My 29 Photos Of Kyrgyzstan, The Hidden Gem Of Central Asia
I just returned from 3 weeks in Kyrgyzstan. As a landscape photographer I have travelled lots countries in the world so I guess I can say I am ‘used’ to beautiful landscapes. Until recently Central Asia was unknown territory for me. I always love to explore countries that are not really on the radar of photographers and travellers in general. It inspires and pushes my creativity. The most important reason for visiting Kyrgyzstan was to meet my girlfriend’s family. But other than that I was triggered by the beauty of its nature. As a photographer and nature lover, you know that feeling when you see that untouched beauty? Crazy mountains with open valleys? It triggers you somehow. That was what Kyrgyzstan did to me.
Kyrgyzstan doesn’t require a visa to access. It’s fairly easy to travel to if you’re willing to transfer somewhere. It doesn’t really offer direct flights from most places. You’ll be flying into the capital Bishkek which is already surrounded by crazy mountains. It starts right there. Upon entering the city you already see high snowcapped peaks around you. Basically, this whole country has immense heights and mountains. It’s on another level than what we’re used to in Europe, especially for me living in the Netherlands below sea level. Being on an altitude around 3000m is fairly common here with peaks over 7000m and occasional hikes to 4000m+. I had a bit of trouble with the altitudes in the beginning of my visit but this disappeared after a while.
A Green Valley With Wild Horses And A View On Peak Yeltsin - This Is What Kyrgyzstan Is About
Nature in Kyrgyzstan is really untouched and lots of locals live like nomads. The countryside roads are rather bad. I was actually surprised that most are marked as roads on Google Maps because a normal rental car would never be able to drive there. You need at least a high 4x4. But with some effort (driving ‘bad’ roads and hiking steep paths) you’ll be able to see some of the most beautiful untouched nature you’ve ever seen. Endless valleys with huge mountains around you, crystal clear turquoise lakes, wild eagles, canyons, you name it. This country has it all. I was surprised by its variety of landscapes in a rather small area. Just a few hours driving would bring me from snowcapped mountains to landscapes that looked like the moon with red canyons and unearthly textures. Americans will know this as ‘Utah’. Because of the remote areas, there is literally zero light pollution here. During the night looking up you will see the brightest milky way in the sky you’ve ever seen.
The Night Sky In Kyrgyzstan Is So Clear With Zero Light Pollution
You can even see the stars reflecting in the lakes. During this night we saw many meteors.
I’ve been to Kyrgyzstan 4 times now and each time explored a new area of the country. I already have new ideas for the next time. My first visit was the most memorable simply because everything was so very new and I didn’t really know what to expect. The beauty everywhere was simply overwhelming. But all other visits afterward also had an impact, because I was visiting different parts of the country.
A magical crystal clear turquoise-coloured lake located at an altitude close to 4000m. This lake requires a steep 5 hour hike at high altitudes to get to.
When you’re exploring the valleys you’ll see the locals from time to time. They live in Yurts. Yurts are small ‘houses’ that look like a big tent. These people are mostly shepherds taking care of cattle in the summer. You’ll see hundreds of sheep or horses with glaciers in the background. It’s a really impressive sight. These shepherds live without any luxury like electricity or a toilet. All of the locals I met in the mountains were friendly. They didn’t speak English much but I think they enjoyed some variety of company as they’re in the mountains for months without much conversation. It’s life at its simplest. It got me thinking if these people actually need more. They’re just living day by day, with their cattle, not worrying about anything in the world. Literally disconnected from the world and living in their own small world.
An Eagle Flying Over The Tops Of The Ala-Archa Mountains
Unique light hitting inside of the mountain from reflecting onto the clouds.
Kyrgyzstan has lots of beautiful places. Simply fly to its capital Bishkek and start exploring from there. You can see the giant peaks from the city already and it takes a 45 min drive to go to the Ala Archa national park nearby, which is already super beautiful and has nice relatively easy hikes. If you want to relax, you can stay near the Issyk Kul lake, which is huge and almost looks like a sea. Also make sure to Visit Karakol. From there you can visit lots of beautiful valleys with insane mountains. And make sure to experience real Kyrgyz culture. The people are really friendly and have nice traditions and food.
During my travel, I visited Bishkek, Chaek, Song-Kul, Around Isskyl-Kul lake and Karakol. There are still lots of more places to explore for me so I hope to return soon.
