Is it a good idea to visit Kyrgyzstan in November?

(Last Updated On: 06/10/2021)

The story is always the same: I find a really good deal on flights to the place I’ve been dreaming of for a long time, I check if dates around some days off from work are available and after some thinking (between 5 minutes to 2 hours) I almost always end up buying the ticket.

That’s also how I ended up in Central Asia in November. This part of the world has been on my mind for ages and after my numerous travels to the Balkans and Caucasus it was ineluctable that I will end up in the “-stans” sooner or later.

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

How I got to visit Kyrgyzstan in November

I didn’t think about the timing when I was booking my tickets. I only focused on the dates, how I can work them around the Polish Independence Day (that was the only time I could still travel last year, my schedule was really busy as 2015 was an exceptional year for me).

After spending a little over a week in Kazakhstan, falling for Almaty, freezing my butt off in Astana (where the temperature was -5C but really felt like -17C…) and altogether enjoying my time in the country it was time for me to visit Kyrgyzstan.

Already in Kazakhstan I felt like I might be one of the very few international tourists in the country, in my hostel in Almaty there were few other foreigners but I didn’t really see any tourists when visiting the cities. I was an interesting oddity for local people who often started conversation with me just to find out what the heck I’m doing in their country in such an ungrateful month as November.

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

My expectations before visiting Kyrgyzstan

Since I remember I’ve been hearing how exceptional Kyrgyzstan is, with magnificent mountains, breathtaking views and laid-back capital. And I admit I had my hopes very high but at the same time I don’t know anyone who was crazy enough to visit Kyrgyzstan in November, except of me that is (however there are friends who were there in the winter time and had a blast!).

The last morning I woke up in Almaty I saw a winter wonderland around. Seriously I don’t remember when I saw such a beautiful, fairy-tale alike winter for the last time. The city has changed overnight and it looked just beautiful. I didn’t want to leave Almaty but at the same time I was looking forward to visiting Kyrgyzstan even more, hoping to see a similar beauty there.

The journey by bus from Almaty to Bishkek was rather straight forward and with some beautiful views outside taking my breath away. Some 5 hours later I found myself in Bishkek.

Almaty Kazakhstan winter

Bishkek – a capital with a big potential, just not in November

The first impressions weren’t the best. The dusk was growing, the air was humid and the only thing I did on that day was getting to the hostel and then visiting the supermarket to get some food. The hostel was located in the impressive socialist realism building along the main street, in a regular flat. Since it was November in Kyrgyzstan I was the only guest there which was actually not that bad, like I had the whole flat with all its advantages to myself.

The owner said one can see beautiful Tien Shan mountains from the window and when I woke up in the morning I indeed could spot very vaguely snow covered peaks, just for a brief moment. But of course my hoped were much higher that that…

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Bishkek also didn’t impress me as much as I expected and I blame it on the weather. After spending a week in Almaty and loving every single moment of it I also had my hopes for Bishkek very high.

I could see very well that in the spring or summer time I would have loved the city – it had a wonderful socialism realism architecture, brutalism was doing very well there and the place, even if lacked major touristic sights, had this laid-back, pleasant vibe. There was even a Lenin statue hidden in the park! I can imagine how great it must be in more favorable conditions, either in the full spring bloom or covered in snow.

In November however it was just dull, grey and kind of boring. One day I had in Bishkek was enough to see all the city has to offer, wander around to get the sense of the city and to promise myself to return there at the better time of the year…

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Challenging time at Issyk Kul lake

From Bishkek I headed to Issyk Kul lake, the main tourist destination in Kyrgyzstan. In the summer time the towns and villages along the northern shore turn into the main holiday getaway for local people as well as tourists from Kazakhstan or even Russia. Beaches are packed, the parties go on till late night hours and you can find an accommodation in every other house.

Well, the situation in November looks slightly different. First of all I had a problem with finding a place to stay at Issyk Kul lake, Booking showed only 3 properties, all of them rather expensive (for Kyrgyzstan and my budget there). Eventually I went for a hotel in Bosteri, close to Cholpon Ata – the main town in the area.

