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HomeGeneral information about Kyrgyzstan
    KYRGYZSTAN - General Information
Full name: Kyrgyz Republic
Local name: Kyrgyz Respublikasy
Capital: Bishkek (Frunze) (population: 1 000 000)
Languages: Kirghiz (Kyrgyz), Russian
Currency: 1 Kyrgyzstani som (KGS) = 100 tyiyn
Independence: 31 August 1991 (from Soviet Union)
Area: 198,500 sq km (76,600 sq miles).
Comparative area: slightly smaller than South Dakota
Borders: China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Population: 5,000,000
Population Density: 24.3 per sq km.
Life expectancy: male 59.45 years, female 68.3 years
Kyrgyz Republic is a state with the presidential power. The President - Askar Akaev - is a physicist, not a professional politician. The high legislative organ is a two-chambered Parliament (Jogorku-Kenesh). The high organ agency is the Government with the Prime Minister as a head. Many people make a mistake thinking that Kyryzstan is a Kurdistan - region in SW Asia inhabited chiefly by Kurds, occupying SE Turkey. This did not prevent to real traveler to find this country. The Kyrgyz Republic is consists of seven oblasts: Chu oblast (center Bishkek), Issyk-Kul oblast (center Karakol), Osh oblast (center Osh), Naryn oblast (center Naryn), Jalal-Abad oblast (center Jalal-Abad), Talas oblast (center Talas), Batken oblast (center Batken).
Kyrgyzstan is famous for its wealth of nomadic traditions, including hospitality; finest mountain, the highest and most dramatic parts of the central Tien Shan. Kyrgyzstan is one of the interesting countries in tourism in the Middle Asia. It is necessary to travel that to see all places by your own eyes, and only after that, this wonderful place kindly open its undead treasures. The square of the country 198,5 thousand m2 would get in on its territory Portland , Switzerland , Belgium and Netherlands all together gathered. There 70% of all territory are mountains, and the surface of the valleys donOt let down below 500 m above sea level. In the mountains, all is breathing by untouched, beautiful nature, which you cannot see on the plains. Mountain rivers, Alpine lakes, different waterfalls, the highest tops and picks, strange Rocks, more canyons, passes, useful for health springs, mysterious caves all these pay attention of the tourists, mountaineers, amateurs of active rest. Situated in the North-East of Central Asia it has a total area of 198.5 thousand square kilometres supporting a population of 4.700.000. Kyrgyzstan borders with Kazakhstan in the North, Uzbekistan in the West, Tadjikistan in the South West, and China in the South East.
Most of Kyrgyzstan's territory lies within the Tien Shan Range, the highest and some of the most beautiful mountain peaks in the world. The highest being Pobeda Peak - 7439 m. and Khan Tengri ("Emperor of the Skies") 6995 m. Over 93% of Kyrgyzstan surface area is more than 1500 m. above sea level, over 41% is higher than 3000 m. In the towering mountains are vast regions of unspoiled nature and primordial beauty which give Kyrgyzstan more than 28 thousand rivulets, sparkling streams and lucid brooks. There are 2000 large and small lakes in the Republic.
Placed along the Silk Route on the historic crossroads of trade and cultural exchanges between China, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and the Arabian Sea, Kyrgyztan is home for more than 8O minorities and ethnic communities. Kyrgyz, Russian, Uzbek, Ukrainan, Germans, Tatars, Kazaks, Uigur and Tadjik among others. As a multi-national state Kyrgyzstan has a rich variety of languages, literature, folklore, arts, crafts, customs and communities that lend color and variety to Kyrgyz culture. The Kyrgyz Republic firmly upholds the equality of all communities. The official language is Kyrgyz yet Russian forms a common language of all groups. The capital city Bishkek is located on the foot of the Ala-Too mountains of the central part of Chui Valley.   More information >>>
    Lake Issyk-Kul
Lake Issyk-Kul is a huge dent, filled with water, folded between the 4000m (13,120ft) peaks of the Kungey Alatau and the Terskey Alatau ranges. It sits 1600m (5250ft) above sea level and measures a huge 170km (105mi) long and 70km (43mi) across, making it the second-largest alpine lake in the world after Lake Titicaca in South America.
