The Most Exciting 3-Week Backpacking Kyrgyzstan Itinerary

The ideal backpacking Kyrgyzstan itinerary! This 3-week itinerary will take you through Kyrgyzstan’s most beautiful nature spots, and see you get down with the authentic culture. In this guide, you will find the perfect route to take, the best things to do, costs, tips and more.

Horses and nature in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

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Places to visit on this backpacking Kyrgyzstan itinerary

Your journey will begin in Kyrgyzstan’s ex-soviet capital, Bishkek. After a few days in the city, it will be time to move on to see the highlights of Kyrgyzstan around the second-largest saline lake in the world, lake Issy-Kul. Finally, you will close your 3 weeks in Kyrgyzstan with a quick stop at a breathtaking reservoir, before ending to the city of Osh in the south of the country. After Osh, you can continue your journey in Central Asia.

Bishkek things to do (3 days)

Bishkek is the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, and it’s the perfect place to start your Central Asia trip. Whilst Bishkek does not have a lot to offer in terms of sights and attractions, it’s a lovely city to relax in and plan your upcoming trip. It’s also the best place to apply for any necessary visas for neighbouring countries.

Here are a few things to do in and around Bishkek:

  • Apply for visas to neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan.
  • Shop at Osh Bazaar for camping supplies or warm clothes.
  • Hunt for a bargain on the second-hand street, which is located right next to Osh Bazaar.
  • Stroll around Alatoo-Square.
  • Take a day trip to Burana Tower.
  • Take a day trip to hike the Ala-Archa Valley trail.
Women selling bread at the Osh Bazaar in Bishkek

Want to know why Bishkek is the perfect place to start your Central Asia journey? Find out why here.

Where to stay in Bishkek

Apple Hostel – Apple Hostel is conveniently located right next to the West Bus Station, which has plenty of transport links to the airport, places around Issy-Kul Lake, and Osh. The rooms at Apple Hostel are super comfy and are all equipped with good-quality bedding. But what makes this hostel one of a kind is the owner; Aigul. Aigul and her staff were the perfect hosts and are very knowledgeable about Kyrgyzstan and the different types of tours. We fully recommend this hostel for solo travellers or people who want a social environment.

Solutel Hotel – Solutel Hotel is a shining example of a hotel that knows what it’s doing! The hotel is well-equipped with amenities such as a fridge and mini-bar, restaurant, breakfast bar, sauna and gym. The rooms are modernly decorated, and the beds are HUGE. Don’t believe me? Just look at the picture! The staff at the hotel are professional and very welcoming. We recommend this hotel for travellers who need a little bit of luxury before heading out to camp. After all, we all need a little glitz and glam now and again!

For more prices and deals on properties in Bishkek, CLICK HERE.

Solutel hotel bedroom - Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Giant bed at Solutel Hotel

Cholpon-Ata things to do (3 days)

Yay! Now it’s time to head out of the city and connect with nature. Cholpon-Ata is a popular resort for locals to holiday and has a lot to offer. To get to Cholpon-Ata you can take a bus from Bishkek’s Western Bus Station. Just ask around for the bus leaving for Cholpon-Ata. It takes about 4 hours and costs 280 Som. Alternatively, the road from Bishkek around Issy-Kul Lake is perfect for cycling in Kyrgyzstan.

What to do in Cholpon-Ata:

  • Petroglyphs – free in winter/ 50 Som in summer.
  • Historical Museum – 80 Som + 50 Som to take pictures.
  • Relax on the shores of Issy-Kul Lake.
  • Visit an Eagle Hunter – prices vary.
  • Ching-Oryuktyu Hot Springs – 200 Som for 2 hours.
  • Snow Leopard NABUU Rehabilitation Center – Free.
  • Ruh Ordo Spiritual Center – 400 Som.
Eagle hunting in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan
Holding eagles in Kyrgyzstan

For more information on these places and how to reach them, check out our more detailed post on Cholpon-Ata.