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

The first issues appeared when I tried to find on the map the exact location of the hotel. Kyrgyzstan isn’t the most developed country, also on Google Maps, and Bosteri looks like one main road with couple of back streets, without any names on them. There are actually no names on the streets there either so when the marshrutka dropped me off in the village I needed to somehow figure out where my hotel is.

I was almost sure I’m in the right part of Bosteri (and I really was) but it was getting dark and I couldn’t see any sign with the name of the hotel I was looking for. I was circling around one street, back and forth, looking for any clues but with no luck. Eventually I had the most clever idea ever, even now I don’t know how it came to my mind: I turned on the wifi in my phone to see if it can detect the network with the name of my hotel. And it surely did!

I kept walking around, the signal was getting stronger and weaker yet I couldn’t see the hotel! I was slowly getting hopeless, the time was passing by, it was getting really dark and of course there was no one around to ask. I entered a small shop and in my very poor Russian I asked the woman working there if she could call the hotel (as my phone didn’t want to make the connection…). Couple of minutes later I was saved as the guy from the hotel came to pick me up. And let me tell you it was nowhere close to the street I was walking up and down…

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

It’s no surprise I was the only guest in the hotel. It was pretty new and it felt like it wasn’t really in use – it was freezing cold inside! I got extra blankets and a heater to my room but I still put most of my clothes on, just like when I spent a night at Wadi Rum desert in Jordan…

The next day I started with a walk to the lakeside in Bosteri, before heading to Cholpon Ata. Of course everything was long closed for the winter time but I managed to somehow sneak into the holiday resort with a small amusement park. I could imagine how it gets busy in the summer time but in November it looked somehow creepy.

The Issyk Kul lake itself was stunning, even in the gloomy weather it left a huge impression on me with its vast waters and magnificent mountains glistering on the horizon. The contrast between abandoned tourist infrastructure and the pristine nature was prostrating!

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Cholpon Ata was slightly more busy than Bosteri – I’ve seen maybe 20 people around during my visit to the town! Besides the lake the biggest attraction of Cholpon Ata are petroglyphs – there are around 2000 of them, dating from 800BC to 1200AD.

Since the maps don’t really exist I just headed in the general direction where they should be located, using the shortcut (or just a wrong way, you name it) through the fields. When I was this close to the sight two rather scary dogs appeared on my way and I had to turn around. Fortunately shortly after I stumbled across friendly locals who showed me the way to petroglyphs.

There’s supposed to be an open air museum with the best exhibits but of course I couldn’t find it… Instead I just hanged out in the area as the rocks strewn around looked really spectacular! I haven’t seen the most famous petroglyphs but I was really impressed with those I was lucky to find anyway.

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Before heading to the lake shore again I wanted to stop at the local cemetery as it looked beautiful, so different than those I know. But of course it was closed, all I could do was to peek through the gate…

The lakeside in Cholpon Ata was even more beautiful than in Bosteri. The beach was wider, cleaner and even if there were hotels around it looked neat. Besides me there was one more person walking around and enjoying the place but we both tried to avoid each other, pretending we have the place all to ourselves. The lake and the mountains were hypnotizing, a pure beauty!

It was then that I understood the whole hype about Issyk Kul, it really is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It leaves you speechless even in the gloomy autumn day. I could have spent hours, just sitting at the beach and looking at the pristine view.

Sadly it was time for me to go back to Bosteri. Again I couldn’t get into my hotel as no one was answering the doorbell but as I learnt from my experience from the day before I headed to the nearby restaurant to ask to call the owners to open the door for me. Altogether on that day I saw many more animals than people…

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Karakol – probably my favorite place in Kyrgyzstan

My last stop in Kyrgyzstan was Karakol – fourth largest city in the country, located at the eastern end of Issyk Kul lake. For couple of days I’ve been debating in my head if I should go there or return to Bishkek. Eventually I headed in Karakol and I was really glad I did. The city was very pleasant, with a beautiful old houses, exceptional wooden church and even a small mosque.