Health spas lined the lakeshore in Soviet days, but spa tourism collapsed along with the 'Evil Empire'. The lake was also used by the Soviet Navy to test high-precision torpedoes far from prying Western eyes. This was one of the reasons it was off-limits to foreigners until fairly recently, though the officially sanctioned opium poppy and cannabis plantations which once surrounded the lake may also have had something to do with it.
Today, the main reason to come here is to soak up the lakeside ambience, enjoy the thermal springs and remaining spas, explore some of the best hiking trails in Central Asia and try your hand at catching the local trout - allegedly bulking up to a prized 35kg (77lb). Mountain wildlife includes big cats, ibex, bear and wild boar, though a serious poaching problem exists, thanks to braindead Western hunters yearning to bag a snow leopard. Give yourself at least a week to explore this region and improve your leg definition. Attractions in the lake region include the spartan Altyn Arashan hot spring development, set in a 3000m (9840ft) high postcard-perfect alpine valley; the immense, silent summer pasture of the Karkara valley; the extraordinary red sandstone cliffs of the Jeti-Oghuz canyon; and the excellent (and bandit-free) hiking trails into the Terskey Alatau, south of Karakol. The best time to visit is September, though trekking in the mountains is best between July and August.
Karakol, at the eastern end of the lake, is the principal town in the region, and is the best base from which to explore the lakeshore, the Terskey Alatau and the central Tian Shan. It's a low-rise town, famous for its apple orchards and Sunday market (one of the best in Central Asia), and its backstreets are full of Russian gingerbread cottages. It's best to bunk down with a local family (you'll be approached at the bus station when you arrive) rather than stay in an official hotel. Karakol is a seven-hour bus ride from Bishkek or a short hop by plane.
In 1825 the Khanat of Kokand (region now in Uzbekistan) conquered and demolished the Kyrgyz fortress. In 1862 it was recaptured by Kyrgyz with the help of Russian Military detachments In 1878 the city became a district center called "Pishpek" after the Kokand conquest. In 1926 under former Soviet Russia the city was renamed Frunze after the communist leader and famous Soviet public figure who was born here. With the Independence of Kyrgyztsan in 1991 the traditional name Bishkek was restored. Bishkek is the industrial centre of Kyrgyzstan, and the only town in the world named after a wooden plunger - a bishkek is a churn used to make fermented mare's milk. It's a relaxed city of wide streets and handsome houses, though it's wise to be wary of walking around backstreets late at night. The city likes to boast that it has more trees per person than any other Central Asian city - which may be true - but when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, smog from the industrial plants on the city's outskirts can still eat your throat away. The city lies in close proximity to some of the most exotic and legendary places - Samarkand, Khieva, Bukhara, Kashgar; and in a region that glitters with historic figures of Alexander the Great, Tamerlane, Moghul Baber the Lion, Marco Polo, Umar Khayam.    More information >>>
The official language is Kyrgyz, a Turkic language closely related to Uzbek, Kazakh, Turkmen and Turkish. In deference to the large Russian population of Kyrgyzstan, Russian is also protected under law. In 1993, the Government undertook to replace the Russian Cyrillic Alphabet with the Turkish version of the Roman alphabet. Meanwhile, most people can speak Russian, and do so, especially in the north. English is widely spoken by those involved in tourism. Uzbek, Kazakh, Tajik and various other regional languages and dialects are also spoken.
The major religion is Islam with the majority of Kyrgyz being Sunni Muslim with a Russian Orthodox minority.
GMT + 5 (GMT + 6 from second Sunday in April to Saturday before last Sunday in September).
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin continental plugs are standard.
Telephone: Country code: 996 (312 for Bishkek). International calls should be made from a telephone office which will usually be found attached to a post office; they can also be made from some hotels by asking at reception. All international calls from Kyrgyzstan have to go through the operator. Local calls (within the city) are free of charge if made from private telephones; hotels sometimes levy a small charge. Direct-dial calls within the CIS are obtained by dialling 8 and waiting for another dial tone and then dialling the city code followed by the number.
    Mobile telephone:
GSM 900 network in use. The main provider is Bitel Ltd (website: www.bitelgsm.kg).
Services are available in main hotels for residents only.
Services are available from post offices in large towns.
