Tourism in Kyrgyzstan
The territory of [[Kyrgyzstan]] is almost entirely mountainous, making it a perfect destination for many different kinds of trekking. Kyrgyzstan’s mountains also boast many natural hot springs, and [[Lake Issyk-Kul]], the second largest alpine lake in the world (after [[Titi-Caca]]) offers many beautiful beaches for relaxing and swimming during the summer.
Kyrgyzstan is made up of seven different [[oblasts]], Chui, where the capital, [[Bishkek]], is located, Talas, Issyk-Kul, Naryn, Jalal-Abad, Osh and Batken. Culturally, Chui and Issyk-Kul are by far the most Russified areas of the country. Naryn and Talas contain the most traditionally Kyrgyz populations, while Jalal-Abad, Osh and Batken enjoy a strong [[Uzbek]] influence on both their culture and language.
The most prominent local languages are [[Russian]] and [[Kyrgyz]], with a smattering of Kazakh spoken in the North, while in the South it is common to hear Uzbek, or Kyrgyz-Uzbek creole. Kyrgyz-Russian creole is also extremely common in the Northern provinces especially, but in the country as a whole. Most locals, if they study a foreign language, study English. A few are familiar with German or French, but a reliable English-speaker can be found in most large towns.
Issyk-Kul means “Hot Lake” in Kyrgyz, because it does not freeze in winter, partly due to its high [[salinity]] and partly because it is fed by underground thermal springs. During the Soviet period, the Lake served as a prime retreat for high-ranking officials and their families. The shores of the Lake and the surrounding mountains are still littered with old Soviet-built “pesionats” and “sanatoriums,” most of which no longer function. However, since the late nineties, there has been a boom in tourism in this region, which tourists coming from Russia to spend some time on the beach mingling with back-packers from Western Europe, America and Australia.
Cholpon-Ata, the “Father of the Morning Star,” is the prime resort destination on the North Shore of the Lake. The best beaches are to be found here, and there are accommodations available ranging from basic home stays to Bed & Breakfasts, to luxury hotels. In the winter, the town is all but deserted, except for the many athletes from Ukraine and Russia who come there to train in the thin alpine air. As soon as May rolls around, the town bursts to life, with outdoor pavilions hosting beer and shashlik (Kyrgyz shish-kabobs) put up seemingly overnight.