstan tourism is relatively new, but with so many trekking opportunities, if you are wanting to hike mountains, and endless green forests then this Central Asian country is a must.
Once part of the Soviet Union, the country has had two revolutions. One in 2005, and the latest in 2010 which bought down the country’s corrupt leadership.
Although corruption has not been completely eradicated for the 6 million people living here, it is a step in the right direction.
The Kyrgyz are mountain folk and began their modest lives as nomadic tribes living off the land. The indigenous population still make up 72% of the country’s population, and community based tourism is a great way to see how the local people live.
The biggest name here is Manas, the country’s most important warrior who fought against their enemies. His name is a national symbol and so many things are named after him including the airport.
Kyrgyzstan has one of the greenest cities within the region. Bishkek is the capital with less than one million people. It feels more like a large town than a city with several parks (over 20 if you’re counting), a few cool cafes and a nice atmosphere.
A relatively young city, its history dates back 200 years, and the Kyrgyzstan capital once was known as the name “Frunze” for more than 70 years. It was named after the Soviet military leader, Mikhail Frunze, and the house where he was raised is now a museum.
Ala-Too Square is the main square in the centre of the city. Its translation means “snowy mountains” which is meant to symbolise the country’s nature. This is where you’ll find the festivals and meetings being held, and a huge 45 metre flag.
Bishkek is a walkable city with plenty of parks and green space, and a majestic mountain backdrop. There are so many parks here so if you don’t have much time, make sure that you see the outdoor sculptures at Oak Park, the Botanical Garden, and Panfilov Park which attracts the families with its fairground rides.
Amongst the parks are former Soviet monuments dotted around the city. Inside Oak Park you’ll also find the monument for Kurmanjan Datca, the leader and the ruler of the Alai Kyrgyz, known as the ‘Alai queen.”
In Victory Park is the monument of Leningrad blockade, a figure of a white in white marble, holding a child from the siege of Leningrad. The Monument to the Martyrs of the Revolution is another Soviet monument, depicting a woman with socialist warriors behind her. Apparently it won the “All Union Lenin” prize during the Soviet era.
The Victory Monument is the most stunning in the city. It represent a yurt with a sculpture of mother with a cup in her hands, standing under tunduk near the eternal flame, awaiting the return of her husband and sons from war. The eternal flame represents the mass graves of the Red Army during the 1919 uprising.
The State Opera and Ballet Theatre is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Instead of resembling the Soviet times, you’ll feel as though you have been transported back to Greece with the classical architecture. Inside you can watch classics such as Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. Their national masterpiece is Manas.
Don’t forget to see the Sculptural Complex of Manas which is in front of the philharmonic. It is dedicated to the main Kyrgyz heroes.
To learn more about the history of Kyrgyzstan, the Historical Museum gives an insight into its past. It is said to be the largest in Central Asia. See Kyrgyz art and crafts at the Museum of Fine Arts along with dozens of paintings by Russian artists.
For shopping head to the west side of town to Osh Bazaar for anything and everything that you want to buy. If you are unsure what to do in the evenings, La Maison Club is a gorgeous French restaurant that will make you feel really welcome.
With two thirds of the country being mountainous, you simply have to explore one of these regions while you are here. Jengish Chokusu is the highest point at 7,439 metres. This gigantic mountain is shared with their China neighbours.
You don’t need to go far to delve into the country’s nature or high either. From Bishtek, it’s less than an hour to the Ala Archa gorge where you can hike and camp overnight. Companies offer several days trekking if you want to make the most of this gorgeous region. Don’t let the snow put you off too as you can still visit for a picturesque winter wonderland.
Jyrgalan Valley is a mecca for hiking GatGs no matter what your level of fitness. This mountain range in the east of the country is unspoiled with rivers, clear alpine lakes and green hillsides. Although it is a region off the beaten path it has miles of marked trails so it is easy to navigate for a days’ trekking.
From Jyrgalan village you are already in the heart of the mountain range and can go straight on your hike. It is high-altitude though so be prepared to trek up to 4,000 metres. You can also hire a guide for your Kyrgyzstan trekking to see more of this area which is translated to ‘Mountain of Heaven.’
