Settled by Kyrgyz tribes from southern Siberia in the 17th century, Kyrgyzstan was ruled by various regional powers before coming under Russian rule, until it became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Kyrgyzstan is home to two great mountain ranges, the Tien Shan and the Pamir, making up more than 90 per cent of the country. As a result, Kyrgyzstan is a hiking paradise. The mountains have also helped preserve the Kyrgyz nomadic culture, with many families moving to the high pastures in summer with their livestock and staying in yurts.
August 31 is when Kyrgyzstan celebrates its Independence Day, which features concerts, parades of people in their traditional wear and fireworks in the evening.
Song Kol Lake
Song Kol lake lies more than 3000 meters above sea level so it looks like the clouds are within reach, and the nights are cold even in summer. The lake is beautiful and the mountainous scenery on the way to the lake was spectacular. Horses and cattle dot the landscape. There's the optional horseback riding at a very slow pace because Kyrgyz horses can recognise inexperienced riders so will not sweat it out. The main highlight is to stay in a yurt and drink koumiss (fermented horse milk).
The small but cozy capital, Bishkek is the largest city in Kyrgyzstan. "Bishkek" means a stick for beating koumiss - the national drink of sour mare's milk. Bishkek is one of the greenest in the world, due to its countless parks. The main language of communication is Russian, and best way to get around are the mashrutkas (minivans).