It was also the first time in Kyrgyzstan when I saw the sun shining, very timidly but still lightening up my mood big time. Too bad I didn’t have an extra day to head to the mountains around, they were pretty spectacular and probably the highest I’ve seen in my life, after Caucasus in Georgia (some reaching over 5.000 meters at the peak). I should have visited Karakol on Sunday too, to visit the famous animals market. I have so many reasons to go back there!

Of course again I was the only one in the hostel and this time it was a rather creepy experience. The hostel itself was really good, located in two buildings and when I had to go from one to another, in the pitch-darkness and a terrifying silence surrounding me I didn’t feel all that confident. I was left all alone in the property and it felt just weird… Still Karakol might be the place I liked the most during my visit in Kyrgyzstan!

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Should you visit Kyrgyzstan?

So I might as well say that I wasn’t blown away by Kyrgyzstan. After hearing everyone oohing and aahing about the country I had my expectations way too high. But most of all I blame myself for not liking Kyrgyzstan as much as I should have to.

Let’s face it, going to Central Asia in November was probably one of the most stupid travel ideas I’ve ever had. While visiting Kazakhstan was surprisingly good I found Kyrgyzstan rather boring, even the mountains didn’t impress me as much as they should have to. But I’m aware it’s all my fault. I know I should visit Kyrgyzstan again to make a full judgment of the place.

Right now the country is on the top of my travel list, this time however I’m aiming for late spring, summer or early autumn time. And if you’re wondering if you should visit Kyrgyzstan or not – go! Just don’t do that in November…

Visit Kyrgyzstan November

Travel resources

With over 15 years of independent traveling, I’ve learned which websites and services are the best when planning a trip. I always use and trust the following websites:

Money – My number one tip for everyone is to start using Revolut bank card to save money when traveling.

You get the card by mail within a few days and you can use it all over the world. You top up the card in the app on the phone, where you can also have accounts in different currencies and exchange money between them, for no extra fee and at very favorable rates.

Everything is super easy and fast, you only need an internet connection to manage your accounts in the app.

Revolut supports over 140 currencies and offers free withdrawal from ATMs all over the world. In the first 6 months I’ve used Revolut card in 12 countries in 3 continents and had no issues at all. And I saved a lot of money in the exchange rates!

Click here to learn more about the service and order your own Revolut card!

Accommodation – I always book my accommodation through

They have really good deals (especially with their “Genius” program that you become a member of after few reservations) and in most of the cases, if your plans change, you can cancel the reservation without any extra costs.

I also value them for a really good customer service that I had to use a few times.

Check the best deals on accommodation in Kyrgyzstan here!

Insurance – I never travel without the insurance as you never know what might happen on the road and better safe than sorry (I’ve learnt my lesson).

I can recommend World Nomads that offer the insurance dedicated to travelers just like you and me.

Click here to get the insurance policy for Kyrgyzstan here.

Day tours – I do go for a day trips when I travel as often they are the most convenient way to see the place that saves you time and money.

I most often use Get Your Guide that offers a variety of tours all over the world. Click here to check all the best tours you can take during your travels!

Offline maps – For years I’ve been using MAPS.ME app and I can’t recommend it enough!

It’s free, works offline perfectly fine and saved me many times. You can easily transfer Google Maps with all the bookmarks to and use them offline wherever you are.

Click here to download it to your phone before your next trip!

For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:

  • If you don’t want to miss new posts and news from me click here to sign to my newsletter! You can also follow me on Bloglovin!
  • Join my Facebook group about Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former USSR and connect with fellow travellers and enthusiasts of these regions – just click here!
  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Kyrgyzstan too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. If you like what you are reading and seeing here and would like to support me and my blog please consider using those links. It would be like getting me a virtual drink that you don’t have to pay for! Thanks!


Visit Kyrgyzstan      Visit Kyrgyzstan

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  • Reply
    31/10/2016 at 12:18

    Haha such an interesting experience and perspective! I love winter, so perhaps that is why I loved Kyrgyzstan in the middle of winter! I wish I had set you up with my friend, Jyl, when you were there. She floats in between Bishkek and Cholpon-ata and is just great and made my list trip so, so easy!!! By the way, tomorrow is November 1 and the temperature in Bishkek is set to be 22C ahhahha! Followed by 24C for the following few days. Maybe (and hopefully), November 2016 will be an exception to the rule.

