Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet Union, as were neighboring Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan is also called the Switzerland of Central Asia: more than half of the country is above 3000 meters and 30% of the population lives above 1500 meters. Tourism is slowly gaining momentum, tourists come mainly for the wide landscapes, the great lakes at high altitude and the semi-nomadic culture and traditions of the local population. As a tourist, for example, you can spend the night in “yurtas”, the traditional tents in which the semi-nomadic population lives.
The Kyrgyz Community Based Tourism Association (KCBTA) was founded in 2003 and is the driving force behind community tourism projects in the country. This organisation is the umbrella organisation created by 18 “community groups”, whose objective is to develop rural tourism that improves life standards in mountainous areas, without harming nature and culture. The KCBTA supports the local population with setting up tourism projects, marketing and the financial side. All tourist facilities, such as accommodations and excursion options, are run by locals.
One of the connected communities is Tamchy, a village on the north coast of the famous Lake Issyk Kull. As a tourist you can spend the night here in a yurta, taste the local food, ride a horse and hike in the mountains. Also, after visiting the local museum, you can make your own Kyrgyz souvenirs!
If you really want to experience the local life of the semi-nomadic people, you can travel to a “jailoo”. Here are the yurtas in the summer months of the farmers who let their animals (such as sheep and horses) graze on high meadows with unique flora and fauna. A number of families have founded “Shepherd’s Life”, which is affiliated with the KCBTA, to give tourists the opportunity to experience traditional farming life up close. And as an additional source of income in addition to their farming activities.
For more information about community-based tourism projects in Kyrgyzstan, click here