Road-trip in Kyrgyzstan
All the information to discover Kyrgyzstan by 4×4, van, motorbike or bicycle
Kyrgyzstan, which means “the land of the Kyrgyz”, is a small jewel in the middle of Central Asia. Crossed by the Celestial Mountains, this small mountainous country is home to vast wilderness areas steeped in a thousand-year-old nomadic culture.
In this article, we give you some precious tips and practical information to organize your road-trip in Kyrgyzstan!
Why travel to Kyrgyzstan?
The book Explore Kyrgyzstan
Accompanied by our loyal comrades – a hardy Toyota Land Cruiser nicknamed “Mr Wolf” and the valiant Yamaha 600 XT, “Mrs Crocodile” – we explored Kyrgyzstan over a five-month period between 2017 and 2019. Our time in this country and with its inhabitants has forever left its mark on us, so much so that we decided to write a book about it! We are convinced that the hospitality of the Kyrgyz people and the beauty of their country will leave a lasting impression on you. Designed like a roadbook, and illustrated with a multitude of maps and photos, EXPLORE KYRGYZSTAN is both a tool and guide for independent travellers who wish to discover, understand, and explore Kyrgyzstan.
It is up to you to pick from this selection based on your desires and time constraints. Use this guide to build a personalised itinerary of your own, but do remember to let the Kyrgyz natural hospitality and any spur-of-the-moment decisions sway and tempt you.
We recommend including at least one day of outdoor activities to your itinerary (hiking on foot or horseback, rock climbing, white water rafting, etc.) to turn this trip into an unforgettable adventure!
What itinerary for your trip in Kyrgyzstan?
In order to help you prepare an itinerary adapted to your chosen mode of transport, all routes in the book are indicated with a difficulty ranking from 1 to 5. As some routes are poorly maintained, their degree of difficulty may vary according to the weather and recent flooding or landslides. We recommend that you increase the level of the track by 1 in the event of bad weather. If in doubt about an itinerary, do not hesitate to ask the local people or the tourist offices.
Download a navigation application that allows you to locate where you are and download maps in advance (which can be used offline). We recommend, for example, the Maps.me or OSMand applications. Please note that the maps on these applications are not updated frequently and roads are being built at a fast pace in Kyrgyzstan. So don’t be surprised if some tracks or roads do not appear on the maps or if they are slightly different. If you are using a Garmin-type GPS, download the OpenStreetMap maps before you leave.
We have published a foldable A2 format tourist map (scale 1:2 000 000) to help you prepare and organise your trip to Kyrgyzstan. You will find the main and secondary roads and mountain passes, the 24 off-road routes of the book EXPLORE KYRGYZSTAN
and more than 50 touristic sites. Overleaf, you will find a complete Kyrgyz-English phrase book to help you start a discussion under the yurt!
If you need a precise map of Kyrgyzstan, we recommand the GIZI map (1:750,000). Please note, however, that some roads are no longer up to date.
Be careful, some border areas are subject to strict regulations regarding the circulation of persons, especially foreigners. If you wish to visit these areas, you must apply for a permit in advance. More information about the restricted areas and the border permit in this article.
The best itinerary for a 3-week road-trip in Kyrgyzstan
During our first trip to Kyrgyzstan in 2017, we travelled through the country with a 4×4 Toyota Prado and a BMW 650 GS that we had rented in Bishkek. The map below represents the itinerary of our road-trip over 3 weeks including 4 days of horse riding (3 days at Song-Kul lake, 1 day at Kol-Suu lake).
This itinerary gives you the opportunity to discover the different faces of the country, from arid canyons to sparkling lakes surrounded by snowy peaks. It also allows you to experience nomadic life in the high altitude meadows and to discover the vestiges of the Silk Road, such as the caravanserai of Tash-rabat.
Please note that the route over the Tosor Pass is only possible for travellers with off-road driving experience and a suitable vehicle (4×4 obligatory, mountain bike, trail bike). If you travel to Kyrgyzstan before June, the pass may be covered with snow. Check with travel agencies in Bokonbaevo or Naryn.