Where to stay in Cholpon-Ata

We stayed at Apple Hostel, which we would fully recommend! The rooms are cosy and have just 4 beds each. There is also a kitchen to cook and to hang out and socialize with fellow travellers. The hostel is well located across the road from the Historical Museum and a small supermarket.

For more prices and deals on properties in Cholpon-Ata, CLICK HERE.

Things to do in Karakol ( 4 days)

Next up on this backpacking Kyrgyzstan itinerary is Karakol, located on the eastern tip of Issy-Kul Lake. To get to Karakol you can take a shared bus (also known as a marshrutka) from along the main road in Cholpon-Ata. The bus takes 2 hours and costs 150 Som ($2.15). Karakol is a trekking paradise and you can do multiple-day hikes from Karakol. You can opt to hike to the national park or the hot springs. Alternatively, you can opt to do both as part of a 3-day hike.

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Here are some other things to do in Karakol:

  • Visit Jeti Oguz – a fascinating red sandstone formation.
  • Valley of Flowers – a stunning valley filled with flowers and a fairy-tale stream. Located right next to Jeti Oguz.
  • Kayaking on Issy-Kul Lake – 1,000 Som for half-day tours or 1,500 Som for full-day tours.
  • Walking tour of Karakol – Free but a tip of 200 Som is recommended.
  • Dungan Village and family dinner tour – 1,400 Som.
Jeti Oguz - Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Getting ready for a day of kayaking on Issy-Kul Lake

We also recommend that you visit the Karakol Tourist Information Center. The staff are super helpful and can give you free advice and information on what you can see and do in the area. They can also help you book any tours.

For more information on things to see and do, check out our non-hikers guide to Karakol.

Where to stay in Karakol

Hillside Karakol – The Hillside Hotel is a newly built, modern property that is located just outside of the main street. You can take bus 106 to get to the centre in just 5 minutes. The rooms are well furnished, and the beds are very comfortable.

Hillside hotel bedroom - Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Cosy rooms at Hillside Hotel

Turkestan Yurt Camp – Turkestan yurt camp is a great place for travellers looking to experience a night’s stay in a yurt. It was very cold when we arrived, so we opted to stay in a private room instead. The cottage-style rooms are very cosy and have an electric heater in them. Perfect for cold nights! The rooms and bathroom facilities are kept very clean.

For more prices and deals on properties in Karakol, CLICK HERE.

Kochkor for horse trekking in Kyrgyzstan (1-3 days)

The next stop is Kochkor! A small village on the South-West side of Issy-Kul Lake. There isn’t much to see in Kochkor but it makes for a great base to do a horse trek to Song-Kul Lake. There are options to take a 2-3-day horse trek or to hire a car and driver to take you there and back. You can book these tours at one of the tour agencies in Kochkor town.

We recommend checking out the CBT Office or Shepherd’s Life. Both are well-established tour agencies, but Shepherd’s Life was offering the same tours for cheaper prices. In the end, we decided not to take a tour due to the forecast of rain over the next few days, and we didn’t want to hang around in Kochkor much longer with nothing to do. So, we decided to continue.

Back to Bishkek (1 day)

If you have made visa applications in Bishkek, now would be ideal to head back to pick up your visas. We headed back to Bishkek to pick up our visas and buy some camping gear for our upcoming trip to the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan.

How to make a successful Uzbekistan visa application in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Happy to have successfully got our Uzbekistan visas in our passports

Need more information on how to apply for an Uzbekistan visa in Bishkek? Find out how to apply here.

Toktogul reservoir (2 days)

From Bishkek, we planned to head to Osh, but we decided to break the journey up and stay for 2 nights in Toktogul. There isn’t much to see in Toktogul, but there is a very beautiful reservoir that is worth stopping for. Read all about it here.

Road from Bishkek to Osh - Kyrgyzstan
Amazing scenery along the route from Bishkek to Osh

Where to stay in Toktogul

Kagan Guesthouse – The guesthouse is situated on quiet grounds with a garden in the centre. The rooms are cosy and have a homely touch. Breakfast and tea are included in the price of the stay. There is also the option to order home-cooked food for lunch or dinner. What makes this guesthouse special is the friendly staff that runs the property. Guka speaks excellent English and can help you plan your trip and book tours around Kyrgyzstan.

