The Route

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – Are They on Your Bucket List?

As the Travel Scientists get ready to hit the starting line for the Central Asia Rally, it looks like others might be joining them in this obscure part of the world in the not-too-distant future.

Travel trends come and go, and each year magazines and blogs are always looking for the next country to discover. Often bucket lists are published with obscure countries in far-flung parts of the world, often with unpronounceable names.

For a few countries, including the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the media predicts that the next decade will secure their rise into travel stardom. While these gems on the Silk Road often leave people searching for an Atlas when their names come up in conversation, it’s nice to see our favorite places getting attention – although we hope they won’t get too popular.

The Business Insider recently published a list of 50 travel destinations that are going to be huge in the next 10 years, and Central Asia hasn’t done too badly on their list of hopefuls.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan slips in at number 48. The country may have had some issues in recent years; it’s showing a healthy growth rate of 5.3%. With its snowcapped mountains, icy glaciers and deep gorges, Kyrgyzstan’s natural beauty makes it a winner.

The recent changes in the country’s tourism visas, allowing most EU, US and Australian citizens, amongst others, to visit Kyrgyzstan visa-free has helped to boost the country’s tourism intake. Unlike its neighboring ‘Stans, the fact that Kyrgyzstan has taken a lot of the red tape out of the visit makes it so much more attractive as a tourist destination.

Bishkek might not be the most attractive capital city in the world, but the nomadic excursions to the Alay Valley is an added attraction, or a hike up into the Tien Shan Mountains.

The beauty of Kyrgyzstan is that its natural beauty comes hand in hand with local traditions, with herders camping out in yurts around Lake Issyk-Köl or Lake Song-Köl. The hospitality of the locals makes Kyrgyzstan a destination many won’t forget.

Uzbekistan

best photos from the central asia rally
Photo by Travel Scientistst

Uzbekistan slips in at number 20 on the list. Unlike Kyrgyzstan, visitors still have to endure a rigmarole when it comes to getting a visa, but fortunately, the Central Asian country is worth the effort.

A poster child of the historic Silk Road itself, Uzbekistan’s blue tiled mosques and colorful bazaars conjure up a romantic fantasy of the once famous network of routes that linked Europe with China.

Even after its time in the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan still retains its old world magic, with cities like Samarkand and Bukhara, but it is a huge country with a rich variety of nature.

The tragedy of the Aral Sea is one that has left its mark on Uzbekistan, but driving through the ghostly salt flats through Muynaq a former port town, where rusty husks of ships are left to rot in the Uzbek desert, remain a haunting reminder and a curiosity for the adventurous traveler.

Lovers of the great outdoors should also get drawn into Uzbekistan, with its high mountains and craggy rock faces ideal for climbers.

Notable mentions

It’s nice to see both Central Asia and the nearby region of the Caucasus get the spotlight on the list, with Mongolia coming in 13th place and Azerbaijan at number 44.

We’re pleased to see Georgia get some attention at last, tallying up at number 25. Maybe you haven’t got the chance to go on the Central Asia Rally this year, but you’re still in time to join the Travel Scientists for the Caucasian Challenge, to see Georgia for yourself.

Night in Kyrgyzstan