Kyrgyzstan, located in Central Asia, is a country of majestic mountains and diverse cultures. The country is famous for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and unique traditions – a whole hell of a lot of adventure opportunities.
And the crazy thing is, most people can’t even find Kyrgyzstan on a map…
We first traveled here in 2019, and since then, Epic Backpacker Tours has been back multiple times – showing our clients our favorite places and people we have found along the way.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor to this part of the world, Kyrgyzstan is sure to leave a lasting impression. Here are 10 fascinating Kyrgyzstan facts that will make you want to book your next trip to this incredible Central Asian country.
1. Kyrgyzstan is a Land of Majestic Mountains
Kyrgyzstan is known for its stunning mountain ranges, with over 90% of the country being covered by mountains. Some of the most famous mountain ranges in Kyrgyzstan include the Tien Shan, Pamir, and Alai Mountains.
These towering peaks offer breathtaking views and opportunities for trekking, mountaineering, and skiing. Whether you’re a seasoned climber or just looking for a scenic hike, Kyrgyzstan has something for everyone.
2. Lenin Peak: A Challenging Mountain for Climbers
Lenin Peak, located in the Pamir Mountains, is one of the most challenging peaks for climbers in Kyrgyzstan. At 7,134 meters (23,406 feet) tall, it requires a high level of physical and technical ability to reach the summit.
Despite its difficulty and remoteness, many climbers from around the world flock to Kyrgyzstan each year to attempt the ascent. Although the high altitude presents a number of inherent challenges, Lenin is typically known for being an “introductory” level 7000m peak.
Here is a shot from when we visited base camp a few years ago:
3. The Soviet Period Left its Mark on Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1991. During this time, the country underwent significant changes, with Soviet-style architecture and infrastructure being built throughout the country. While some of these structures are now in disrepair, they offer a fascinating glimpse into Kyrgyzstan’s Soviet past.
On our Kyrgyzstan tour, we even visit a Soviet-era mining town that is completely abandoned.
Even massive statutes of Vladimir Lenin are still standing – which is pretty unbelievable considering all of the bad stuff the Soviets did in Kyrgyzstan to suppress the local culture.
4. Alcoholic Horse Milk: A Unique Kyrgyz Tradition
Kyrgyzstan is famous for its traditional alcoholic drink, called kumis. Kumis is made from fermented horse milk and has been a staple of Kyrgyz culture for centuries.
The drink is considered to have medicinal properties and is often consumed for its health benefits (it might not even be possible to get drunk on Kumis due to low alcohol levels).
While it may not be to everyone’s taste, kumis is a must-try for those looking to immerse themselves in Kyrgyz culture.
Spoiler alert: it does not taste very good.
5. The Food of Kyrgyzstan: A Delicious Blend of Influences
Kyrgyz cuisine is a unique blend of influences from neighboring countries (most notably Russia) and the nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz people. The cuisine features a range of dishes, including roasted meats, fresh dairy products, and a variety of breads.
One of the most famous dishes in Kyrgyzstan is beshbarmak, a hearty stew made with boiled meats and potatoes. Whether you’re a foodie or just looking for a delicious meal, Kyrgyzstan’s cuisine is sure to satisfy – especially the grilled meat (and not so much the horse milk booze).
6. The Currency of Kyrgyzstan: The Som
The currency of Kyrgyzstan is the som, which has been in circulation since 1993. The som is divided into 100 tyiyns and is readily available in both cash and electronic form.
Travelers to Kyrgyzstan should exchange their foreign currency for som in Bishkek at one of the many money changers, as some remote areas may not accept other forms of payment and ATM machines might not be available outside of the capital.
7. A Country of Nomads
One of the most unique things about Kyrgyzstan is its strong nomadic heritage. In line with the country’s long history of nomadic life, today many Kyrgyz people still live a nomadic lifestyle, moving their herds of livestock to different pastures throughout the year.
This nomadic lifestyle is deeply ingrained in the country’s culture and can be seen in the traditional nomadic architecture, music, and clothing.
8. Traditional Music and Dance
The music and dance of Kyrgyzstan is another unique aspect of the country’s culture. Kyrgyz music is known for its haunting melodies and its use of traditional instruments like the komuz (a three-stringed lute) and the dombra (a long-necked lute).
Traditional dances in Kyrgyzstan are also an important part of the country’s cultural heritage and often involve intricate patterns of movement and the use of traditional musical instruments.
9. The Manas Epic Poem
The Manas Epic is a long and complex poem that is considered to be one of the greatest works of Central Asian literature.
This epic tells the story of the Kyrgyz people and their history and is still widely studied and performed today and is a source of pride for the country’s people.
10. The the Legacy of Genghis Khan in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan was once a part of the Mongol empire, which was founded by Genghis Khan in the early 13th century. During this time, the country experienced significant changes, both politically and culturally.
The Mongol empire brought new technologies, trade routes, and ideas to the region, which had a lasting impact on the people of Kyrgyzstan.
There is no getting around it: the Mongol empire was also responsible for many atrocities in Kyrgyzstan. The conquest and rule of the empire resulted in widespread death, destruction, and displacement of populations. Though they have been gone for many centuries, the legacy of Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire can still be seen and felt in Kyrgyzstan today.
Fascinating Kyrgyzstan Facts: Wrap Up
So you should have gathered by now that Kyrgyzstan is a land of breathtaking beauty and a rich cultural heritage, waiting to be explored by adventurous travelers.
From Lenin Peak to the unique nomadic way of life, many aspects of this country offers a plethora of unique and unforgettable experiences. The delicious cuisine, fascinating Mongol and Soviet history, and friendly locals all make Kyrgyzstan a true hidden gem.
This is a country that promises to leave a lasting impression on all who travel here, and is a must-visit for those looking to escape the beaten path and immerse themselves in a new and exciting culture.
Want to experience Kyrgyzstan yourself? Visit the trip page to check out when we are headed to Kyrgyzstan next.