Things to do in Osh (3 days)

Osh is the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan. It’s a great base to organize a tour of the Pamirs in Tajikistan and get together a group of people to do it with. We didn’t explore much of Osh, but we managed to explore the markets and pick up some fruit and veg ready for our trip. However, there are plenty of things to keep you entertained in Osh. Check out this fab Osh travel guide for some inspiration. Alternatively, if you still want to spend more time in Kyrgyzstan, consider a trek to Lenin Peak Base Camp, just 3 hour’s drive away from Osh.

Social atmosphere at Apple Hostel in Osh
The social atmosphere at Apple Hostel in Osh

Where to stay in Osh

Apple Hostel – For our last stay in Kyrgyzstan, we had to check out the newly opened Apple Hostel. Like the other 2 properties in Bishkek and Cholpon-Ata, the hostel is lively and a great place to meet fellow travellers. The hostel is very clean, and the beds are cosy. It’s the perfect base to drum up a group of like-minded people to split the cost of a Pamir Highway trip with.

For more prices and deals on properties in Osh, CLICK HERE.

Other places you may want to explore in Kyrgyzstan

  • Sary-Chelek: 7 lakes
  • Arslanbob: Walnut forest
  • Sary-Moghul: Peak Lenin
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Costs of backpacking Kyrgyzstan

Currency: The currency in Kyrgyzstan is Som, which is also written Com. The exchange rate is 68 Som to $1.

Daily budget: For the above itinerary we budgeted $360, for 20 days for the two of us. The daily budget worked out at $9 per day each, excluding accommodation.

Accommodation: The cost of accommodation varies. For a bed in a dorm, expect to pay between $6-10. For a private room expect to pay around $20-30.

Food and drink: The cost of a meal in a typical Kyrgyz restaurant is around 130 – 200 Som. The cost of a large bottle of water is 25 Som. You can buy and cook basic meals, such as pasta with veg for around 80 Som.

Transport: The cost of transport is relatively cheap in Kyrgyzstan. We recommend taking marshrutkas (shared mini-buses) across the country. The cost of the marshrutka is dependent upon the length of the journey.

  • Bishkek – Cholpon-Ata: 280 Som
  • Cholpon-Ata – Karakol: 150 Som
  • Karakol – Kochkor: 200 Som
  • Kochkor – Bishkek: 180 Som
  • Bishkek – Toktogul: 400 Som (shared-taxi)
  • Toktogul – Jalalabat: 330 Som
  • Jalalabat – Osh: 120 Som

However, Kyrgyzstan and the rest of Central Asia is a cyclists’ paradise, so you may want to consider bicycle touring for a more slow-paced, immersive experience.

To get around in the cities you can take local buses. Local buses are usually 10 Som per ride. If you choose to take a taxi, ask the driver to use the meter. Taxis start at around 50 Som and increase by 10 Som each kilometre.

Backpacking Kyrgyzstan travel tips

Bring warm clothes – The temperature in Kyrgyzstan can vary massively. During the day temperatures could reach 25 degrees and at night they could drop to 5 degrees. We recommend packing layers of clothes, so you can adapt according to the heat.

Learn basic Russian – Be ready to tackle the language barrier! Not many people speak English and all the menus are written in Russian. We recommend learning basic Russian phrases, as well as having an offline translator app downloaded on your phone.

Pay in small notes – Make sure to have small notes. Small businesses find it difficult to break large notes. Be careful when paying taxi drivers too; they don’t like to give change!

Marshrutkas over taxis – Marshrutkas tend to be cheaper than taxis. The prices of marshrutkas are set so there is no need to haggle the price.

Visit the markets – If you need to stock up on food or toiletries, we recommend heading to the markets. You will find anything from food to camping gear at the larger markets in Bishkek and Osh.