Arslanbon is at an altitude of 1,600 metres and is one of the most beautiful resorts in the south of the country. It is a village, a valley and a mountain range, with a large walnut forest in the Jalal-Abad Region of Kyrgyzstan (the country exports many of its walnuts).
You can reach Arslanbob from Osh, which is the country’s second most important city. Osh was an important city for the Silk Road due to its proximity to the Uzbekistan border. It is a small city with a backdrop of the Sulaiman-Too sacred mountain, and a statue of Lenin.
Its vibrant bazaar has been trading in the same place for more than 2000 years! The city has a nice energy to it, and there is a pathway around the mountain for a view of the city.
If you have time, visit Peak Lenin where you can do a short hike to the base camps to see mind-blowing nature.
If you love lakes head to Sary-Chelek, a beautiful alpine lake. If you visit in the autumn you’ll see why the translation of the name means “yellow bucket” as the lake and the foliage surrounding it looks a honey colour. Visit any other time of year and the lake is a bluey green.
Another beautiful lake is Lake Son-Kul, located between the Tien-Shan mountains. As the largest natural freshwater lake in the country, it sits at an altitude of 3016 metres above sea level. It is surrounded by meadows and shepherds in their yurts.
Issyk-Kul Lak is the country’s largest and one of the 25 largest lakes in the world. It is also the second largest high altitude lake after Lake Titicaca in South America. Visit here in the summer months and you’ll be joined by the locals who come for their beach holiday. It is situated in the north east of the country at an altitude of 1,609 m above sea level.
Karakol offers mountaineering and trekking and is perfect for the adventurous GatG. It’s a city still untouched by tourism and was once a Russian settlement. The Karakol animal market is one of the must-sees here.
Wellness GatGs should experience the healing geothermal properties of Jety-Oguz, located west of Karakol City. The area is named after the red rock formations which resemble the shape of seven bulls laying on the ground.
This picturesque valley is 2200 metres above sea level and is 28 kms of red rocks and gorge, including the ‘Broken Heart’ rock. From Karakol you can also reach the Barskoon Waterfall, and Fairy Tale Canyon.
History of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan was once an important country on the ancient Silk Road. Some caravansaries still exist and are UNESCO protected.
The Burana Tower stands as a reminder of the ancient city of Balasagun, and is one of the Silk Road Heritage sites in the country. The tower is made out of bricks and dates back to the 10th/11th century.
You’ll find the ruins of the Burana settlement and petroglyphs 14km from Tokmok (it’s easily reachable on a day trip from Bishkek). It even survived the raiders of Genghis Khan.
Sulaiman-Too in Osh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was once of sacred importance. A historical museum sits on the hillside as well as Tahty Sulaiman mosque which was bombed and restored 28 years later.
Visit the Great Silk Road Museum at the base of the mountain to discover more of its history.
Tash-Rabat is a unique-looking monument at an altitude of 3200 m above sea level. It is one of the most important architectural monuments in the country and located in the Naryn region in the Kara Koyun gorge.
This area was also part of the Silk Road where the caravan of camels and merchants once trod its path. It can be difficult to get to as it is near the Chinese border in the south east of Kyrgyzstan but you can combine a trip here with horse-riding or trekking to Chatyr Lake.
If you love the outdoors, and want to experience the hospitality of local people then you should definitely visit Kyrgyzstan before the word gets out.
Accommodation and Hotels in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan has accommodation for any type of solo whether you prefer to stay in a hotel, meet others in a hostel, have a local experience in a homestay, or sleep in a yurt.
The country is big on community based tourism and outside of the cities you can visit the Tourist Information Centres who will arrange a homestay for you. You don’t need to pre-book anything.
For a true cultural experience, make sure you spend at least one night in one of the Kyrgyzstan yurts. You’ll find yurts around the country, as well as Issyk Kul Lake where you may be sharing your yurt with other international travellers.
Homestay is an alternative to Airbnb. You can video call your host family before you go to find the perfect host. Check homestays and prices here
All of the accommodation below have been recommended by solo female travellers from our Girls about the Globe community and come with a Solo Female Friendly endorsement.