    • Reply
      01/11/2016 at 22:20

      I’m so jealous of this beautiful weather you’re having there! I think I’d have loved Kyrgyzstan in winter, I remember how stunning your pictures were! Just November was a terrible idea. I’m sure I will be back there sooner or later! :)

  • Reply
    Marcin Wesołowski
    31/10/2016 at 22:52

    Seems like it is :) Zdjęcia mają swój urok o tej porze!

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      01/11/2016 at 21:32

      no urok był, fakt. ale w lepszych warunkach tam jest chyba o wiele lepiej!

  • Reply
    Vana Nik
    01/11/2016 at 08:28

    Hi Kami! When I was reading last year that you were going to visit Kyrgyzstan in November I was really curious about how it could work out. I’m sorry that you didn’t manage to enjoy your time there as much as you would like, but to be honest all of us have done some “wrong” travel choices from time to time. :) I visited Kyrgyzstan 2+ years ago in the second half of July and I loved my time there. I really liked Bishkek and Osh, I loved Karakol and I enjoyed swimming in Issyk Kol lake. The highlight of my trip though was spending 2 days in Song Kol lake and staying in a yurt. :) I would never try this during Kyrgyz November! :D For me the weather is crucial for my trips and I usually avoid the difficult seasons of each country. Unlike many people I hate snow, cold and sightseeing under these circumstances.

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      01/11/2016 at 21:31

      I usually don’t mind the weather but for some reason Kyrgyzstan was really depressing, maybe also because Kazakhstan stole my heart rather unexpectedly? But as soon as I found cheap flight there I’m going back as I know I’d love it there in different, better conditions. And of course we all make travel mistakes, I was actually laughing at myself so much when writing this post :)

  • Reply
    Karol Werner
    01/11/2016 at 09:47

    Ja tam uwielbiam Kirgistan ponad wszystkie kraje!

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      01/11/2016 at 21:32

      a byłeś tam w listopadzie ;) ?

  • Reply
    Joanna Ejsmont Lisowska
    01/11/2016 at 11:47

    Na zdjęciach prezentuje się właśnie tak, jak sobie wyobrażałam, iście socjalistyczne bądź bardzo wschodnie krajobrazy. Mi się podoba

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      01/11/2016 at 21:32

      klimat był, zdecydowanie. tylko ten listopad taki depresyjny ;)

  • Reply
    06/11/2016 at 20:46

    trochę jak moja Rumunia i Mołdawia w kwietniu, tylko bardziej jesiennie ;) super. i wydaje mi się, że nawet w listopadzie może być tam fajnie ;)

    • Reply
      16/11/2016 at 12:54

      oczywiście, że może być fajnie :) wszędzie może być fajnie w listopadzie :) pewnie ilość turystów odwiedzających Mołdawię i Kirgistan jest podobna ;)

  • Reply
    07/11/2016 at 13:22

    I like travelling in autumn, because of amazing colours however November seems to be a bit extreme. I like winter though, and i envy you this views. Very likely i won’t see snow this year like many years before and i miss it with all my heart.

    • Reply
      16/11/2016 at 12:56

      I love travelling in autumn just for the colors! And November isn’t that bad, right now I’m in the Caucasus and it’s ok too! So sad about the snow, it’s half of the fun in winter!!

  • Reply
    07/11/2016 at 14:12

    Rzeczywiscie, ja rowniez w podobny sposob wyobrazalam sobie to miejsce. Sama od niedawna zaczynam odkrywac Wschod (pierwsze bilety do Gruzji juz kupione i nie moge sie doczekac!), troche nudzi mnie juz zachodnia czesc Europy i to, jaka jest przewidywalna. Kami, narobilas mi smaka- jakimi liniami mozna tam doleciec?

