When I first arrived in Bishkek, I did not plan to spend much time in the city, as I was looking forward to spending more time in the mountainous region of Kyrgyzstan and its neighboring countries but on my first day in Bishkek, my ATM card got eaten by the machine right at the airport (do not use the Rosinbank (Росинбанк) ATM machine!) so I had to spend a few weeks getting that back.
Like all bad things that happen, good things always come out of it and as I spent weeks getting my ATM card back, I made friends, got to discover all the cool places in the city. I fall in love with the city so much so that I decided to use Bishkek as a base for my travel for the next 5 months. Within this guide, you will find top 10 cool things you can do in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. You will be surprised to know how many cool things you can do in this overlooked capital city of Central Asia.
Looking for a complete itinerary for Kyrgyzstan? 3 Weeks Itinerary for Kyrgyzstan.
Things to Do in Bishkek Map
Kyrgyzstan Travel Video
Where to Stay in Bishkek
Budget - Interhouse Bishkek - 10 USD/Night
Best hostel in Kyrgyzstan. New facilities and very clean. The people working at the reception were phenomenal. Highly recommended!
Mid-Range - Ocean Hotel - 33 USD/Night
How to Get to Bishkek
There are plenty of flights by Aeroflot and Air Astana that fly into Bishkek from Europe and Asia. From th US, Emirates do have a route to Bishkek via Dubai. Remember, the best way to look for cheap flight deals that fit your itinerary is by browsing through Skyscanner or Momondo.
How to Get Around Bishkek
There are several ways you can move around Bishkek. In most cases, you can simply just walk but if you want to go further, buses and marshrutkas (minivan) are available and covers most of the places you want to go in the city.
For places further away like Ala-Archa, Burana, and Konorchek, you can get a marshrutka from the bus station any time of the day as they operate under the "leave when it's full" mindset. You can also easily charter a taxi from your hostel and hotel which is more convenient as they also wait for you so you don't have to find your way back.
1. Admire the Brutalist Architecture around Ala-Too Square
First and foremost, Bishkek has a ton of really cool brutalist architecture that offer you a glimpse of the Soviet influence during its occupation. Places like the Manas Statue, Ala-Too movie theater, State History Museum and the National Museum of Fine Arts present a tough, grey concrete style structure that, at that time, was meant to represent how strong and reliable the government was.
The Ala-Too Square is my favorite place to go walk around in the evening in Bishkek as this is where the locals like to gather to relax and enjoy the sunset.
2. Hiking in Ala-Archa National Park
The beauty of Bishkek is that if you are craving nature, you are not too far off from one of the best national park in the country, the Ala-Archa national park. In only 30 minutes car ride, you can escape the city and immerse yourself in the colorful floras, lush green vegetation, snowy peaks and the gushing river of the valleys of Ala-Archa national park.
You can either organize a taxi from your hotel which is the most convenient or you can go to Osh Bazaar and get the 265 marshrutkas that will take you close to the park where you will have to get another taxi or hitchhike to the parking lot (another 15 mins ride) where the trail begins. Make sure to ask the driver when the last marshrutka leaves that day so you do not miss it.
There are 2 trails you can take and you will be able to see the map at the entrance. One is the waterfall trail that goes left along the Ak-Sai river and ended in Ratsek base camp which should take you around 5 hours up from Alplager hut and 3 hours down, perfect for a long day hike. You can also stay overnight to climb local peaks the next day if you have your own tent and food.
Another trail and the one I did is called Ala-Archa valley trail. It is the easier one of the two. The trail takes you on a leveled path along the Ala-Archa river that goes through the valley until it opens up to the stunning landscape of Ala-Archer valley. The trail should take you no more than 5 hours round-trip
3. Hike the Konorchek Canyon
Another cool place to go hiking near Bishkek is the Konorchek canyon trail that will immerse you in a totally different environment than the one you did in Ala-Archa. This canyon is less known even among the locals so you will likely have the whole place to yourself.
Getting there with a public transport can be tricky as the trail begins just off the main highway connecting Bishkek to Issyk Kul. You have to get a marshrutka heading towards Karakol and get off at the location shown in the map below:
When you get off the marshrutka, head west toward the bridge and follow a trail for about an hour and you should come up to an opening where you will be able to see the red sandstone canyon in its entirety.
If you have a day free in Bishkek, I would highly recommend visiting the place.
