Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan – The Best Daytrips in Bishkek?

Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan

If I were to recommend only one thing to a newly-arrived expat to Bishkek that wanted to meet people and explore Kyrgyzstan a little bit, it would be to join the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan and tag along on some of their weekend trips.

skiing with the trekking union of kyrgyzstan

 In winter they organize regular ski trips (both as one-day trips to the bases near Bishkek or weekends out to the Karakol Ski Base beyond Issyk-Kol), and importantly they have all the equipment you will need for rent in the TUK office. A trip from Bishkek to ZiL, one of the most popular ski bases near Bishkek, costs about $13 US for transportation and gear rental from the Trekking Union and then $16 US for a lift pass at the ski resort. That’s about $40 for a full-day of skiing!

bir bulak with the kyrgyzstan trekking union

In the summer as well, they offer tons of trips out of Bishkek to explore the Chuy Valley. Oftentimes they will have three trips every weekend, so no matter your schedule or how much experience you already have in the area there will often be something new and interesting to head out on. One of the biggest problems of living in Bishkek without a car is that public transportation doesn’t always go quite as far as I might like, especially to trailheads where one would want to start hiking. You can usually hire a taxi or cobble together a combination of minibuses and hitchhiking, but this generally works better for a several day trip where you have more time to play with. For a quick one-day out of town, though, TUK is about as good as it gets.

suluu terek with the kyrgyzstan trekking union

What you gain in simplicity of transportation, of course, you lose in that you’re tied to the arrival and departure schedule of the group. As a photographer, especially, I’m always bummed that these trips tend to arrive and get started around 10:30 or 11:00, and depart for Bishkek around 16:30 or 17:00. Even in the most beautiful of locations, then, we’re always missing the best light of the day!

trekking union trip to kol tor

As far as the hiking, I’ve found that the groups tend to be pretty mixed. A handful of solid walkers will take off way ahead of the main group, and most of the hikers will be in a loose string that might drag over a kilometer or two. You’re generally free to choose either option, though without trail knowledge this can lead to some missteps if you leave the guide behind.

trekking union of kyrgyzstan kol tor trip

Interested in joining the Trekking Union for one of their trips? Check out their monthly calendar to see what will be happening soon. If you expect to go on more than just one or two trips, consider paying the 420 Som membership fee to jion the TUK. With discounts on their trips and gear rental, even just a couple of uses of the membership makes it a good value.

trekking union of Kyrgyzstan Bishkek office

As seen from the corner of Kiev/Turusbekov.

On one last note:I had trouble finding the TUK office the first two times I went over there, but these photos should help.

Though the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan is listed as 168 Kievskaya, its actually easier to find if you look for the sign for 51 Turusbekova. This is on the corner of Kiev/Trrusbekov right across Turusbekov from the Narodnii Supermarket (which is, by the way, open 24h and a great place to pick up food for a TUK lunch). Turn left in front of the Chinese restaurant, and just through the gate immediately to your left is the Trekking Union Office. They’re open 9:00 – 17:00 on weekdays, usually without exception though the sign says they close for lunch from 13:00 – 14:00. This area is also where all of the trips I’ve taken with the TUK have started, so remember the quickest way to get early so you can sleep in a bit longer!

trekking union of Kyrgyzstan office Bishkek

Office of the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan.

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If you’re in Bishkek as a tourist, the Hostel Inn is probably the closest cheap accommodation to the TUK office. Check them out – they’re also one of the cheapest city center accommodation options I know of. Slightly further away is the Bishkek Guesthouse, though one friend I sent there wasn’t crazy about the older of their two locations. If you’re looking more upmarket, the Hyatt is a bit further on Sovietskaya. 

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    Pictures of Palau – Islands of your Robinson Crusoe Fantasies

    Pictures of Palau

    Do you like pretty things? How about photos of Pacific Islands devoid of people and just waiting for you to camp on? I certainly do!

    I’m currently on a hastily conceived and constructed trip to Paris for a bit of light photography work, making up for all the dreadful photos I took my first trip there back in 2006. I did, however, recently add shots from the Republic of Palau to my photography portfolio website. Enjoy the slideshow, and by all means if you haven’t yet had a chance to check out that site take the time to do so now.

    Palau was one of the very first stops I made after finally making the move to a DSLR camera, so even though I like these photos a lot I’d also be interested to see what I could do now that I’m intimately more familiar with the camera! Having spent a few days diving, a week kayaking through the Rock Islands, and a fair bit of time spent camping and biking around Peleliu I definitely feel like Palau is a barely-explored destination from both an independent travel and a travel photography perspective. With any luck I’ll be able to make it back there one day and give it another go!

    For now, though, I’ll just have to focus on the Eiffel Tower and exploring la Ville Lumière while I dust off that old college-level French!

    Have a favorite photo from this Palau set? Anything you’re most excited to read about from Paris? Leave a comment and let me know!