I’d like to mention that despite lots of people think the ‘stans’ are ‘dangerous’ to travel to I’ve never really felt unsafe. Especially in the mountains where no one really cares that you’re walking around with expensive gear. I slept a lot in tents, vulnerable to the robbery but nothing ever happened to me. I was often accompanied with locals though, either my girlfriend (and family) or people from Visit Karakol, a travel agency from Karakol that helped me a lot in getting to places that I normally wouldn’t be able to go to by myself.
An Intimate Shot Of A Green Hill
Kyrgyzstan has many opportunities for intimate shots as it has beautiful rocks and hills everywhere around.
A Photo Of The Lunar Eclipse In 2018 With Mars Right Under It And The Visible Milky Way
Notice my girlfriend standing there enjoying the night sky.
Kyrgyzstan is an amazingly beautiful country with lots of really untouched nature and I would definitely recommend visiting it.
I tried my best to capture a general overview of the beauty of the country. As I am a landscape photographer I focus on the beauty of the country mainly regarding nature. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Mars-Like Landscapes In A Canyon Called Skazka Canyon
Skazka Canyon means ‘fairytale canyon’. Walking around here is really unreal.
The people from Kyrgyzstan are very inviting and friendly. Make sure to try out their local food: plov, manti, laghman and kuurdak. Most of these involve lots of meat. And be sure to try the fermented horse milk.
Urban areas in Kyrgyzstan are definitely interesting. The Kyrgyz capital is Bishkek and the city center actually looks very modern (that some might not expect). But when you go outside, you will quickly see the ‘real’ Kyrgyzstan which can be considered underdeveloped. It’s great to walk around in these little villages, though, and see how the people live and do their daily activities. Especially the villages in and around the mountains are great to experience. I guess you can’t really call them ‘urban’ as most are very small. Sometimes you feel like you've gone back in time. People ride horses and donkeys (they do have cars, but most are old in the villages), keep cattle, and you’ll often find yourself in a traffic jam because a farmer is bringing back his hundreds of sheep, simply on the road.
It's definitely as easy to get there as it was a few years ago. Most countries around there do not need a visa. You can just fly there and access. Depending on where you’re flying from, you’ll have to transfer in Russia or Turkey.
An Aerial Panorama Of A Part Of The Barksoon Valley
You can see all the rivers coming from glaciers of the mountains into lakes. This valley itself is already at 4000m with the surrounding mountains much higher.
A Beautiful Morning At Song-Kul Lake
This lake is located in a majestic area at an altitude of 3000m which is hard to believe when you see surrounding mountains thousands of meters higher.
You Can Always Find Different Wildflowers In The Mountains In Kyrgyzstan
This was at an altitude of 4000m in the Barskoon Valley. Glaciers, lakes and mountains everywhere around.
A Kid Of The Local Family Enjoying The Sunset At Song-Kul
A wide open valley at a huge lake at an altitude of 3000m. The locals are living like nomads here without any luxury. Think about growing up here.
Ala-Kul Lake At An Altitude Close To 4000m Reflecting In It’s Turquoise Waters
For people wondering: yes you can swim in this lake. It comes straight from a glacier so it’s cold! But very clean.
Wild Horses Standing In Front Of The Huge Snow Capped Peaks In The Sary-Jaz Valley On The Border Of Kyrgyzstan And China
Camping At The Sary-Jaz Valley On The Border Of Kyrgyzstan And China
Zero light pollution makes the skies so bright. We used this old Soviet bus as transport. Not much comfort but very reliable, they said. This thing could drive off road up to mountains. It was called ‘the pill’ as according to the locals it looked like a pill.
Twilight Before The Sun Comes Up
Standing at one of the crazy canyons in Kyrgyzstan that look like they’re coming straight from the moon.
Standing In Front Of Peak Karakol
A very scenic peak popular among mountain climbers. It has an altitude of 5200m.
A Shepherd Walking Down A Mountain With His Horse And Dog
I shot this with a 400mm lens from a neighbouring mountain. A storm was coming in fast so he had to move his cattle down the mountain.
Sunrise At Skazka Canyon
Does this remind you of Mars?
A Top Down View From The Patterns Of Skazka Canyon
The Night Sky Of Kyrgyzstan Is Unpolluted
We stayed at this yurt at 3000m. Looking at the beautiful night sky was a joy.
Note: this post originally had 59 images. It’s been shortened to the top 29 images based on user votes.