ISPs include VPM Internet Services. There is an Internet cafe on ul Sovetskaya in Bishkek.
Letters to and from Western Europe and the USA can take anything between two weeks and two months. Stamped envelopes can be bought from post offices. Mail to recipients within Kyrgyzstan should be addressed in the following order: country, postcode, city, street, house number and lastly the person's name. Visitors can also use post offices located within some major hotels. Post office hours: Mon-Fri 09.00-18.00.
The Central Asian Post, the Kyrgyzstan Chronicle and Zamen Kyrgyzstan are published weekly in English. The main dailies are published in Bishkek and include Bishkek Shamy and Kyrgyz Tuusu (both in Kyrgyz), and Vechernii Bishkek and Slovo Kyrgyzstana (in Russian).
BBC World Service (website: www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice) and Voice of America (website: www.voa.gov) can be received. From time to time the frequencies change and the most up-to-date can be found online.
    Health risks:
Hepatitis A & E, diphtheria, undulant fever, altitude sickness, and tuberculosis. Play it safe and don't drink the water even if locals say it's OK to drink.  More information >>>
    Weights & measures:
    When to Go
At lower elevations, spring and autumn are probably the best seasons to visit weather-wise - in particular April to early June and September through October. In spring, the desert blooms briefly, while autumn is harvest time when the markets fill with fresh produce. Summer is ferociously hot in the lowlands, but July and August are the best months to visit the mountains. Cold rains begin in November and snow soon closes mountain passes. The ski season at the Inylcheck Mountain Ski Base lasts from December to April. Note that winters are bitterly cold, even in the desert, and finding food can be a problem since lots of eateries close for the season. Many domestic flights are also grounded in winter.
    Getting There & Away
Kyrgyzstan is not yet well connected by air. Kyrgyzstan Airlines connects Bishkek with Istanbul, Moscow, St Petersburg via Omsk, and Novosibirsk. Transaero connects Bishkek with Moscow and Kiev. It's probably easier to get to Bishkek by flying into Almaty in Kazakstan and catching a bus for the three hour ride to Bishkek (a Kazakstan transit visa is not required if you make this trip straightaway). Lufthansa even runs its own Almaty-Bishkek ground shuttle. Trains run from Bishkek a few times a week to Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Almaty and Krasnoyarsk (Siberia), and daily to Moscow. There are frequent buses between Bishkek and Tashkent and Almaty; a seasonal Chinese-run bus service links Bishkek and Kashgar via the Torugart Pass.
Budget: US$5-20 Mid-range: US$20-50 Top-end: US$50 and upwards
In 1993 Kyrgyzstan became the first Central Asian state to introduce its own national currency. The transition from the Russian rouble has been rocky and Kyrgyzstan still has a shaky economy, a primitive banking system, high inflation rates and low wages. Foreigners often pay substantially more than locals for services, and there's not much you can do to avoid this. Travellers looking for a safe hotel and dining establishments with ambience should expect to spend US$70 a day. Those with more moderate tastes and the occasional craving for an imported beer can get by on around US$40. Budgeteers relying on trains, streetside cafes and truckers' hostels may need little more than US$10 a day. Kyrgyzstan is effectively a cash-only zone. The local currency is the only legal tender, though in practice US dollars and German Deutschmarks may be accepted or even requested for some transactions. There are currency exchange desks in most hotels and many shops. Most places accept only crisp, brand new banknotes, convinced somehow that anything older is worthless. Banks change US dollars travellers' cheques into som, though licensed private moneychangers in shop fronts have slightly better rates for US dollars cash. Kyrgyzstan has a value added tax (VAT) of 20%. Tipping is not common, although a few top-end restaurants automatically add a 5% to 15% service charge to the bill. Shops have fixed prices but bargaining in bazaars is expected.    More information >>>
Counters Contact Links
Kyrgyz Republic, zip code 722360, Karakol city, Kasym Kadyrov str. 55,
Ltd Tour Khan-Tengri
Tel/Fax: (996) 3922 2-72-69
Tel:        (996) 3922 2-65-59
Sites about Kyrgyzstan:
General information about Kyrgyzstan (eng)
Victor Velikorodov photogallery (rus, de)
Karakol photogallery (rus)
TDS about Kyrgyzstan (eng)
About holidays (eng)
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