Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel

Bishkek

Bishkek Travel Guide

The Kyrgyz capital is a Soviet-built city characterized by tree-lined streets, imposing architecture, and large boulevards. You’ll find that Bishkek is an approachable city that invites you to explore unhurriedly. The city is also extremely walkable, clean and green and offers many delightful spaces to relax. 

Bishkek surprised us in several ways. Though predominately Muslim, Kyrgyz drink alcohol and intermingle between the sexes more freely than you might expect. As we walked around this Central Asian city, we saw many couples affectionately holding each other on park benches, walking hand in hand, and going out. After traveling months in South and South East Asia, it was extremely refreshing. We had a marvelous time exploring Bishkek and we hope you do too.

 

 
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Bishkek Travel Guide, Kyrgyzstan - what to see and do, where to stay, where to eat, Bishkek city map

Bishkek Travel Guide Overview

  • Where to Stay in Bishkek
  • Where to Go (Interactive Map)
  • Best Things to Do in Bishkek
  • Where to Eat & Drink in Bishkek
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Bishkek Travel Guide, Kyrgyzstan | Moon & Honey Travel

Where to Stay in Bishkek

BudgetVIVA Hostel is a clean hostel with very nice rooms and en-suite bathrooms. Breakfast is included, but it’s quite basic. Hot, or cold filtered water is available 24/7 and guests have access to a small kitchen. The hostel organized an airport pick-up for us for 9 USD. Viva Hostel is also located very close to Osh Bazaar. 

Mid-RangeHome Hotel Bishkek is a great value apartment located in the center of Bishkek. The apartment has complimentary drinking water, sweets, tea and coffee, and a fully-equipped kitchen.

Luxury | Orion Hotel Bishkek is a business-style hotel located in the middle of Bishkek, close to many of our favorite restaurants and cafés. The hotel has a spa and fitness center as well as a bar. Orion Hotel also serves an excellent buffet breakfast.

 
Bishkek Philharmonic Hall and Statue of Manas, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel

Where to Go in Bishkek

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Bishkek City Map
  • Where to Eat & Drink
  • Where to Stay
  • What to See & Do
  • Day Trips
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel

Best Things to Do in Bishkek

Our favorite experiences
Shoro Drinks, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel
Buying a Shoro drink

Street-corner Shoro Tasting

In summer, you’ll see street vendors selling traditional Kyrgyz beverages on almost every street corner. These beverages are known by their brand name, Shoro, Kyrgyzstan’s largest beverage company. You’ll see large red, blue and brown barrels containing: Maksym, Chalap and Kvass. We bought a small cup of each drink and conducted our own tasting. We quickly learned why Shoro failed to secure an international market for these beloved Kyrgyz drinks. But, you should try them for yourself! 

  • Maksym Shoro (red barrel) – Wheat-based drink made from fermented grains, animal fat, wheat flour, cracked barley and yeast. This milky-brown drink is sour and has a thick consistency.
  • Chalap Shoro (blue barrel) – A traditional drink made from dissolved kurut (yogurt balls), carbonated water and salt. This sour drink tastes like fermented goat’s milk.
  • Kvass (brown barrel) – Fermented beverage made from rye bread. This is the least intimidating drink of the three. It’s both sour and sweet and tastes like it wants to be a beer someday.

All drinks are non alcoholic. The drink prices are standardized and listed on each barrel. Depending on the drink, they cost 10-12 som for a small cup, 20-24 som for a medium cup, and 50-60 som for a 1 liter bottle.

 
Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Abdylas Maldybayev, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel
Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Abdylas Maldybayev

Attend an opera or ballet at the Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre

Do you love going to the ballet or opera? If yes, don’t miss out on attending a production at the Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre. If no, consider going as well. Seats are priced at an astoundingly reasonable sum of 100 – 450 som (1.46 – 6.56 USD). You can purchase tickets directly at the theatre on the same day as the performance. We showed up 30 minutes before the curtain and had no problem securing seats. Most performances begin at 17:00 (5:00 p.m.).

We attended Swan Lake and were impressed by the performance of the dancers as well as the musicians. We’ll definitely swing by for another show the next time we’re in town.

  • To see the theatre schedule, visit Operaballet.lg.kg.
  • The season runs September through June.
 
Osh Bazaar, Bishkek Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel
Osh Bazaar

Shop at Osh Bazaar

Osh Bazaar is a large sprawling shopping area in Bishkek. You’ll find heaps of clothing, toys, meat, dairy, spices, nuts and just about everything else. Although it’s a busy market place, exploring is altogether stress-free. Vendors offered us samples of food, but never tried to lure us to their stalls with touts.