Interhouse is a sociable hostel so it is easy to meet others here. There is a restaurant and bar onsite so you don’t even need to venture out. The location is good and there are restaurants and shops nearby if you do prefer to dine elsewhere.
The hostel has a stylish feel to it and everything is clean and modern. The beds are comfortable and the bunk beds are in separate pods for more comfort. The staff are friendly and helpful and there are large lockers to store your belongings.
Choose from a bed in a 4 bed female-only dormitory or a 4 bed mixed dorm. You can also opt for a standard double or twin.
- Prices start from £8 per night for a bed in a 4-bed female only dorm
- To book, check prices or availability for Interhouse Bishkek
If you want to treat yourself in Bishkek then stay at the Solutel Hotel.This hotel is amazing. The rooms are large and come with a desk and a flat screen TV. The beds are huge too. The bathroom has toiletries and floor heating to keep you warm in the winter months. There’s a dressing gown and slippers and tea and coffee making facilities too. The staff are really helpful and can help arrange your taxis.
The breakfast buffet is delicious and even includes champagne on Sundays! You can relax in the hotel sauna, burn some calories on the running machine or just walk to main square and the city’s monuments which are only 20 minutes away. Choose from a standard twin or double room.
- Prices start from £82 for a standard double room
- To book, check prices or availability for Solutel Hotel
Duet Hostel is in a good location in Karakol and although it is just out of town, it is only a short walk to cafes and restaurants. It’s easy to meet others here in the shared lounge and terrace. The bar is a great place to hang out as well as the garden which is perfect for those summer days and nights.
The staff speak perfect English and will help you with trekking or anything else that you want to do in the area. The bus to the mountains leaves from the same road, and you can rent ski equipment here if you want to experience the slopes. You can cook in the kitchen or just buy one of their pizzas from their small restaurant instead.
The dorm room is quiet when you want to sleep and the beds have their own curtain for more privacy. You may prefer to sleep in their yurt instead. Choose from a bed in a mixed dorm room, a deluxe or urban Kyrgyz yurt or a holiday home.
- Prices start from £8 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm room
- To book, check prices or availability for Duet Hostel
Tes Guest House isn’t located in the centre of Osh so it isn’t central but it is ideal if you want to explore the area by hiking or biking. Marshrutkas run to the centre or you can walk instead. It is a really clean guesthouse with large rooms and an outside terrace to chill out in and chat to the other guests.
If you bring your own tent you can pitch it in the garden and use the barbecue too. All the areas here are large and spacious so you can read and enjoy some peace and quiet. A good buffet breakfast is included. It is a really friendly guesthouse and good for value for money. Choose from a bed in a 6 bed female-only dorm room or a budget single room.
- Prices start from £6 per night for a bed in a 6 bed female only dorm
- To book, check prices or availability for Tes Guest House
Nuru Hotel is ideal for a stay in Osh if you want your own space. The rooms have balconies with stunning views of the mountains in the background. The staff are really helpful and there is a bar onsite as well as an ATM, a tour agency, and currency exchange. The rooms have heating for the winter months as well as slippers to keep your feet warm. A breakfast buffet is included too.
The hotel is located within walking distance of the Lenin statue and just minutes from where the bus stops from the border. Choose from a standard single, suite, comfort suite or queen suite with spa bath. Buffet breakfast included.
- Prices start from £25 per night for a standard single room
- To book, check prices or availability for Nuru Hotel
Central Asia can be a bit challenging to navigate your way around due to the language barrier. If you feel more comfortable in a tour, G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
They offer tours to Kyrgyzstan and the other ‘Stans' including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Adventures range from 9 days to 26 days and start from €1099. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear a bit more than G Adventures. They also offer Silk Road travel and have tours from 10 to 80 days long. Their prices start from €1,940.
With both tour companies you share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room.
Pegas Adventure Company – is a local company which offers adventure tours such as hiking and camping trips to Ala Archa gorge, and horse riding tours to Song Kol Lake. Choose from one day to several day tours.
Destination Jyrgalan – Experience the best of this natural region on a mountain biking trip, on horseback or a trekking tour. They also arrange yurt stays.
Travel in Kyrgyzstan
The easiest way to travel in Kyrgyzstan is by hiring a car, although you may prefer to take taxis with a private driver if you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself. In the winter months some of the roads are closed due to snow. You do need to ensure that you are covered for hiring a car.
