If you’re thinking about visiting Kyrgyzstan, you’re in for a treat. This beautiful mountain country is still off the beaten path for most travellers, but those who come here get rewarded with stunning scenery, friendly people and unique traditions you won’t encounter elsewhere.
I have some great memories of Kyrgyzstan, whether it be horse riding, hiking or watching the local horse games. That’s why we want to help you plan your own trip.
Kyrgyzstan is a country not to be missed. If you even remotely enjoy stunning sceneries and a unique culture, you will want to spend some time exploring the country’s highlights.
Keep reading to find out how to see the highlights of Kyrgyzstan in 10 days!
Table of Contents
10 days in Kyrgyzstan itinerary
Day 1: Bishkek
Start your trip in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. This city has the country’s largest airport, so this is where you’ll likely arrive.
While Bishkek is missing the Silk Road splendour of nearby Uzbek cities, it still has a few things to offer that you shouldn’t miss.
Bishkek is also a great place to make travel arrangements. One of the easiest ways of travelling through Kyrgyzstan is to use CBT. CBT stands for Community Based Tourism, a group of 15 organisations throughout the country.
These organisations connect you with locals who offer accommodation, yurt stays, activities like horse riding and transport. If you have no idea yet how to get around Kyrgyzstan and where to stay, then visit the CBT headquarters in Bishkek.
Highlights of Bishkek:
- Osh Bazaar: We’ve visited a lot of bazaars in Central Asia, but Osh Bazaar was by far the most photogenic one. Come here to see the spices on offer, buy some tea or shop for any equipment you’re still missing. You can also stock up on nuts and dried fruits (handy snacks for long drives and hikes) or shop for souvenirs.
- Ala Tooth Square: The Brutalist architecture surrounding Bishkek’s central square is a strong reminder of the country’s Soviet past. Come here in summer to watch people cool down in the fountains or pay a visit to the National Historical Museum. After years of renovations, it finally reopened in 2022, so this is your chance to visit!
- Dubovy (Oak) Park: You can find multiple parks in the centre of Bishkek. Oak Park stands out because of its open-air gallery. Local artists exhibit and sell their paintings here, and you can see a variety of artworks.
Where to stay in Bishkek
While one day is enough to see the city of Bishkek, make sure to book an extra night. You can do a few fun day trips from the Kyrgyz capital and go to Ala Archa National Park on your second day.
Mid-Range: De’Mar Hotel features modern and comfortable rooms, and the location is perfect for walking to the city centre. Rates include breakfast, making this well-rated hotel a great deal. Click here to check it out now!
A bit more comfort: A solid five-star hotel in the centre of Bishkek is the Sheraton Bishkek. The service is excellent, and the rooms are comfortable and luxurious. Click to see photos and read reviews!
Budget: The USSR Hostel is a solid budget option in the centre of Bishkek. It features Soviet-style furniture, throwing you back into old times. Plus, the staff is very friendly and helpful, and there are lots of bars and restaurants around. Click here to learn more!
Day 2: Day trip to Ala Archa National Park
Today, visit Ala Archa National Park to go hiking for a day. This national park is the perfect escape into the Kyrgyz mountains and one of the best day trips from Bishkek.
You have three ways of getting there:
- Public transport: Take a marshrutka (minibus) from Osh Bazaar to Kashka Su. If you pay a bit more, the driver might even leave you at the park entrance. From there, it’s still 12 km to get to the hiking trails, so you’ll need to hitchhike or hope that you can find a taxi.
- Taxi: The easiest way to get to Ala Archa National Park is by taking a taxi. Make sure to arrange a pick-up time with your driver so that they can also take you back.
- Organised tour: If you prefer hiking with a guide, you can join a guided tour. Either book it online or ask your hotel or CBT Bishkek if they can help you.
You have the choice between multiple trails in Ala Archa National Park. One of the most popular ones takes you to Ak-Sai Waterfall, while the Ala Archa River trail is a bit easier and offers stunning views of the valley.
Make sure to bring enough food and drinks into the national park to last you for the day. Also, even if the weather is sunny and warm, bring a warm layer of clothing.
