Around Bishkek: Going Out of Town
The Kyrgyz Republic itself is a rather small country, so there is a lot to choose from if you need to have some rest from urban life. This is why we had to limit our next list to the closest destinations, which sometimes even don't require a car, a bike would be more than enough. Here's one more piece of Bishkek Atlas, a guide inspired by one of the best Russian media, Meduza. We have intentionally focused on the nearest places to Bishkek. But if you feel like exploring more destinations throughout the entire Chui region, you should check this. Or there's a separate Destinations section for the entire country.
Ala-Archa National Park
Ala-Archa National Park, which is 41 km from Bishkek, was founded in 1976. This alpine national park is open all year round and is one of the most popular weekend destinations. Whether it is something light like walking or having a picnic or more challenging, i.e. mountaineering, hiking, climbing or skiing, the over 22-square-km park has little to no competition.
Its altitude range of 1,500—4,895 m gives you quite a lot to choose from — waterfalls, glaciers, mountain peaks, rivers and gorges. The wildlife even includes the very rare snow leopard, which is a national symbol of the country — you can find a monument to it at the entrance to the park. The count of routes exceeds 150, which guarantees you definitely won't be bored. Ala-Archa National Park is like Won Kar-wai's movies — you discover something new for yourself every time you visit.
Orto-Sai Village is more often mentioned as 'the flag' as it has the largest country flag in the Kyrgyz Republic — atop the 75-m-high flagpole waves a large 35-m-wide flag. You will find people, who have no idea what Orto-Sai Village is, but who know the flag's exact location. Despite the size of the country symbol, it barely can be named a sight, which can interest you for more than half an hour.
What actually can impress is the view, the place has gained its popularity long before the flag as it offers an amazing panoramic view of Bishkek. A night view fairly deserves a separate mention, a lot of people choose to enjoy the night view here. The place is less than 15 km away from Bishkek, which is another pro.
Supara Ethno Complex
Supara is an ancient nomadic leather tablecloth. The name was chosen to reflect the Kyrgyz national hospitality. This unique ethno complex was designed and built by Tabyldy Egemberdiev, one of a few successful self-made Kyrgyz businessmen, who was also a founder of Shoro, Kyrgyz national drinks manufacturer. The complex is made of stone, leather, clay, wood and other material available to ancient nomads.
Supara's was built to introduce foreign guests to the Kyrgyz nomadic culture and lifestyle. There are 7 yurts of different style and size in Supara presenting different periods of the Kyrgyz history. One of yurts is the largest yurt in the world, it has over 200 seats. Like the National History Museum, Supara is another great place to learn more about the Kyrgyz nomadic culture. Also, while Faiza restaurant is one of the best places to try Kyrgyz food within the city, there is no better place to try it out of town then Supara. Definitely worth driving 15 km from the city to get closer to the nomadic culture. Don't be surprised when greeted by a man dressed up like an ancient Kyrgyz warrior.
A beautiful legend lies behind this mysterious complex of Tashtar-Ata also known as the Redemption Mountain less than 20 km away from Bishkek. According to the legend, a Kyrgyz baatyr or hero named Tashtar-Ata had to fight evil forces for 40 days and nights. After winning the battle, he lay down for eternal rest and now there's only a huge stone left symbolizing the strength of his spirit. A pilgrimage to this place started afterwards — it was believed that if you seek a redemption, you should take a stone symbolizing your grief to that huge stone. This is how a large artificial mound of stones appeared.
Even nowadays Nazarliev Medical Center's customers seeking a freedom from drug addiction go through this pilgrimage at Tashtar-Ata — leaving their stones and burning their old clothes, which symbolize their past they want to get rid of. In 2013 a cultural complex was built to symbolize unity, peace and harmony — it has four sacred buildings each of which represents a religion — Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. Tashtar-Ata still remains a place for people from different parts of the world seeking a redemption.
Chunkurchak is one of the closest gorges to Bishkek. Around 40 km to the south from the capital city you can find yourself surrounded by forests, mountains and rivers. Chunkurchak is well-known thanks to the ski resort with the same name nearby, which is often top of the list during wintertime. Hiking, horse-riding or simply enjoying the nature is an alternative during the other seasons.
Luckily the gorge is also the place, where Tabyldy Egemberdiev planned to locate his second Supara. Designed with nomadic flavor, the place has yurt and yurt-like bungalows. If your plans go beyond a day trip, spending a couple nights in Supara Chunkurchak is certainly worth considering.