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Kyrgyzstan - The Beauty of the South

The first time I visited Kyrgyzstan I explored a bit of everything. The second time I focused on the south shore of Issyk-kul lake where I found mostly impressive canyons and dry landscapes. This time I decided to visit the South of Kyrgyzstan. Starting at Osh and surroundings, I made my way back to Bishkek and explored locations that I didn’t know before. The main thing that surprised me here was how green the landscapes were. Especially in contrast with the last time I visited when I explored mainly canyons.

Once again I was impressed by the extreme variety of landscapes you can find in Kyrgyzstan. The first time I visited I already mentioned how in a short period of time, I saw landscapes that you can compare to Iceland, Utah canyons (US), high snowy peaks like the Himalaya and the European alps you could find even close to Bishkek, like Ala-Archa. On my visit to the south I was surprised by areas such as Arslanbob and Sary Chelek, that really reminded me of European parts. Everything was so green.

The highlight of my trip to the south was the peak Lenin area. A few hours drive south of Osh you can find the second highest mountain of the country (7100m+) with a yurt basecamp located an an altitude of around 3500 meters. The landscape and weather were surreal here. A huge valley with hills, lakes and massive peaks were great to explore for a few days. We experienced 4 seasons in 1 day here with snow, tropical temperatures and everything in between.

In Arslanbob I explored the beautiful walnut forests that are the biggest in the world. Walking around here was really magical. Not only this, as you can expect in Kyrgyzstan we found some lakes reflecting the mountain tops surrounding this surreal village. The atmosphere in this little village was great. It was something really different than what I experienced before in Kyrgyzstan. Houses were build on hills with narrow roads leading up to them. Everything was surrounded by greenery, streams, and beautiful (most walnut) trees. I spent only 2 days here but I would love to explore a bit more here in the future.

In Sary Chelek we found beautiful turquoise lakes with wild flowers everywhere, crystal clear little streams and so much green everywhere. It felt like yet another country right there in Kyrgyzstan. The road leading up to Sary Chelek was already very scenic, with hills full of green reminding me of Tuscany in Italy. No wonder Sary Chelek is a popular destination for a few days of holiday amongst locals. A canyon that takes your breath away leads up to a dirt road that looks like you’re going through a rainforest.

For this trip I also decided to photograph and tell a bit of story about the locals I met at guesthouses and homestays along with the atmosphere. Tourism is upcoming in Kyrgyzstan but is still in a starting phase, especially in the south. It’s great to see how locals are caring so much about the visitors. You will always have a warm welcome, often from a whole family. They’re taking great care of you and cooking great food! The start of tourism causes them to invest a bit in new ‘technology’. Jacob for example, proudly showed me his ‘luxurious’ shower while Husmidin in Arslanbob had wifi and a modern toilet, something he was also really proud of.

At the beginning of my trip I also received an official certificate or appreciation from the Minister of Tourism in Kyrgyzstan. I was honored to receive this and it motivates me to promote the country even more and explore new places. Thanks to everyone in Kyrgyzstan, the people I stayed with, the family of my girlfriend Bermet, and my great friends at Visit Karakol. I couldn’t have done it without them. And thanks to all the locals for their great support! I’ll be back soon!

This photo series is a combination of landscapes and storytelling shots. With each photo there is a brief explanation about the shot. They’re posted in chronological order (except the first few) from where my trip started.

An aerial shot of Peak Lenin (7100m+). Look closely on the left and you can see the yurt camp where we stayed a few nights. This was definitely the highlight of my trip to the south. We had a wide variety of weather conditions here as well with snow, sun, storms etc. Typical mountain weather.

During the night of our arrival at the Peak Lenin base camp it started to snow and within an hour everything was completely white. I quickly went outside and took a bunch of photos of the amazing atmosphere that happened.

A telephoto shot of our driver Atilet on a horse with the huge Peak Lenin as a backdrop. The small creature looking at the horse is a Kirghiz dog . This dog followed this horse everywhere as apparently they grew up together in the mountains.

A beautiful morning in Arslanbob. It took 2 days for these peaks to show themselves as we had a lot of rain during our stay here. Arslanbob is a beautiful village in the south of Kyrgyzstan with not only beautiful mountains but it also has the biggest walnut forest in the world.

In Kyrgyzstan you can find impressive mountains literally anywhere. This is a photo of a peak at the Kojo-Kelen valley valley. This is a popular place for trekkers and you can walk over the high mountains pass here to the other side. We only spent 1 day here and tried to make the most out of it although the weather was not great. But we still had a great time and explored some paths in the mountains.

The Peak Lenin area has many little lakes and pools which are amazing for reflections.

This morning quite some snow fell especially on the peaks around peak Lenin. The first sunlight casts a golden glow on the landscape. Later that day, a lot of snow already melted.

On that particular frosty morning I really loved how the little wildflowers looked. The color of these flowers popped in contrast with the icy grass and leaves. I love mornings like this.

Another atmospheric image of the snowy blue hour at peak Lenin.

You could easily walk to Tulpar Kol (Kol means lake) from the Peak Lenin basecamp. Tulpar Kol is the biggest lake in the area. Often storms pass by that look impressive.

It was really a surreal sight when the landscape suddenly turned completely white. At that time I was staying in my comfortable warm yurt. But looking outside triggered me to go out there!

That next morning we woke up for sunrise and photographed around the puddles. The snowy mountains reflected beautifully in the still waters.

The beautiful frosty morning also looked great from up close.

An abstract close up from a mountain next to peak Lenin.

Peak Lenin yurt camp on the early morning after the snow.

First light hitting the landscape while flying high above the peak Lenin area. This is the other side pointing away from the peaks. You can see the wall of 5000+ mountains in the background.