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      Bishkek Opera and Ballet Theatre

      Bishkek Opera and Ballet Theatre

      Like most of the former Soviet Union, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan has a strong presence of fine and performing arts – Drama and Painting and Opera and Ballet, among others. Though I had visited the Kyrygz Philharmonic Concert Hall a number of times, up until recently I had never made my way to the other side of the city center and the Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theater.

      bishkek opera and ballet theatre

      Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre
      Sovietskaya/Adrahmanov #167 (just north of the intersection with Chuy)
      The season generally runs from September through May or thereabouts.

      Attempting to rectify this obvious omission in my experience with the cultural opportunities that Bishkek provides, we finally visited several times over the past few weeks for sample of both the Opera and Ballet offerings.

      bishkek opera and ballet theater - giselle ballet

      Walking past the Theater itself, the depth of the National Company for both arts and their repertoire is fairly obvious. Each week, hand-painted signs out front of the theater rotate depending on which shows will be coming up soon. We chose two international favorites – the ballet Giselle and the opera Carmen – but there are local offerings to be seen as well. According to one source, there are around 200 pieces in the company’s range without even considering touring shows from Russia and beyond that stop through the city.

      bishkek opera and ballet theater - carmen opera

      Shows are perhaps not flawless, but are certainly worthwhile. It seems to depend largely on the principals in any given performance, and from the two shows we’ve seen so far Giselle was great while Carmen was good. Note that the opera was in Russian – potentially worth considering whether the ballet might therefore make a better choice if you don’t speak the language.

      Bishkek Opera and Ballet Theatre Tickets

      Even for backpackers and budget travelers, the Bishkek Opera and Ballet Theater is still incredibly accessible. The most expensive tickets for the local company run around 250 Som – $5. Prices for touring companies are generally more, but still well with reach of even the penny-pinching-iest traveler! Ticket can be purchased from the касса just inside the main door of the Theater, open during business hours during the week and generally just before performances as well.

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      If you’re in Bishkek as a tourist, the Hostel Inn is one of the closest cheap accommodation choices to the  Opera and Ballet Theater. Check them out – they’re also one of the cheapest city center accommodation options I know of. If you’re looking more upmarket, the Hyatt is just next door. 

       

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        Biking in Vienna: Justifying excessive acts of strudel.

        Biking in Vienna

        bike tour at schillerpark in vienna

        Something about the laid back atmosphere of Vienna make it a great place to explore on two wheels. After spending a morning sipping coffees and snacking on apple strudels in the many historic cafes of the city, taking to the streets and biking in Vienna for a few hours is a great way to shake things up. With over 1200km of bike paths cutting through the city, it shouldn’t be  hard to find somewhere to go!

        biking over the danube in vienna

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          Kyrgyzstan Ski Resorts – ZiL Ski Base

          Kyrgyzstan Ski Resorts – ZiL Ski Base

          ZiL ski base near Bishkek

          There are a number of ski bases within just a few hours of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek. From speaking with skiiers in Bishkek, ZiL seems to be one of the favorites of local skiers for both quality of facilities and the number of runs available.

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            Vienna Woods: Exploring the Forests of Wien

            Vienna Woods

            sunset over klosterneuburg

            Rising to the northwest of Vienna atop the very first foothills of the Austrian Alps, the Wienerwald is a beautiful green belt and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve actually within the city limits of Vienna. With over 500 square miles of forest to wander through, it also makes the perfect day trip to get out of Vienna proper and do some mountain biking or light hiking.

            trees in the vienna woods

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              Shymbulak: Legit Skiing in Kazakhstan!

              Shymbulak – Skiing in Kazakhstan

              shymbulak cable car at medeo

              shymbulak ski resort

              High above the city of Almaty, deep into the mountains that stretch beyond the Medeo Ice-Skating Rink, the Shymbulak Ski Resort is an unknown area to most outsiders that may well be one of the best spots for snow-sports in all of Central Asia.

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                Vienna Coffee House Culture: A Melange of Everything Wien

                Vienna Coffee House Culture

                There may well be any number of things I appreciate more than a historic cafe with a cozy atmosphere and superbly tasty coffee, but anytime I’m in Vienna the memory of those other things seem to get lost in the search for the perfect Wiener Melange.

                apple streudel at vienna cafe museum

                Vienna Coffee House Culture has its origins in the Siege of Vienna by Ottoman armies in 1683, but many of the modern trappings like marble tables and newspapers from around the world and the freedom to linger as long as you like date from closer to the heyday of Viennese Cafes at the beginning of the 19th century. Trotsky and Klimt and Hitler and Freud all frequented these establishments, which were the social heart of the city of Vienna and so by extension the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 2011, UNESCO even listed Viennese Coffee Culture as intangible world heritage – to be protected and preserved.

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