Thinking of where to go next? Head into Tajikistan, for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the roof of the world; the Pamir Highway.

Essential resources for travelling in Kyrgyzstan

Travel Insurance – No matter where you’re travelling to, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re covered for any accidents or losses. We spent days and weeks searching for insurance, but most insurers would not allow us to take out a policy as we were already abroad. Our personal choice is Safteywing. You can opt for automatic monthly payments, just like a subscription. More importantly, it is available in 180 countries and can be purchased whilst already travelling. There is no cap on the duration of travel.

Visa – Before you travel to any country, make sure to check if you need a visa. iVisa is a fantastic website that is super easy and quick to use. Just type in where you are from. and where you are going. to check if you need a visa. If you do, you can quickly make an application online.

AccommodationBooking.com is our go-to when looking to pre-book accommodation online. Booking.com tend to almost always have the best rates and a FREE cancellation policy for most properties.

Tours & Activities – If you want to book tours and activities online, make sure to check out Get Your Guide. Get Your Guide takes the stress out of booking activities abroad. You will also find a range of benefits, such as skip-the-line passes, lunch included in your tours, and so much more.

Travel tips ebook -Before you head off on your adventure, make sure to download our free ebook. It has a whopping 109 budget travel tips to help you make your hard-earned cash go further. Click here to download your FREE ebook.

We hope you enjoyed this backpacking Kyrgyzstan itinerary and we hope it has made it on your list of places to visit this year! Kyrgyzstan is the perfect retreat for nature lovers, from the crystal blue waters of Issy-Kul Lake to the rolling green hills in Karakol.

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The Best Backpacking Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide & Itinerary

*We were hosted complimentary by the hotels and hostels mentioned in this article. All opinions are our own, based on our experiences.*

18 thoughts on “The Most Exciting 3-Week Backpacking Kyrgyzstan Itinerary

  1. Baia says:

    Loved reading about Kyrgyzstan. It’s one of the less visited places I would love to explore. I need to save a bit for the airline ticket, it’s not that far from where I live 🙂

  2. Neha Parti says:

    Never thought Kyrgyzstan would make it to my list. But, it did after this. This itinerary is very well curated. I’d love to visit the valley of flowers.

  3. Marlies says:

    I have never thought about visiting Kyrgyzstan. I like how you stay a couple days in one place and I am amazed how affordable it is! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  4. Rachelle says:

    I love this! I studied Kyrgyzstan and Russian during college and it’s still so exotic to me! Good idea to have some basic knowledge of Russian, as a lot of people tend to freak out when they see Cyrillic. $18/day is super cheap…and a lot cheaper than I was expecting it to be. Hiking around Karakol seems like it would be right up my alley!

    • Katie says:

      Karakol is amazing for the nature. Yeah the cyrillic does throw people off. Did you know that with the google translate app you can open your camera and hold it above the writing and it will translate it to English. It has been a life saver for ordering food here!

  5. Amy @ Family Globetrotters says:

    Kyrgyzstan sounds interesting although its not really high on my list of places to visit. Great tips about the small notes and that goes for any 3rd world country type pleaces. Most genuinely don’t have change and some know travellers might just say “don’t worry about the change.”

  6. Aisha says:

    I have read very little about Kyrgyzstan but everything I’ve seen looks beautiful. Your itinerary looks ideal and like a really good allocation of your time. Thanks for taking the time to share such a detailed guide!

  7. eli says:

    Now this is an adventure! I’ve never even considered going to Kyrgyzstan so this is such a great read to get started. Seems like such a unique destination that’ll get the travel bug itching again

  8. Maggie says:

    I know almost nothing about Kyrgzstan, except for the fact that it exists haha. But I bet it would be a fascinating place to visit! And so affordable – only $360 for 20 days?! That’s amazing!

  9. Wandering life - Catarina Leonardo says:

    This is the first post that i read about Kyrgyztan, so congratulations for that. I didn´t know anything so it was so good to check it out!!

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