We visited the Bazaar twice to wander about and buy goodies: fresh bread (nan), smoked cheese, dried fruit (apricots are delicious), and Korean-style vegetable salads (pickled cauliflower and mushrooms in a chili vinegar sauce). Most stalls showcase prices in kg, so even if you can’t communicate in Kyrgyz, or Russian, you’ll be able to understand the cost of items and make purchases.

 
Zhirgal Banya, Public Bathhouse, Bishkek | Moon & Honey Travel
Zhirgal Banya

Scrub down in Zhirgal Banya

Zhirgal Banya is a Russian-style public bathhouse in Bishkek. The complex is segregated by gender, so the following description reflects our experience in the women’s space, though we assume the spaces are similar. Upon entering the lobby, we purchased an entrance ticket and received a receipt, locker key and sheet. Next, we entered the locker room, where we needed to present our receipt. We stashed our things away in our lockers and made our way into the bathhouse, wrapped up in sheets. The first communal space is dedicated to washing and scrubbing. You’ll see women and children scrubbing down with exfoliants and exfoliating gloves. Each person had their own tub of water for their own personal use. It’s quite the scene! You can also pay someone to scrub you down, though don’t expect any privacy.

After taking a shower, we entered the leaf-covered sauna, where women were smacking themselves with venik (bath brooms). After the sauna, we showered and headed to the dome. The blue-tiled dome houses an ice-cold pool in the center. I (Sabrina) only managed to get in waist deep, though Kati was able to take the plunge. After relaxing on the wooden benches that rim the pool, we started the routine again.

The bathhouse offers other services including massage and manicures. There’s also a café connected to the locker room if you need snacks or refreshments.

Price: 300 som for adults, 150 som for children

Hours: 9am-11pm Mon-Tue & Fri, noon-11pm Wed, 8am-11pm Thu & Sat-Sun

 
Ala Archa National Park, Kyrgyzstan | Moon & Honey Travel
Ala Archa National Park

Hike to Ak-Sai Glacier in Ala Archa National Park

Ala Archa National Park is located 40 km south of Bishkek, a mere 1-hour drive from the city center. We visited Ala Archa as a day trip from the city and we were absolutely wowed.

The most convenient way to get to the park and back is by organizing a taxi drop-off and pick-up (about 2,400 som round-trip). The Ala Archa park entrance is situated 12 km from the trailheads. At the entrance, you’ll pay the 450 som car entrance fee and then continue driving to Alplager, where you’ll see a red-roofed a-frame hotel and the hiking trails. 

From Alplager, you basically can go either left or right. The trail to the left (“Ak-Sai Waterfall Trail“) is 6.4 km and leads you to a waterfall (2 hours) and then to the Ak-Sai Glacier (4 hours). The second half of the trail is strenuous but rewards you with rugged mountain and glacier views. The trail ends at Razeka station with an elevation of 3,300 meters. Don’t forget your hiking poles. The trail to the right is labeled “Ala Archa River Trail” and is considerably easier.

The trail is easy to follow, so this is something you can easily do without a guide. There’s an occasional blue/white trail marker painted on rocks, but the footpath is obvious enough. You can also follow the whole trail on Maps.me. Read more about hiking in Ala Archa National Park.

 
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel

Where to Eat & Drink in Bishkek

Only the places we love

Social Coffee [Café]

Trendy café with ample indoor and outdoor seating. Interior spaces feature soft lighting, potted plants, leather and velvet sofas, tropical print cushions and other fun accents. The menu features espresso drinks, cocktails, breakfast, and lunch items. English menu.

Address: 62 Razzakov St, Bishkek

Relax [Café]

This café’s enticing assortment of cakes and sweets will make your mouth water. Come here for coffee and cake, or a western-style meal. English menu.

Address:  140 Toktogul Street, Bishkek 

Boris Coffee & Bakery [Café]

Lovely french-inspired interior with soft pastels and teal upholstered armchairs. They serve espresso drinks as well as an assortment of pastries and cakes. Really good wifi connection!

Address: 14 Erkindik Ave, Bishkek

Sierra [Coffee Shop]

Coffee shop akin to a western coffee shop chain. You’ll see a lot of people working here with their laptops. Grab a loyalty card (7th coffee is free).

Address: 57/1 Manas Ave, Bishkek

Chicken Star [Korean Café]

Delightful “Korean” restaurant located along the green Erkindik Boulevard. Loved their kimchi kimbob, olive cheese salad and Korean spicy crispy chicken.

Address: Erkindik 36 Between Toktogula & Kievskaya, Bishkek

Uno Coffee Bar [Western Café]

Western-style cafe with an upbeat and colorful decor. If you’re craving a hamburger, come here. They also have smoothies, cocktails and espresso drinks. English menu. Wifi connection!

Address: 194, Kiev St, Bishkek

Navat [Restaurant]

Stylish albeit reasonably-priced Central Asian fusion restaurant with large dining space. It’s a popular place among locals and tourists. Nice introduction to Kyrgyz food. English menu with pictures. The food was very good.