There are also shared taxis which is more cost effective than paying for a taxi for just yourself. You may have to pay extra for your bags.
Between Bishkek and Osh, there are plenty of short internal flights. The flight is really scenic with spectacular views of the mountains.
The country does have trains but they are slow. They run from Bishkek to Balykchy and to Karabalta. Taking a minibus (called marshrutkas) is the cheapest way to get around. They don’t usually leave until they are full so be prepared if you are in a hurry. Ask your accommodation which number minibus you need to take and where it departs from.
Check Rome2Rio for getting around the country.
You’ll need at least a week in Kyrgyzstan. Below is a sample itinerary for a week, ten days or two weeks in the country.
One Week Itinerary
- Bishkek (3 nights)
- Osh (2 nights)
- Arslanbob (2 nights)
Ten Days Itinerary
- Bishkek (3 nights)
- Burana Tower – (1 night) stay overnight in Tokmok
- Karakol (2 nights) trekking
- Kochkor (2 nights) to see Song Kul
- Naryn (2 nights)
Two Week Itinerary
- Bishkek (3 nights), explore the parks,
- Osh (2 nights),
- Burana Tower – (1 night) stay overnight in Tokmok,
- Karakol (2 nights) trekking,
- Kochkor (2 nights) to see Song Kul,
- Naryn (2 nights),
- Tash Rabat (2 nights) to stay in a yurt camp
You can visit Kyrgyzstan any time of the year but be prepared that some of the activities may not be available outside of the tourist season (June to September). If you do visit outside of June to September you can still hike as lower-altitude routes are open (depending on the weather). Kyrgyzstan does have cold winters but the winter is ideal if you are planning to ski.
If you are hoping to stay with a nomadic family then the summer months are a better time to visit. May to September is a good time to visit Kyrgyzstan to stay in a yurt and do some trekking or biking. The summers are hot and temperatures can get up to 31 degrees Celsius with hardly any rain.
The country has 250 days of sunshine a year but if you are staying in the mountains prepare for the nights to be cooler, especially if you are at a high altitude (above 2000 metres). Below is a weather chart for Bishkek from January to December to help you to plan your trip.
From the Airport in Kyrgyzstan
There are several airports in Kyrgyzstan and three international airports for flights to Kyrgyzstan. Below is how to get to and from each of the international airports.
Bishkek – Manas International Airport (FRU) is the closest airport to Bishkek. Line 380 bus takes you into Bishkek and costs €1 for the hour journey. It leaves every hour. A taxi costs approximately €7 and takes 30 minutes.
Tamchy – Issyk-Kul International Airport (IKU) is 30 minutes from Issyk-Kul. You need to take a taxi which costs approximately €8.
Karakol – Karakol International Airport is only 2 minutes away from Karakol by taxi. It costs €2 for the ride.
Feel more confident with someone waiting for you at the airport when you pre-book a transfer with Hoppa, a reliable and safe service for solo females.
Travel Insurance For Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a safe country to explore but travel insurance is always recommended to cover you for any medical assistance and activities, especially if you are planning on trekking. Some insurance companies only cover you for up to 2000 metres for hiking.
I recommend True Traveller for UK and European residents, and World Nomads for U.S. and worldwide citizens. Both companies allow you to buy insurance when you are already on the road, and offer different plans depending on your needs including additional adventure cover.
- Check insurance cover and prices for True Traveller
Travelling Onwards (check visas before you travel)
To Kazahstan (Almaty)
From West Bus Station (also called New Bus Station), head to the right hand side for the buses to Almaty. They generally leave from bay number 5 and you pay the driver 400 Som onboard. You may have to wait up to an hour if you arrive later whilst the bus fills up. It’s only approximately 25km to the border and everyone gets out and takes their bags.
You pass through Kyrgrystan’s border then walk to the Kazakstan border where a guard hands you a form to fill in. The bus waits for you the other side. It then stops about half way on the way to Almaty to buy some snacks and for a toilet break. Be prepared for the chaotic rush hour traffic as you come into Almaty.
