Central Asia is the area of Asia sometimes dubbed the “Stans.” Afghanistan, is perhaps the most notorious today, but Tajikistan with its majestic Pamir mountains; Kyrgyzstan with its ancient lake Issyk Kul; Kazakhstan, a giant of a country with an expansive steppe; Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan with their colorful mausoleums and ancient cultures all bring flavor and color to this under-explored region of the world.

Large heard of sheep on the dusty road

Traveling in Kazakhstan: FAQ’s

 Traveling in Kazakhstan: FAQ’s Thinking about traveling in Kazakhstan? Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime! If you are feeling nervous, or just have some questions – here are some of the answers I give to some of the most frequently asked questions about traveling in Kazakhstan. 1. Is it helpful to know Russian when traveling in Kazakhstan? Yes, Russian is widely spoken as either a first or second language in Kazakhstan, so if[…]

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Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan at Sunrise

Kyrgyzstan: Around Issyk Kul

Around Lake Issyk Kul Kyrgyzstan’s Issyk Kul is the second largest saline lake in the world (after the Caspian Sea), the second largest mountain lake in the world (after Titicaca), and the tenth largest lake in the world by volume. This huge body of water nestled between mountain ranges in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan’s northeastern quadrant is that country’s most popular tourist destination. The lake and surrounding mountains are a haven for outdoor recreation drawing[…]

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Backyard chickens in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan: Bad Wine and Good Company in Karakol

Impressions of Karakol or: Bad Wine and Good Company The white moon rose into the evening sky above the pitched roofs of Karakol’s colorful, tin-roofed homes each with a garden containing chickens and maybe even a cow or a goat. As my colleagues and I walked down the dirt road toward the center of town, we asked a colorful old man with a frown etched permanently across his chiseled face and a shaggy sheep at[…]

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A side entrance to the Opera and Ballet Theater in Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek for Beginners

Bishkek for Beginners A (very) brief city guide With a population of just under a million inhabitants (source), Bishkek is The Republic of Kyrgyzstan’s capital and largest city. Historically, the people of Kyrgyzstan, like those of her northern neighbor, Kazakhstan, were nomadic. While there are some archaeological sites around ancient settlements, most of Kyrgyzstan’s cities are relatively young. Bishkek was first established as a silk route trading fort (Pishpek) in 1825. As Tsarist Russian interests[…]

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Almaty Metro Train leaves the Alatau Station

Stop-by-Stop: A Tour of the Almaty Metro

The Almaty Metro   Almaty’s short, but serviceable metro is a work of art in its own right. Construction began  back in 1988 but the first line was not opened until December 1, 2011.  The line currently has seven stops but the plan is to extend the line out to the western suburb of Kalkaman and down to the Almaty-1 train station for a total of thirteen stops. Two new stops, “Sayran” (near the bus[…]

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Autumn colors of Aksai Valley near Almaty, Kazakhstan

Camping In Kazakhstan

Camping In Kazakhstan Designated camping areas are almost non-existent in Kazakhstan.  Even car camping is almost entirely wild camping. Rules regarding camping are loose (if they exist at all). Sometimes you have to pay a fee to camp in a national park but sometimes you don’t. Outside of the parks, you just need to find a spot that tickles your fancy and be sure to remain respectful of any local farmers and herders who might[…]

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Istanbul at night

Long Layover: Istanbul in 5 Hours

When connecting in Istanbul, you might find yourself with a long layover in Istanbul.  Nine, ten, and eleven hour layovers at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport are common.  If you are wondering what you can accomplish on a long layover in Istanbul, here is some practical information about visas, transportation, and Istanbul’s sights, to help you plan. Visas There are very few countries that don’t require a visa at all to visit Turkey. Most visitors need to[…]

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