    • Reply
      16/11/2016 at 13:00

      Tylko uważaj, skoro już jesteś znudzona zachodnią Europą to jak tylko zasmakujesz wschodu to przepadniesz ;) wiem co mówię, piszę to z Erywania ;) Do Azji Centralnej leciałam Turkish Airlines (tam leciałam do Almaty, wracałam z Biszkeku). Do Kirgistanu mało jest opcji (jeszcze Pegasus mi sie kojarzy), za to do Kazachstanu łatwo i dość tanio można dolecieć, a z Almaty już rzut beretem do Kirgistanu.

  • Reply
    08/11/2016 at 16:16

    Ja lubię podróżować poza sezonem, chociaż w “stanach” jeszcze nie byłam. Ale na przykład taka Majorka miała dla mnie o wiele więcej uroku w styczniu i lutym niż w lipcu :)

    • Reply
      16/11/2016 at 13:06

      a to wyobrażam sobie, chyba by mi musieli dopłacić, żeby na Majorkę w sezonie pojechać ;) a poza sezonem wszędzie taka cisza i spokój, a i ceny przystępniejsze!

  • Reply
    09/11/2016 at 11:23

    w końcu! pamiętam te zdjęcia z Twojego fejsa z daaaawno temu i na początku trochę czekałam na więcej i na wpis z tego listopadowego Kirgistanu, no i w końcu jest!. :D

    widzę, że podobne wyzwania jak wszędzie indziej poza sezonem, ale ma to swój urok… ;-)

    • Reply
      16/11/2016 at 13:08

      lepiej późno niż wcale, sama nie wiem kiedy ten rok zleciał ;)

      ja uwielbiam podróże poza sezonem! ale Kirgistan chyba mnie jednak odrobinę przerósł ;)

  • Reply
    09/11/2016 at 11:55

    Nigdy tam nie byłam choć planuje to od lat. Zawsze w ostateczności zmieniłam kuerunek i zawsze byłam przekonana, że to błąd. A gdy patrzę na zdjęcia i czytam o Kirgistanie to wiem na pewno, ze to byl błąd. Potężny.

    • Reply
      16/11/2016 at 13:08

      To trzeba jak najszybciej nadrobić!

  • Reply
    Wade K.
    23/05/2018 at 07:37

    Spent February in Almaty and am in Bishkek for June. Then heading to Karakol for all of July. Almaty in February isn’t the best time either. Especially as winter air there is really bad. Coughed a lot while there. Almaty has better malls but overall a tough city to get around in. Much bigger than Bishkek. The center of Bishkek is super user friendly. I liked the Kazakhs but the Kyrgyzs take the friendliness up a few notches. Also you can stay twice as long in Kyrgyzstan and the border is very close to renew your 60 days. I’m surprised I like it better than Georgia.

    • Reply
      24/05/2018 at 11:46

      I remember seeing some winter pictures of Almaty from above and the air pollution was so very bad! I’m going back to Kazakhstan in October but I so need to plan another visit in Kyrgyzstan as there are still so many spectacular places I need to see there! And you’re right, Kyrgyzs people were amazing!

  • Reply
    Bruno De Marco Ariza
    09/03/2019 at 13:00

    Hello! Good Morning!
    Your post is very important to people that wants to travel to Central Asia in autumn.
    Which days in November do you spen there?

    • Reply
      05/04/2019 at 14:27

      Do you want me to say the exact dates? i honestly don’t remember, somewhen in mid-November

  • Reply
    29/09/2019 at 21:46

    Thank you Kami!! I am about to buy my tickets to November and wondering whether it would be a too bad idea :D
    Did you visit the other stans as well?”How about Kazakistan, do you recommend it in Winter?
    Were you NOT able to visit any of this places (in all countries) because it was closed or maybe the roads were snow closed?

    Thank you!!

    • Reply
      04/10/2019 at 20:50

      to be honest I wouldn’t really recommend going in November. I didn’t manage to visit a few places in Kazakhstan because it was off season and in both, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, I felt like I’m the only tourist at that time which really limited my options. I liked the countries, but I don’t think I will go back there in November.

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