Popular with visitors for its turquoise-blue waters and its lush shores overrun with horses and yurts in the summer, Lake Song-Kul is one of the must-see places in Kyrgyzstan. Read our article about Lake Song-Kul here. If you have enough time, we strongly recommend you to discover the Kol-Suu lake. Set at an altitude of 3,500 m, Lake Kol-Suu sparkles bright blue, perched in the middle of high granite cliffs. Although it attracts more and more visitors every year, its remoteness and the fact that a permit is required to access it, dissuades the majority of tourists. As you may have understood, the detour is well worth it, especially since the track to get there has been rebuilt recently. More information here.
Pratical infos to plan your trip
No visa required if staying less than 60 days. A passport valid for 6 months after your arrival in the country will be enough.
From Paris : € 300 – 400 round trip
Best season: Spring for the green plains and transhumance. Beware of river floods.
– Local currency: €1 = 79 soms
– Food: €2 – 3 for a meal at the restaurant
– Homestay (Yurt): €2 – 5/pers with breakfast
– Wild camping allowed throughout the country
– Fuel: €0.6/L (0.26 gallon)
– Vodka: €2 a bottle of 1L
Price: 70 – 90€/day according to the model (Toyota Landcruiser, Prado, Lada Niva, UAZ hunter, etc.)
Find our recommendations here: rent a 4x4 in Kyrgyzstan.
- the available models
-driving in Kyrgyzstan
Price: 85€/day according to the model (Yamaha 600 XT, Africa Twin, BMW 650 GS, etc.).
Find our recommandations here: rent a motorbike in Kyrgyzstan.
Warning: there are very few motorcycles and garages in the country. It’s better to book in advance.
There is a plethora of companies and guides in Kyrgyzstan. In order to promote employment in the country, we have created a list of guides that we met during our trips to Kyrgyzstan and whose services we have been able to test. This list is regularly updated, you will find guides for hiking, horse trekking, rafting, etc. Read the article: Things to do in Kyrgystan.
Budget for a road-trip in Kyrgyzstan
Here is the budget for our first road-trip to Kyrgyzstan in 2017. We stayed two weeks in Kyrgyzstan (9 days by 4×4 and motorbike and 3 days by horse). We were a group of 6 people.
|Price||Days||Group Total||Indiv Total|
|4×4 Rental (Toyota Land Cruiser)||75 € /day||9||675 €||112.50 €|
|Moto Rental (BMW 750)||85 € /day||9||765 €||128 €|
|Horse trekking (horse man, guide, accommodation & food)||170 € /day||3||510 €||85 €|
|Accommodation in hotel (Bishkek & Kochkor towns)||36 € /day||2||72 €||12 €|
|Accommodation in Yurt||12 € /day||1||12 €||2 €|
|Food||25 € /day||15||375 €||63 €|
|Fuel||25 € /day||9||405 €||68 €|
|Vehicle repairs||120 €||-||120 €||20 €|
|Flight tickets||400 €||-||2 400 €||400 €|
|Others (camping equipment, taxi)||150 €||-||150 €||25 €|
|Border Pass||25 €||-||150 €||25 €|
|TOTAL||-||-||5 334,00 €||940,50 €/person|
Our favorites in Kyrgyzstan
Southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul
From its warm and salty waters to its golden sandy beaches, only the snowy peaks surrounding it betray the true nature of Lake Issyk-Kul, nicknamed “the Kyrgyz sea”. Perched at an altitude of 1,609 m, Issyk-Kul is one of the largest high mountain lakes in the world. The lunar landscapes on the southern shore of the lake are incredible! Read more about the lake in this article.
This magnificent turquoise lake nestled at 3400m altitude in the middle of high granite cliffs is a real jewel! It can only be reached on foot or horseback. The track leading to the yurt camp at the foot of the lake has been recently renovated. We rented horses on the spot with the nomads, an unforgettable experience. Read more in this article.
We were able to experience the pleasure of travelling on horseback at Song-Kul lake. And we will always remember this feeling of escape and freedom! We spent two nights in a yurt, with typical Kyrgyz meals served by the families. A very nice experience!
The caravanserai of Tash-Rabat and Baetov region
From desert gullies to green meadows, from high rocky cliffs to sparkling glaciers, the Baetov region is full of amazing landscapes. The region is also home to the famous Tash-Rabat caravanserai, an exceptional witness to the history of the Silk Road. More information here.
Our latest articles about Kyrgyzstan
If you have any questions, please feel free to join our facebook discussion group dedicated to exploring Kyrgyzstan. You will also be able to share your experience of the country and/or discover the photos of other travellers.
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