Kyrgyzstan, The New Destination For Mountain Lovers

Kyrgyzstan is highlighted not only for the cultural traits of the Kyrgyz people, but also for its remarkable natural environment 

With their desire to discover new worlds, Europeans are looking for new destinations with a change of scenery and paradise. Among these is Kyrgyzstan, a new destination coveted by lovers of beautiful mountains and nature.

Kyrgyzstan is highlighted not only for the cultural traits of the Kyrgyz people, but also for its remarkable natural environment, notes Pabion-Mouriès (2013). Approximately 87 percent of Kyrgyzstan's territory lies at altitudes of over 2,500 meters (Abazov, 2004: 2), making the country a geography favourable to mountain tourism.

Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet socialist republic. Since its independence, the country has gained international recognition for its openness to the world and its commitment to rapid democratization.

The Kyrgyz are known as former nomads, and it is this nomadic culture that makes them so attached to freedom. Semi-nomadic families still live in the country. It is also this nomadic culture that makes Kyrgyzstan a must-see destination. Pabion-Mouriès (2013) writes that Kyrgyzstan can be considered the most democratic country in Central Asia.

As mentioned above, Kyrgyzstan attracts tourists because of its beautiful mountains and lively nomadic culture. Mountains are one of the most important tourism resources in the world. Mountaineering and mountain tourism activities are beginning to be frequented by mass tourism (Şenol et al, 2016).

Moreover, the yurt, a nomadic habitat developed in the West by ecologists, originated in Kyrgyzstan. The yurt is such a symbol of Kyrgyzstan that the red and yellow Kyrgyz flag features the top (the tunduk) of the traditional Kyrgyz yurt. Hallé & Passavant (2012) write that "the nomadic archetype is represented by natural spaces (steppe landscape), traditional housing (yurts), the use of horses as a means of travel, pastoral activities and cultural practices (eagle hunting, felt-making (shyrdak: felt carpet), culinary specialties such as kymys (koumis), which is fermented mare's milk, boorsok (small pieces of fried dough) or kuruts (dried yoghurt dumplings))".

In addition to its scenic beauty, Kyrgyzstan also attracts tourists for its historical heritage, thanks to its key position on the ancient Silk Road. The country has certainly preserved some remarkable buildings: ancient caravan cities (e.g. Tash Rabat Caravanserai, 15th century), minarets (e.g. Burana Tower, 11th century), mosques, etc.

Not to mention the fact that it is the region of origin of great historical figures, and has been passionately recounted by historical figures. The country mobilizes a whole symbolic universe around emblematic figures, such as Genghis Khan, Manas, Alexander the Great or Marco Polo.

Today, Kyrgyzstan is highly popular with tourists, and the famous youtuber Seblafrite has made a remarkable vlog about this destination. Because of its beautiful mountains, mountaineering is one of the most popular forms of tourism in Kyrgyzstan. In addition to its beautiful mountains, the country also boasts some remarkable lakes, and visitors testify that no other lake in the world can match the beauty of Lake Issyk Kol. In fact, since the Soviet era, this region has attracted tourists in particular for its spas, since it was the Soviets' favourite seaside resort. Indeed, during the Soviet period, Kyrgyzstan welcomed a large number of tourists, almost exclusively from the USSR, with a large majority of Russians and Kazakhs. Berenaliev (2014) writes that "Lake Issyk-Kul is the leading destination for beach tourism in Central Asia. It is a privileged destination; it comes top of the list of tourist activities with the highest concentration of tourists and capital linked to tourist activity. The lake is the lifeblood of the region". According to the country's official statistics, Lake Issyk-Kul is the most visited tourist destination in Kyrgyzstan.

The presence of such a large lake (178 km long and 60 km wide) creates a favourable microclimate, with milder winters. The essential motivations of tourists in this market segment are based on the existence of an extraordinary natural environment: the sun-drenched lake with its fresh water, the white sandy beaches, the mix of marine climate and mountain air create unforgettable emotions. Issyk-Kul's resorts and sanatoria provide a range of hotel, restaurant, leisure, sports, therapeutic and excursion services, as well as recreational facilities. Tourists often combine beach tourism with picnics in the mountains (Berenaliev, 2014). Since 2001, the Issyk-Koul region has benefited from international recognition with its inclusion in UNESCO's global network of Man and Biosphere reserves.

Hallé & Passavant (2012) write that Kyrgyzstan brings together all the characteristics of a product valued in the distinctive logic of adventure tourism. They add that the country boasts the most important natural and cultural resources in the Central Asian region.

Kyrgyzstan is regularly compared to the Switzerland of Central Asia. It has many tourist attractions, i.e. natural and cultural resources that can make it an attractive destination for tourists.

It is a small, sparsely populated country: 198,000 km² with around 7 million inhabitants. Its topography is essentially mountainous, with 94 percent of its territory covered by mountain ranges and an average altitude of 2,750 meters. The highest peaks are found in the Tien Shan mountain range (Pobedy Peak, 7,439 m; Khan Tengri Peak, 7,010 m) and the Pamir Altai (Lenin Peak, 7,134 m). These peaks frame wide valleys, high plateaus and Lake Issyk Kul, the world's second-highest lake after Lake Titicaca in Peru (Hallé & Passavant, 2012).

It is important to add that the number of tourists is growing by the day, given that for many countries, including those of the European Union, no visa is required, and that internet connectivity, transport accessibility, etc. are easy.

In short, with its beautiful mountains, breathtaking nature, unique nomadic culture, prestigious historical monuments testifying to its warrior past and its importance on the Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan is a must for lovers of mountaineering and heavenly landscapes.


-Abazov, Rafis (2004). Historical Dictionary of Kyrgyzstan, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Lanham, Maryland, and Oxford.

-Berenaliev, Y. (2014). Le tourisme au Kirghizstan: enjeux d'un développement durable (Doctoral dissertation, Grenoble).

-Hallé, J., & Passavant, E. (2012). Le contrôle à distance: La gestion de la sous-traitance au Kirghizstan par les agences françaises de tourisme d'aventure. Téoros, 31(1), 103-114.

-Pabion-Mouriès, J. (2013). Tourisme communautaire et patrimonialisation de la culture. Le cas du Kirghizstan postsoviétique et multiethnique. Collection EDYTEM. Cahiers de géographie, 14(1), 91-100.

-Şenol, f., et al (2016). Dağ turizmi ve gelişmesinin önündeki engeller: Kirgizistan örneği. manas sosyal araştırmalar dergisi, 5(2), 139-156.

By Derya Soysal - Historian and environmental expert with a focus on Central Asian history and geography