Driving in the land of Yurts & Horses - Kyrgyzstan

Woman Motorist Me

Well-Known Member
Our first encounter with the authorities:

After seeing the Burana Tower, we were now headed towards Cholpon Ata ... when suddenly we saw a cop on the side of the road rotating his red rod ... and pointing it at us!!! :shock:

We stopped & Manan handed over his International Driving Permit (IDP. Don't travel without one out here). He realized that he was overspeeding. The limit on expressways here is 90 kmph, on normal highways its 60 and when passing through towns / villages, it's 40.

Manan first tried imitating that he couldn't understand what was being told to him.
The cops pointed at the speed gun in their hands.

Next he tried miming that he was within the limit.
The cop showed a video on his speed gun ... in slow motion ... showing the car, it's number & the speed (101 kmph instead of 90) all displayed clearly! (Ok we later realized this is a requirement for them. They can't fine you unless they have this video as proof).

Outmaneuvered, he reluctantly decided to pay up. They asked for his credit card ... and in a brilliant piece of inspiration, he told them he doesn't have one. (a mistake as we later realized).

So now he would either have to leave his IDP ... or pay them cash (not actually allowed. But cops there are terribly corrupt ... so ...). He chose to pay.

Phew saved!

After getting on our way, we managed to contact Ryan & realized 2 things:
Firstly the fine for speeding here is between 500 - 2000 soms max. (so we overpaid a bit)
Secondly, the correct thing to do IS to actually give your Credit Card & not cash!!!

Tip: Only VISA cards are accepted usually, in the few places that they are in Kyrgyzstan. MasterCards are accepted very rarely, so carry the correct one from home!

Reaching Cholpon Ata:


Our first sighting of the Issyk Kul lake with the Tian Shan mountain range as a backdrop​


Reached Maksat Guesthouse in the evening - our home for the next 2 days​


Nice spacious room​


Waiting for the Lagman noodles with vegetables at the guesthouse restaurant​

Woman Motorist Me

Well-Known Member
Day 3 - Cholpon Ata:

One of the main thing to do in Cholpon Ata is to enjoy the lake shore & take a dip in the water there. Issyk Kul means 'Warm Lake' in the Kyrgyz language as it never freezes even though it's surrounded by snow clad mountains. The logic is that the lake is slightly saline (though only 0.6% as opposed to 3.5% which is typical of sea water) and this saltiness lowers it's freezing point.

We walked the 5 mins it takes to reach the lake shore from our guesthouse ... and had some fun there! :cool:


Manan trying a hand at Jet Skiing​


Manan went for a swim​


I was happy enough to only dip my feet as I found the water a bit cold​

After a few hours at the lake, we went to the Ruh Ordo cultural center which means 'Spiritual Center' in Kyrgyz. It has Buddhist, Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish chapels, symbolizing the unity of all people’s faith.
We didn't get an English speaking guide here. What we loved here was the location! There are also some exhibits & paintings which give you an insight to the Kyrgyz culture (Use the google translate app to understand everything).


Entry to the center​


Nice location​


Chapels of different faiths in the background​


Walking around​


Pier with four pavilions symbolizing the 4 directions or the 4 seasons​


Cholpon Ata is on the northern shore of Issyk Kul & has some commercial water activities​


View from the pier​


The place was squeaky clean​

Woman Motorist Me

Well-Known Member
After visiting the cultural center, we went to this Outdoor Museum. The main thing to see here are the Petroglyphs some of which are over 2500 years old!!!


This place is sometimes referred to as the 'Stone Garden' as it has over 5000 stones!​


Some of the stones have Petroglyphs carved on them & these are marked with blue flags. Very few are decipherable considering their age! The location of the place is quite brilliant.​

After going berserk with clicking Petroglyphs, I saw Manan clicking the same ones again with his mobile. It looked a bit baffling why he would do that #-o ... but on taking a closer look, I realized he was actually trying to decipher them ... using google translate :roll:. (It would just take some common sense to realize that google didn't exist 2500 years back :p)


Ended the day with dinner (grilled vegetables with fries, the only vegetarian options) at У Рыбака!!! O:)

Day 4 - Karakol:


The first halt was at the gas station. Ours was a petrol Cross-over 4x4 Duster which liked only 95 octane+ of gas. We were pleasantly surprised to realize that the price of petrol was 39.50 soms to a liter (around 38 INR as opposed to 79 in Mumbai today).​

Map 3.jpg

We drove from the northern shore of the lake to it's eastern side.​


Nearing Karakol.​


Riverside Guesthouse - our home for 3 days. This is owned by Andre & his Kyrgyz wife. Both are very friendly & informative.
We loved the casual, disarming atmosphere ... and the common kitchen where we could cook.​


Our room was facing a park. There are also orchards of apples, apricots & grapes! Sadly the apples weren't yet in time for harvesting & were a bit sour!​

CBT (Community Based Tourism) is a company who works very hard at building a sustainable bridge between foreign visitors and local culture ... and though it's not the only in Kyrgyzstan, it is quite wide spread with it's offices in over 15 destinations. They arrange home stays, yurt stays & organize treks, transport, permits ... the works. They are also extremely friendly & would help you out with information even if you're not utilizing any of their services.


Our first port of call was to visit the CBT office to get some information ... in English instead of русский! ;)


We visit the Dungan Mosque built a hundred years ago.​


It has nice wood work.​


Next we visited the Holy Trinity Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church made entirely of wood.​


We found the architecture quite fascinating.​


We were quite hungry after all that sight seeing! So we found this asian restaurant which had an entire page of vegetarian options! wow!!! \\:D/ (You can google Cafe Dastorkon if you have difficulty in typing Кафе Дасторкон on your English keyboard).​


Nice ambiance!​


Boortsog for starters.​


Rice with mixed vegetables in sauce ... & a veg burrito. :tonqe:

Woman Motorist Me

Well-Known Member
Day 5 - Жети Өгүз:

We decided to do an excursion to the Jeti-Ögüz today & I took the wheel again. It's a short 28 kms drive from Karakol.


The roads were quite good.​


Look what we found! Sea-buckthorn!!! These berries also grow in the higher altitudes of Lahaul & Spiti valleys in the Himalayas.​


We helped ourselves to a few of these sour & astringent berries. You could buy sea-buckthorn jam & other cosmetic products in Karakol.​


Shepherds on horseback with their cattle.​


Jeti-Ögüz means 'Seven Bulls' in Kyrgyz. These red sandstone formations are supposed to resemble bulls but maybe we couldn't stretch our imagination enough to see them as that. Be that it may, we still found the geology of the place quite fascinating!​


The Jeti-Ögüz river flows through the Jeti-Ögüz village alongside the Jeti-Ögüz rock formations. :-k


In summer, you see a lot of these people having their apiaries & selling honey.


We had visited this local tour operator Destination Karakol earlier & they had recommended us to drive on the 4x4 gravel road ahead from here till it's end (it's an hour's drive).​


The road ahead!!! :shock:

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