Address: 114/1 Togolok Moldo St, Bishkek

Bukhara [Restaurant]

Eastern Asian Fusion restaurant catering to a fashionable crowd. You’ll also find some western staples on the menu. Everything we tried we loved. The interior is spacious. Most tables feature couch seating. At night, there’s live music and dance floor illuminated by disco lights (weird and amazing at the same time).

Address: 227 Chui Avenue (also spelled Chuy), Bishkek, on the corner of Isanov Street.

Local Coffee & Pizza [Restaurant and Lounge]

Perfect place to relax on a hot summer day. Beautifully designed interior and outdoor dining spaces. Pizzas are excellent and staff is very professional and attentive.

Address: On the corner of Toktogul and Yakov Logvinenko Street.

Bishkek Travel Guide Resources

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@moonhoneytravelers
  • Alta Via 1.  We just finished hiking the Alta Via 1 - a multi-day trek in the Italian Dolomites. And, it was an adventure we’ll never forget.  The first two days of the trek, we hiked in pouring rain. With no mountain views and poor weather conditions, we tried our best to keep our spirits up.  On Day 3, we set off once again in rain. After a few hours on the trail, it started to snow. The smart thing would have been to turn back and secure a taxi to the next rifugio. But, we kept going. As we progressed, it became increasingly more difficult to find the trail. The snow was covering up the trail markers and the wind swept away the footprints of other hikers. We lost the trail several times.  The snow that was floating down ever so gently as first turned into a no-bullshit blizzard. We were soaking wet, increasingly numb, and at a complete loss of where to go. I started crying. With no one in site and no idea where the hut was, we started to freak out.  At this point, we were physically shaking. We took a few me minutes to regroup in a WWI cave. Sheltered from the blowing snow, we could locate where we were on Maps.me.  We found the trail and willed our frozen bodies into motion. When we saw Lagazuoi hut, we felt a tidal wave of relief.  After ringing out everything from our shirts to our underwear and changing into warm clothes, we drank 2 liters of hot tea and then met the most amazing group of women! Thank you Chris, Sigi, Jo and Susie for the wonderful company, conversations, and shared meals.  @susielambie @jored7  Photo: 2 days after the storm.
  • 2 years ago Kati and I visited the Dolomites for the first time.  It was a whirlwind of a trip, as we were relocating from Cologne to Vienna. We drove through Germany’s Black Forest, Switzerland’s Appenzell region, across the Dolomites and finally into Austria.  During our time in the Dolomites, we experienced our very first hut to hut hike. Until that point, multi-day hiking was a vague, intimidating concept. After our short 3-day trek around Sexten, we were hooked. And, looking back, it’s easy to say that that trip really changed our lives.  We’re finally back in the Dolomites. This time we’re here to hike the Alta Via 1.
  • The pearl of the Rätikon.  Our recent hike around the Rätikon Alps started and ended here. During our trek, we saw almost every vantage point of this lake.  We just published our 5-day hiking itinerary (link in bio). We also included suggested 3 and 4-day routes, if you have less time.  https://moonhoneytravel.com/europe/austria/raetikon-high-trail/
  • Rätikon.  This beautiful limestone mountain range straddles the border between Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.  We just wrapped up a 5 day hike around the range, overnighting in Austrian and Swiss mountain huts along the way.  We’ll be sharing our itinerary on the blog very soon. Until then, happy hiking dear friends.
  • Berliner Höhenweg (Berlin High Trail)  We just finished trekking the Berlin High Trail in Tyrol, Austria.  This gorgeous alpine route showcases the finest mountain and glacier vistas of the Zillertal Alps. It’s an extraordinary adventure replete with challenging ascents and descents, rustic and grand mountain huts, and bell-wearing cows and sheep.  Our trekking experience was filled with indescribable beauty, hearty Austrian food, agonizing and dangerous descents in rain, physical pain (follow our stories for details), and a stolen iPad. 
Some days were extraordinary. Other days were quite good. And one day was utterly miserable. That’s life in a nutshell, right? Cheers to living the good days, the okay days and the bad ones too.
  • I want to share with you one of my favorite German words.  Genießer/Genießerin is a person who delights and takes pleasure in living. It’s someone who enjoys and relishes the present moment completely. It can be applied broadly, whether someone enjoys reading, drinking a cappuccino, hiking, or cycling. The connotation of this type of pleasure is wholly positive.  There is no direct translation in the English language. In English, too much pleasure is perceived as a negative. We use words like glutton, hedonist, libertine to describe people who take (too much) pleasure in certain things. In English, pleasure must be restrained. Without such restraint, pleasure isn’t “good,” but marred with sin.  Would you define yourself as a Genießer/Genießerin?

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