When we hiked here, fog suddenly crept in, and the temperature dropped to the point where we became very uncomfortable.
Day 3: Lake Issyk Kul
Lake Issyk Kul is one of the largest high-altitude mountain lakes in the world. Despite its altitude, it’s famous for its golden beaches, where locals relax in summer.
Getting here is easy, as you can catch a minibus to Cholpon Ata from the Bishkek western bus station. If you have some time, though, and either have your own transport or want to do a quick half-day tour before heading to Issyk Kul, stop by the Burana Tower.
Highlights of Issyk Kul
- Burana Tower: As we already mentioned above, if you have time, you should stop by the Burana Tower. It’s easy to forget that Kyrgyzstan, with its stunning mountains and white yurts, was once part of the Silk Road. The Burana Tower is the only remaining part of the city of Balasagun, which declined after Mongols conquered the area. Don’t miss the nearby petroglyphs!
- Cholpon Ata Petroglyphs: If you’re staying in Cholpon Ata, you can hike to a field of petroglyphs. The oldest ones date back to the Bronze Age (around 1500 BC), and people created them until the 4th century AD. Archaeologists believe this area was a place of worship, similar to an open-air temple.
- Eagle Hunter Demonstration: If you have the chance, try to arrange an Eagle Hunter demonstration. Eagle Hunting was an important tradition in the nomadic lifestyle that many Kyrgyz people used to live, and seeing locals with their giant birds is a unique experience. Ask CBT to help you arrange this.
Where to stay in Issyk Kul
Lake Issyk Kul is large, and you have plenty of options for where to stay.
Cholpon Ata is a popular beach resort town, which is also conveniently located next to the field of petroglyphs we mentioned above.
On the southern shore, Kadji Sai and Tamga are great options.
Here are some places to take a look at:
Mid-Range: If you’ve always wanted to stay in a yurt, you should check out Yurt Camp Tosor. This camp on the shores of Issyk Kul receives excellent reviews, and rates include breakfast. Check out photos and book your stay!
A bit more comfort: Finding true luxury in Kyrgyzstan isn’t easy, so don’t come here expecting flawless five-star hotels. However, if you want a bit more comfort than you get from the average guest house, you should check out this place. Гостевой дом Ривьера (loosely translated into Latin letters as Gostevoj dom Rivʹera) is located in Cholpon Ata and features large, comfortable rooms and a stunning view of the lake. Click here to check it out!
Budget: Guest House Dinara is affordable, cosy and has a perfect location in Kadji Sai, from where you can reach the beach and the mountains in a few minutes of walking. The host is friendly and welcoming, and rates include breakfast. Read reviews and check availability now!
Days 4-5: Altyn Arashan
The next day, make sure to leave early. You’re going to visit Altyn Arashan, a valley known for its hiking opportunities and hot springs.
Your first step today is to head to Karakol. As we mentioned before, you can ask CBT to help you arrange your transport, or you can take a marshrutka, a Kyrgyz minibus.
From Karakol, you have two options. The first one, which most people opt for, is to take either a marshrutka or a taxi to the village of Ak Suu. Marshrutka 350 leaves from the centre of Karakol, and make sure to ask the driver if they’re going to Ak Suu Resort. You can even tell him you want to go to Altyn Arashan, so he drops you off in the right place (which is here on the map).
From this point onwards, you have to hike. The distance is around 14 kilometres, but you also have to go from an altitude of 1800 metres to 2400 metres. It should take you around 5 hours, a bit less if you’re well in shape and a bit more if you’re not.
If that sounds too exhausting to you, you also have the option of hiring an Old Soviet truck. This is how we went there, and let me tell you, it was one of the bumpiest roads of my life. It also took around two hours, despite the short distance, but it’s great if you have a lot of luggage or are not up for the hike.
Highlights of Altyn Arashan
- Ala Kul Lake: One of the most popular day hikes takes you to Ala Kul Lake. You also have the option of riding horses until the Ala Kul Pass and continuing on foot from there.