4. Visit the Burana Tower
Are you interested in the history of the Silk Road in this part of the world? If so, then Burana Tower is a must-visit as it is one of the last remnants of the ancient city of Balasagun established at the end of the 9th century.
The place itself consists of the tower, a museum and a few gravestones with intricate markings. You can climb up the tower and witness the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
To get there, you can take a marshrutka to Tokmok and get a taxi to the tower from there. It should take you half a day for the trip.
5. Try Proper Kyrgyz Food at Navat or Cafe Faiza
Like in every country, you haven't actually experienced the country until you try their local food and 2 of the best places my local friends always recommended are Cafe Faiza and Navat.
Cafe Faiza was the first place I tried and I love it. They serve a great selection of local food at an affordable price. It's very popular among the locals and it can be quite busy at lunch and dinner time, but that's a good sign that it is a good restaurant. This is as good as it gets when it comes to eating at a local restaurant
Another one is Navat Restaurant on the Togolok Moldo street. The restaurant is beautifully decorated with a cozy atmosphere, have nice English speaking staffs that are welcome to recommend you something and they have quite a selection of Central Asian food you can try.
6. Get your Coffee Fix at Sierra Cafe
A little western cafe in the midst of Bishkek, Sierra Cafe is a great place for you to have a coffee fix in the morning with a cup of latte. It is also a great place for working on your laptop with a cozy atmosphere, friendly staff, and fast wifi. They also serve cheap "menu of the day" western-style lunch if you are interested.
7. Enjoy a Couple of Craft Beers at No Name Bar
Looking for a nice local atmospheric place with good music to enjoy a pint of craft beer at night? Nothing beats No Name Bar, a popular local gathering place with garage-style decor and cozy atmosphere. They serve finger food and craft beers, making it perfect for a pre-party evening of drinking with friends before you head over to a proper club.
8. Dance Away at Tuman Nightclub
Speaking of clubs, one of the most trendy underground clubs where all the cool kids of Bishkek hangs out is Tuman. Tuman means fog in Kyrgyz and as you guess it, you will find people dancing away their night to techno music in a smoke-covered dance floor. There is no better place to dance on a Saturday night than here.
9. Enjoy Friday Live Music at Chicken Star
If you are looking for a little less action, but still action nonetheless, every Friday night, you can drop by Chicken Star, a popular place to travelers to gather and enjoy live music by live bands. You can also enjoy a proper Korean fried chicken here and socialize with the owner and the friendly staff there.
10. Walk around Osh Bazaar
Osh Bazaar is a great place to look for anything you want to buy at a very cheap price. It's a massive market that sells everything from vegetables and winter jackets. It is also a good place to go people-watching and have a peek into the more common lifestyle of the average Kyrgyz people unlike in the city center.
Beware of pickpockets! Even my local friend got her purse pickpocketed when she was there so please keep your belonging safe and in front of you at all time!
Bonus. Try all the Foreign Food in Bishkek
Here is a bonus tip for you in case you are already sick of Central Asian food. I was there for 5 months and there was plenty of time I wanted to eat something else other than plov. Thankfully, Bishkek is an excellent place to find delicious foreign food and here are some of my favorite:
Furusato is a Japanese restaurant run by a Japanese chef who moved to Bishkek with his wife a long time ago. It's a little expensive but they serve authentic Japanese food from the delicious eel dish to fresh sushi. The chef always come out and greet his guest every time I was there.
Arirang Restaurant is a Korean restaurant I would recommend if you are craving a proper Korean barbeque. They also serve plenty of side dish for you to enjoy with the freshly grilled meat and soju. Prepare your appetite before you come here as you will be eating a lot of meat and soju!
Host Restaurant is a great place to indulge yourself in the spices of Indian cuisine, something I really miss after being in Central Asia for a while. Thinking of their garlic naan, butter chicken, and tikka masala is already making me drool. Central Asian food can be quite bland so if you are seeking to spice your life a little, here is the place.
Baan Baan Thai Cafe is a Thai restaurant. Need I say more? I can't remember how many times I crave the good old Thai food when I was based in Bishkek and right about the time I was there, a new Thai restaurant opened by a Thai chef and I had a chance to be a lab rat and tasted their meals. It was delicious and it is as authentic as a Thai restaurant in Bishkek could get. One tip, if you are looking for the real spicy taste, tell them you want Thai spicy level, not the one from their menu. 😉
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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