Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek has a lot to offer tourists. It’s a very walkable city, a great place to rest and recharge after an excursion to the mountains or outer reaches of the country. More than just a stopping point, the city is filled with well-kept parks, Soviet-style architecture and monuments to Manas, Lenin and Kurmanjan Datka that remind passersby of its extensive history.
In stark contrast to Bishkek’s polished sculptures and paved boulevards is Burana Museum Complex, where Burana Tower stands forlornly resolute amidst a scattering of unearthed relics from Balasagun, capital of the ancient Karakhanid State. Yet this open-air museum holds great historical weight, amazing historian and tourist alike with its remnants from the distant past.
In the morning your guide and driver will meet you at hotel reception to begin a city tour of Bishkek, which will take you to the following:
- Ala Too Square, Bishkek’s large central square that maintains a distinctly Soviet feel. Watch the hourly changing of the guards, take a selfie under the large Kyrgyzstan flag and pay your respects to a Kyrgyz legend at Manas Monument.
- Old Square with the Parliament House, a regal piece of 20th century architecture supported by 16 grand columns, and Lenin Statue, relegated to its current place after being supplanted by Manas in Ala Too Square
- Philharmonic Hall, a stately Bishkek landmark whose courtyard is a popular meeting place for local students and youth
- Oak Park, where the beautiful tree lined Erkindik Boulevard will take you to a statue of Kurmanjan Datka, a prominent 19th century Kyrgyz leader known as the “Queen of the Mountains”
- Opera and Ballet House, a stylish hall serving as a key center for the performing arts
- Victory Square, which honors those who lost their lives in WWII with an Eternal Flame burning continuously under a sizable granite half-yurt
Continue sightseeing with a drive to Burana Museum Complex (80km, 1.5hrs), enjoying the breathtaking view of the Chuy Valley and Tien Shan Mountains en route. This open-air museum encompasses several significant sites:
- Burana Tower (11th century), a 25-meter-high minaret that impresses with its intricately chiseled exterior. The only remaining structure from Balasagun city, it affords a memorable climb up its dark and winding stairwell, with a spectacular view at the top to reward you for your efforts.
- Balbals (6th century), round stone figures used as grave markers and memorial stones of the deceased. Their roughly carved features remain visible even today and give us hints into the lives of ancient local tribes.
- Museum containing items found in Balasagun - jewelry, pottery and objects from the Zoroastrian, Christian, Buddhist and Islamic faiths
- Mausoleums (9th century), a trio of partially- intact tombs discovered during archaeological excavations
- Petroglyphs (2nd century), not original to the site but discovered in the greater Chuy Region and deposited here for safekeeping
Return to Bishkek for drop-off at your hotel. End of Bishkek and Burana Tower Tour.
Tour duration: approximately 8 hours.