- Horseback riding: The Kyrgyz culture is famous for its close connections to horses, so it’s not surprising that many locals offer horseback riding. Ask around. It’s very easy to book this activity with your guesthouse.
- Hot springs: Many of the guesthouses in Altyn Arashan have hot springs. You can also find some natural pools close to the river. The hot springs are a great way of relaxing after a day of activities, and even better on a cold or rainy day.
Where to stay in Altyn Arashan
Many of the guesthouses and yurt camps in Altyn Arashan don’t have an online presence. Therefore, you can either show up and ask around or contact CBT to help you with your booking.
If you absolutely want to make a booking yourself, you can try the following places:
Altyn Arashan: This guesthouse, which carries the same name as the valley, looks fantastic. The rooms are clean and nice, and rates include breakfast. Click here to see more!
Ala-Kul Guesthouse in Altyn Arashan: Guests rave about the fantastic food the hosts serve in this guesthouse. This one is a good option if you want to stay in a dorm and meet other travellers. See pictures and read reviews now!
Eco Yurt Camp Arashan: If you haven’t stayed in a yurt yet, this is your chance to book one online. Be warned that some guests had trouble booking a yurt online and ended up having to stay in the guesthouse instead. If you want to be on the safe side, it might be better to just show up or book through CBT. If not, you can check it out online.
Days 6-7: Jeti Oguz
Jeti Oguz might not be far from Altyn Arashan in kilometres, but it will take you a while to get there.
First, you have to leave Altyn Arashan and make your way back to Karakol. If you’re hiking, we recommend starting early enough so you have plenty of time to reach your final destination.
Jeti Oguz is a bit more than 20 kilometres from Karakol, and when organising transport, you need to be very specific about where you want to go.
At the entrance of the valley, you can find a large village called Jeti Oguz. It’s a nice place to base yourself, but most travellers prefer heading further to Jeti Oguz Korort. Marshrutkas leave from Karakol, but many of them only go to the larger Jeti Oguz village.
If that’s the case, you could always take a shared taxi to get to your final destination.
Jeti Oguz is famous for its red rock formation called the 7 Bulls. It looks most impressive in the morning when the sun lights it up, and you can get some fantastic views from the hills around Jeti Oguz Korort.
Another stunning place to visit is the Valley of Flowers, where you can admire the wildflowers bloom in late spring and early summer. Even outside that season, the place is beautiful with its lush meadows and impressive mountains.
You can get here on a hike, or you can go for a horse ride, as we did.
Where to stay in Jety Oguz
Just like Altyn Arashan, Jeti Oguz is one of those remote places where it’s easier to book accommodation when you arrive or through CBT. Not many of the guesthouses and yurt camps have a presence online.
If you absolutely want to book ahead of time yourself, we found two options:
Eco Village Lodge: This guesthouse receives excellent reviews, with some guests saying that the food here was the best they had tried in the country. The location is at the entrance of the valley, close to the large Jeti Oguz town, but the owners rent bikes which will help you explore. Click here to see pictures and read reviews for yourself!
Emir: This guesthouse has both yurts and regular rooms. Out of all the places we found, this one has the best location right in the middle of the valley, close to the famous 7 Bulls Rock. Click here to check out availability!
Ulush Complex: This place is new to booking.com, but the pictures look fantastic. It’s located in Jeti Oguz town at the entrance of the valley, but you can explore Jeti Oguz from here. Check it out for yourself!
Days 8-9: Lake Song Kul
Lake Song Kul was one of my favourite places in Kyrgyzstan. We arrived when all of the wildflowers blossomed, and I loved relaxing in a yurt next to this alpine lake. Semi-nomadic herders come up to the meadows in late spring, looking for pastures, and leave again in autumn.
Getting here isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort. First, you need to take a marshrutka or shared taxi to Kochkor. From there, you need to ask CBT to help you arrange onward transport.
The road to Song Kul is long and windy, and no public transport comes up here. CBT Kochkor or CBT Naryn can help you find a car that can take you.
They can also help you find a yurt camp where you can stay overnight.
