Previously known as Pishpek and Frunze, the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek is emerging as a Central Asian tourist destination full of attractions. Located along an ancient silk trade route in what is now the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek blends nomadic origins, Muslim heritage, and a 20th century Soviet legacy into an expanding urban center.
Its ever-growing population is nearing 1 million, yet the city has ample green spaces; on a drive in Bishkek city your eyes will always be stuck on the rose gardens near the rod sides, look straight up and you can capture the breathtaking the beauty of Ala-Too mountain range.
Although the Kyrgyz infrastructure for tourism is still developing, Bishkek is relatively modernized, making it fairly easy to visit popular tourist attractions. Whether Bishkek is your destination or just a stop on your way to the mountains, the city will surprise you.
Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, is a relatively new city – being barely a hundred years old but was built on an earlier Sogdian settlement that played a role on the Silk Road. However, evidence from stone tools suggests that there has been a human settlement in the area of up to 7,000 years.
Bishkek is a very green city laid out on a classic Soviet grid system with parkland interspersed to give it an almost village-like feel which is accentuated by the snow-clad Ala-Too ridge which is visible from almost anywhere in Bishkek.
Though Bishkek’s relatively new history means that it doesn’t have the clusters of ancient monuments that other cities in the ‘Stans’ can boast, it is certainly a city worth exploring.
Its heart is Ala-Too square which now boasts a large statue of the eponymous Kyrgyz hero Manas, said to be the father of the Kyrgyz state, and where the changing of the guard can be viewed on the hour every hour before a huge national flag. The 10 meter high statue of Lenin that used to grace the square has now been moved around the corner opposite the State Historical Museum while a little further along Marx and Engels can be found deep in discussion.
The nearby Panfilov Park, which celebrates a Kyrgyz general who died defending Moscow in 1941 is well worth a stroll if only to observe local Kyrgyz families out enjoying themselves.