visitors to Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek is either
their first or their last view of the country. A day or two in the city
can either serve to loosen up after an overnight flight, or as a
relaxing culmination to a tour.
For many visitors Bishkek is the gateway to the country –
they arrive and/or depart from the city’s Manas
airport. If you are arriving then make sure you have a window
seat because as you descend towards Bishkek Airport, you can take in
the entire essence of Kyrgyz natural beautify in one sweep. White
mountain tops, green valleys and the capital just below you. As you
taxi to the dock, you are likely to catch a glimpse of US planes based
at the Ganci air force base.
The airport is about a 40 minute drive from the centre of Bishkek.
Bishkek has a railway station with trains to Balykchy, on
Lake Issyk Kul, and (through Kazakhstan) to Moscow. There are
also regular bus services to all parts of the country and also to
Almaty and Tashkent. Long distance shared taxis also operate
from the bus stations. Within the city there are several taxi
firms which offer services at set tarifs and a taxi is only a phone
The choice of hotels covers almost every need and taste –
ranging from five star luxury to small guesthouses.
With the rich tradition of arts and crafts, beautiful gifts and
souvenirs can be bought and there's a wide choice. As well as a number
of specialist souvenir chops, there are a number of “trade
centres” with departments selling all sorts of
goods. Throughout the year, crafts fairs are held which offer
an ideal opportunity to shop for handmade items from Kyrgyzstan.
Designers create stunning accessories and prêt a porter with
a very modern edge and are also starting to make a name for themselves
Bishkek is often where tourists start their visit to
Kyrgyzstan. From here they leave to see the sites and sights
of the country, (and there are plenty), but the city itself also has
something to offer in terms of sight seeing. Museums, galleries, shops,
parks, squares, restaurants and cafes are concentrated around the city
Right at the heart of the city is the Ala Too
square. The “White House” home
of the government is on one side of the square, with its white marble
facade, quite impressive against the backdrop of white mountain
peaks. At the centre of the square is the Historical Museum
with its grandiose exhibits depicting Lenin and the Soviet heritage of
Kyrgyzstan as well as other periods of the country’s history.
Ala Too also holds fountains and a stage, where concerts, disco
evenings and cultural events are hosted. This is where the population
congregates for State celebrations and on public holidays. Until
recently a statue of Lenin towered over the square, and although he has
been replaced by “Erkindik” - a modern Kyrgyz
“Statue of Liberty” - Lenin is still to be found in
his new home, the Old Square, on the other side of the Historical
Museum. The nearby Erkindik gallery holds regular exhibitions
of local artists. Drop by to see the upcoming rising stars of the arts
The city is famous for its tree lined avenues and numerous
parks. Sitting in the cool and shady Oak Park is ideal for
people watching. It's an open air sculpture museum too, with sculptures
made from stone, metal, wood displayed all over the park.
There are a variety of Museums – the Historical Museum, the
Fine Arts Museum are amongst the most popular with visitors, but there
are others such as the Frunze Museum.
A walk around the city centre will reveal a wealth of monuments
offering grand photo opportunities.
For a slightly more unusual place to visit, there is the Ala Archa
cemetry with memorials to many important figures in the recent history
There is no shortage of cafes, snack food places for something on the
go – for example samsi or the local beverages shoro and Tan.
You may opt for Fine Dining at the Hyatt or Italian Cuisine.
For those interested to taste some of the many national dishes, Kyrgyz,
Uighur, Dzungan cuisine, are served at many cafes.
Many restaurants offer live music of one
form or another: classical, jazz, contemporary or a mix.
There are a number of discotechques, nightclubs, and casinos.
For the more active there is 10-pin bowling, or you might want to join
the locals in one of the billiard halls. There is also a
choice of concerts, cinemas, a Circus and several Theatres –
but performances usually start early (about 6:00pm) and are not given
every day and are likely to be in one of the local languages.
For those with a little extra free time on
their hands, the nearby mountains offer a number of valleys and gorges
in easy reach. The alpine beauty of Ala Archa, for example,
is renowned and it is a popular spot amongst locals for a weekend trip
out of the city.