This post is also available in: Dutch
There are many reasons why you should go backpacking in Kyrgyzstan. But overlanding makes travelling in Kyrgyzstan a little easier, more fun and more adventurous. With a four-wheel drive you get to see the most beautiful places that the country has to offer. Travel around like a nomad in the land of the nomads. In this article you can find 5 reasons to experience overland travel in Kyrgyzstan.
Start planning a travel route for Kyrgyzstan and get ready to travel around like a nomad in the land of the nomads.
This article is written by Jeffrey of Wanderbird.nl. In this article you can find several useful, relevant articles on their website. Be sure to check it out (only in Dutch).
What is overlanding?
Overlanding may not be as popular as ‘backpacking’, but after a brief explanation you’ll definitely want to experience overland travel as well. With overlanding you cross the country in, for instance, a car. Central Asia is the perfect region to experience overland travel. With a car and a (rooftop) tent or camper you drive through infinite steppes, cross mountain landscapes and drive straight through rivers to get to the other side. Overlanding is certainly adventurous, because sometimes you have to create your own ways to arrive at your destination.
In this case a destination isn’t a hotel with a hot shower, but has other features. There is shelter from the wind, has a flat surface, possibly a small stream with running water and there is enough wood for a campfire. Set up your tent and you’re done; this night you’ll sleep under the most beautiful starry sky you’ve ever seen. With a diverse mountain landscape, Kyrgyzstan is definitely the best country to experience overland travel.
5 reasons to travel overland in Kyrgyzstan
1. You live like a true nomad
Kyrgyzstan is known for its nomad culture. How cool is it to explore the country in this way too? With your car you drive hundreds of miles through the country. The last inhabited area is an hour away from you. No village, no house; no accommodation nearby. You are therefore forced to fold up your tent somewhere in the middle of nowhere and spend the night. With the iOverlander app you get inspiration for good camping spots, which have been uploaded into the app by other overlanders.
After a few days you clean up everything to move on again. On to the next destination to then prepare your own nomad hut for the next night. You prepare your food on a small stove or you do it in the primitive way: on a campfire.
2. You get a glimpse into the primitive life of nomad families
When spring starts yurts, traditional nomad tents, will pop up in various places throughout the country. You will find these summer residences of the authentic Kyrgyz in the most remote places, where a family spends the summer with a herd of sheep or cows and a number of horses. If you come close to this traditional home, you will undoubtedly be invited for a cup of tea, a glass of fermented horse’s milk or a dinner party. This way you get the chance to get a look at the primitive life of the authentic residents.
Although it’s possible to easily spend the night in a commercial yurt camp, an even great experience is to stay at an authentic yurt with a real nomad family. Far away from civilisation and where public transport can’t come.
Although there is a language barrier, that doesn’t stop hospitable Kyrgyz people from inviting you to their yurt. They will most likely offer a cup of tea, Kumis (fermented horse milk) or a plate of food. Communicating is often done with hands and feet. And if we don’t understand each other, everyone just laughs it off, to avoid feeling awkward.
Early in the evening all the cattle come back to the yurt to be milked. Milking the cows is done by hand. A great opportunity to lend a hand yourself. Squat for a moment, bucket under the udders and milk until the last drop of milk. The milk is poured into large milk jugs for sale or for making cheese.
3. You experience an adventure on unknown roads
If there is a line on maps.me, it doesn’t always mean that this is a main road in Kyrgyzstan. In the rugged mountain landscape there are regular landslides that block the passage of the road. And since many Kyrgyz people travel from A to B by horse, a line on the map can also mean a horseman’s path. Changing a tire on a mountain pass, paving a way through a flowing river or digging out your car when you get stuck… Nothing is too crazy during an unforgettable adventure on the unknown and unpaved roads of Kyrgyzstan.
You are well prepared during overland travel and you are equipped with the right tools to solve all the inconveniences, so that you can continue your way through the rugged and diverse landscape of Kyrgyzstan.
4. You cross the country with beautiful mountain scenery
That rugged and diverse landscape alone is reason enough to go to Kyrgyzstan. The one mountain gorge is not the other and that’s precisely why Kyrgyzstan is so surprising. In one place the landscape is filled with mountains, consisting of red rock, while in other places you encounter rugged mountain peaks covered with snow. Clear blue mountain lakes are hidden between the peaks, all of which are worth visiting. With your car you drive as far as possible into the mountains. You can’t continue? No problem, just switch to your four-wheel drive and drive further into the mountains.
But Kyrgyzstan is more than just mountains. The mountain landscape is interspersed with large plains of grassland. Ideal locations for nomads to set up their yurts in the summers. For example, in the Song-Kul Lake area you can find various yurts from the start of the summer season.
5. Wild camping in the most beautiful places, by yourself
Kyrgyzstan is actually one big wild camping spot. You choose a sheltered place to set up your tent. Sheltered from the wind and far enough from the public road not to be in sight of potential passers-by. For the coming day or days the stream turns into a shower, the campfire serves as a heating and/or cooking place and the bushes further down will act as a toilet.
Your camping spot may not be very luxurious. In fact, your basic needs are probably not even met. But on the other hand you get a lot of beautiful things in return. In peace you can enjoy incredible places and when the night falls, you see the sky change into a starry sky like you’ve never seen before.
And the most important reason of all: with overland travel in Kyrgyzstan you’ve added another amazing experience to your life!