8 wild and beautiful places in Kyrgyzstan: National Geographic

The cities of Kyrgyzstan are filled with Soviet-style buildings, sprawling markets, and ornate mosques. However, outside of the bustling, metropolitan streets of Bishkek and Osh, wonder awaits: A journey deeper into the wilder parts of Kyrgyzstan treats the senses with turquoise alpine lakes, towering snowcapped peaks, and sweeping walnut forests.

Today, Kyrgyzstan’s rugged landscapes, unique nomadic heritage, and fascinating Silk Road history attract outdoor adventurers and culture enthusiasts alike. Read on to learn about eight of the country’s most spectacular spots.

Ala Archa National Park

Just 25 miles outside Bishkek, Ala Archa National Park’s striking gorge is one of the most beloved nature areas in Kyrgyzstan.

In Kyrgyz, ala archa refers to the variegated juniper trees that adorn the canyon in every direction. Traditionally, Kyrgyz people use juniper to protect homes and ward off evil spirits. In Ala Archa, they’re a backdrop for a variety of year-round outdoor adventure activities, including hiking, trekking, and skiing.

From Bishkek, hire a taxi or rent a car for the 30-minute drive to the park entrance. Once inside, take advantage of the trails, lodge, and seasonal recreational areas.