From Osh you can take the bus to the border for less than €1. The bus takes approximately 40 minutes and drops you at the Andijan border. From the Uzbekistan border here are taxis and shared taxis to Andijan.
Allow a whole day to get across the China border from Osh. It takes 6 hours from Osh to Sary Tash. There are direct buses from Osh to Kashgar or you can look for a shared taxi or 4WD taxi.
If you are driving a car it’s easy to take a road trip along the Pamir Highway to cross the Kyzylart and Dor Dobo border. From Sary Tash you can cross the border to Bor Dobo in Tajikistan but due to limited public transport the best way is to arrange a taxi which takes approximately 45 minutes.
If you have your Russian visa you can travel by train from Bishkek to Moscow
Where can I go from here?
Russia – 2.5 hours (Novosibirsk)
Uzbekistan – 1.5 hours
Tajikistan – 1.75 hours
FAQs About Kyrgyzstan
- Can I drink the water? It is safe to drink but bottled water is recommended and cheap to buy.
- Is tipping expected? It is expected for tour guides and drivers. If you feel the service is good in a restaurant then feel free to tip.
- Fixed price or barter? Barter at the bazaars otherwise it’s fixed price. Taxis are metered.
- Any ATMs? Yes, in Bishkek, Karakol, Osh and other towns.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Right-hand side.
- Good for vegetarians? There are some vegetarian restaurants in the capital.
- Any seven wonders of the world? No but the scenery is stunning.
Map of Kyrgyzstan
Plan Your Trip To Kyrgyzstan
Budget – £15 a day
Capital – Bishkek
Population – 6.2 million
Language spoken – Kyrgyz, Russian, Uzbek. The language is nearly the same as the Kazah language and similar to Turkish.
Local Currency – Kyrgyzstani Som
Do I need a visa? You don’t need a visa to Kyrgyzstan if you have a British passport and can stay up to 60 days.
Did you know? Krygyz means “we are 40” referring to the original 40 tribes that inhabited the area.
Lingo – Use Krygyz phrases
The Best Time to Go – June, and August
Kyrgyzstan is big in green energy and they export hydroelectric energy. Staying in a Kyrgyzstan yurt is a way to experience eco accommodation. Bel Zhan Yury Lodge is a suitable project that also offers yoga, tours and hikes to make the most of your eco experience. It is situated in the Issyk-Kul region.
If you prefer to stay in a resort, the Eco Resort Kara Bulak is situated 10 km from Chunkurchak, and 24 km from Ak-Tash. It is a hidden gem in the mountains south of Bishkek. You can go horse riding or take a sauna in a traditional Kyrgyz bathhouse. They offer a full board option which includes all of your meals. Check prices and availability here
Concordia Volunteers offers volunteering placements in Kyrgyzstan. They work with a youth organisation to provide a range of services for Karakol City and eastern Issyk-Kul Oblast.
The Kyrgyz love dancing and are famous for their dances and shoulder jerking moves. Experience a folklore show in Karakol for live Kyrgyz performances.
CBT Kyrgyzstan is community based tourism which works to improve living conditions in remote mountain areas. They provide cultural experiences depending on your interests. Find out more about the traditional handicrafts and souvenirs, find out more about the Kyrgyz hunters and their falconry skills, or attend the National Horse Games. Go to their website here
Issues in the Country
Kidnapping brides in Kyrgyzstan. Although it is technically illegal in Kyrgyzstan, kidnapping of brides does still happen in the remote areas of the country. As a tradition in the country, “kidnapping” wasn’t intended to be as traumatic as it is today. It began as a way of two people who loved each other being able to get married when their families didn’t approve. The man would kidnap the girl he loved and take her to marry her. Unfortunately this ‘tradition’ became corrupted over the years by men who decided to kidnap a woman he wanted to marry without her consent. Read more here
Mind Body & Soul
Attend a silent meditation retreat at Vipassana Kyrgyzstan
Pilgrims of Emptiness offer a Sufi-Zen meditation camp and retreat at the shore of Issyk-Kul lake staying in yurt accommodation.
Treat yourself to a massage at Mystic Spa in Bishkek. They offer Ayurvedic massages and therapies as well as Thai massages and pedicures. The ambience is so chilled that you’ll want to stay all day.