Unspoilt nature and visa-free regime attract tourists to Kyrgyzstan


BISHKEK (TCA) — The Financial Times has included Kyrgyzstan in the list of countries recommended for travel in 2016, along with Sri Lanka, Peru, Brazil, Cuba, and South Africa.

“We are seeing a large number of clients wanting to escape the fast pace of modern life and head to wilderness destinations,” says Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers, who reports that bookings to Kyrgyzstan are up 30 percent. “Kyrgyzstan perfectly fits the bill, with its nomadic culture and beautiful scenery of mountains, lakes and forests.”

According to FT, tourism to the country has benefited from a relaxation in visa rules and peaceful and independent elections in October 2015. 2016 will see a range of festivals as well as celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of independence.

“The key attraction, though, remains the unspoilt natural landscape: hiking in the Tian Shan mountains, riding over the grass-covered steppes or mountain biking on ancient Silk Road routes, and staying in traditional yurts surrounded by wilderness,” the FT says.

According to The Guardian, “Kyrgyzstan has struggled to secure a reputation as a first-class climbing destination.” As more established named routes in Nepal and the Alps become over-commercialized and expensive, experts say climbers are increasingly heading to the small and little known Central Asian country.

The Guardian also stressed the importance of visa free regime for a list of countries introduced in 2012 “in a bid to boost the local tourism industry and create jobs.”

British mountaineers Harry McGhie and Emily Ward say an increasing number of visitors are tackling unexplored sections of high mountain peaks. Ward, who’s been to Kyrgyzstan three times, described it as one of “the hot new climbing destinations” because of the absence of fees and permits.

“It’s probably the friendliest place I’ve ever been – Asia with a big Soviet twist,” said McGhie.
The Russian version of Forbes included Kyrgyzstan’s Karakol ski resort in the top 5 ski resorts in the CIS, which do not need visas for Russians. The Karakol ski base is located near Lake Issyk-Kul at an altitude of 2,300 meters above sea level on the slopes of the Tien Shan. In Soviet times, it was used for training the country’s Olympic team. In 2004, the ski base was completely modernized and it now includes more than 20 kilometers of trails through the pine forest.

The Business Insider listed Kyrgyzstan among 12 emerging travel destinations to visit in 2016 due to “wilderness, wildlife and culture”. “Of the 5 ‘stans’ in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is big news for 2016. The allure lies in high-altitude greenery, jailoos, dotted with yurts… With a decent smattering of accommodations, travel is accessible in this Central Asian nation,” the BI says.

The World Tourism Organization urges to develop the Silk Road project intended to draw attention to this legendary route. Tourism opens up new opportunities for developing countries through which runs the Silk Road. The project participants are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, China, and Russia.

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev recently held a meeting on the reconstruction of the racetrack in the Baktuu-Dolonotu village in the Issyk-Kul region, which will host the Second World Nomadic Games.

Under the project, the racetrack will be designed for 10 thousand spectators. In addition, a conference hall, terrace, VIP-tribune with 40 seats and a car parking will be constructed.
Construction is planned to be completed before August 15, 2016.

Time has shown that the decision to introduce a visa-free regime with 66 countries was correct. As a result, the number of tourists visiting Kyrgyzstan has increased more than twofold. Many foreigners now choose Kyrgyzstan for travel and leisure.

According to Sariyev, in connection with the latest terrorism events in the world, Kyrgyzstan’s borders will be strengthened but the visa-free regime will not be removed. In the future a proposal to use an electronic visa will be considered.

The introduction of the visa-free regime in 2012 has become one of the main positive factors in the development of tourism. Firstly, rural entrepreneurs and service providers have got benefits to develop farms and guest houses. According to experts, the visa-free regime with developed countries also helps develop the economy and increase employment in Kyrgyzstan.

Local tour operators have asked the Government to simplify visa administration and reduce the time of issuance of visas for foreign citizens, and to reduce the list of documents required to obtain a visa. They also suggested expanding the list of countries whose citizens enjoy a visa free regime in Kyrgyzstan.