Highlights of Lake Song Kul:
- Go for a hike: One of the best things to do here is just to walk around and take in the beauty of the scenery. You can climb one of the hills surrounding the lake for better views, or you can head to the shores of the lake and walk as far as you want. Take an offline map with you to make sure you don’t get lost.
- Horseriding: Yes, Lake Song Kul is another place where you can try horseriding. If you haven’t done it yet, this is your last chance.
- Eat traditional Kyrgyz food: You won’t have much choice in terms of food at Lake Song Kul, but it’s guaranteed that your hosts will serve you some fantastic traditional food. Ask them if they have Kumis, which is fermented mare milk. It’s an acquired taste, but very popular with locals.
Where to stay in Lake Song Kul
Surprisingly, you can find multiple yurt camps with an online presence dotted around Lake Song Kul. It’s easy to just show up and book accommodation, but if you prefer reserving in advance, check out this link to booking.com.
There, you have a list of all yurt camps you can potentially book. Make sure to switch to the map view from time to time to ensure that the yurt camp you’re about to book is in the location you’re looking for!
Day 10: Return to Bishkek
Today, it’s time to return to Bishkek. Head back to Kochkor and then continue by marshrutka or pre-arrange transport from there.
If you haven’t had the chance yet, consider stopping at the Burana Tower, which we already mentioned on Day 3. It’s a fantastic reminder of Kyrgyzstan’s location on the Silk Road and of the great cities that once spread in these parts of Central Asia.
If you have more time, you could consider heading to China from Lake Song Kul. In that case, you have the choice between two border crossings.
We crossed the Torugart Pass, a spectacular mountain pass of which we, unfortunately, didn’t see much because it was a rainy day.
The other option is the Irkeshtam Pass. It used to be possible to cross both passes, but these days, travellers have reported that only the Irkeshtam Pass is open to international travellers. Carefully research before attempting this crossing, and if needed, contact a local agency for help.
Best time to visit Kyrgyzstan
The best time to visit Kyrgyzstan is in the summer. From early June to late August, weather conditions are favourable, and the days can even get pretty hot – provided you’re not staying at a high altitude.
Of course, good weather means that this is high season for tourism in Kyrgyzstan. Fortunately, the country isn’t on most people’s radar yet, so it doesn’t feel overrun with tourists.
If you prefer more solitude, consider going during the shoulder season, in May or September. You might need to adjust this itinerary, as the pass leading up to Song Kul Lake might not be accessible due to snow. And you’ll definitely have to take warm clothes, but the fresh green of spring and the autumn colours can look spectacular.
Winter, from December to April, is the coldest season. A blanket of snow covers Kyrgyzstan, especially at higher altitudes. This season is great if you like snow, snowy landscapes and skiing. And you can even still stay in yurts, as some yurt camps remain open all year long.
How to get to Kyrgyzstan
The easiest way to get to Kyrgyzstan is by plane. We recommend flying to Bishkek, as it’s the most accessible city in the country.
A good way to find the best flight offers is to check on a website like Skyscanner, where you can compare multiple airlines. This allows you to compare schedules and prices and make sure you find a deal that you like.
Reaching Kyrgyzstan overland is also an option, but a bit more tricky, depending on where you come from.
Kyrgyzstan shares borders with China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Crossing from Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan is not very complicated. Most public transport from Uzbekistan goes via Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, but it’s also possible to cross directly.
China, as we already mentioned, is more complicated. Before attempting this crossing, you should try to find travellers who have already crossed there and who can give you up-to-date information.
Tajikistan is even more complicated due to the border disputes of 2021 and 2022. At the time of writing this, the border is technically open, but the work to get all of the necessary permits does not seem to be worth it.
A good place to find up-to-date information is this forum, which focuses on Silk Road travel.
We hope you now have a good idea of how to plan your Kyrgyzstan itinerary. It’s a fantastic country to visit, with lots of welcoming and hospitable locals.
If you’re planning on going or have recently been, leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
Also, before you leave, check out the following posts, which you will find helpful in planning your trip:
- The best things to do in Bishkek
- Is Kyrgyzstan worth visiting? 5 Reasons to visit the country
- Download these travel apps and resources for your trip!
Until your next adventure!
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