After nearly 2 weeks in Kazakhstan (you can read about it here) I have decided to spend a week in Kyrgyzstan to explore some of its beautiful landscapes and discover more of old soviet architectures in Bishkek.
My first stop in Kyrgyzstan was Cholpon-Ata where I planned to do some day trips and trekking around the area.
When looking at the map, Almaty and Cholpon Ata are very close if you draw a straight line, unfortunately, there is no direct connection if you need to get a visa at the border so the only option was to go through Bishkek. Again finding information regarding public transport was nearly impossible so hopefully, the next paragraph will help you understand how I got there.
Getting to Bishkek from Almaty is possible only by private car or Marshrutka ( shared vans). I took a taxi very early in the morning to reach Sayran Almaty bus station. Here you will find numerous coaches going to many places in Kazakhstan but also shared vans going to Bishkek. The bus station is confusing but if you ask around for Bishkek they will point you to a booth where you can purchase a ticket; you will need to your passport. The Marshrutka will only leave once full. I recommend taking a picture of the plate number as this will be very helpful when at the border you need to find your van! We waited around 30-40 minutes before departing to Bishkek, the van will also do a toilet stop halfway through the journey which takes around 3 hours.
Once arrived at the border it is chaotic and not very organized on both sides, expect not very organized queuing systems and be ready to tell people to respect the line. Once stamped out of Kazakhstan you will have to walk for about 5 minutes to reach the Kyrgyz border. Again on the other side chaotic lines, some questions regarding the purpose of your visit and you get your stamp (if you are eligible for VISA on arrival). I recommend trying to walk quickly and join the line as soon as possible because from what I could see the vans will not wait for you. I managed to catch my marshrutka but many people were left behind ( many taxis are available on the Kyrgyzstan border so don't panic!).
The shared van arrived at the western bus station in Bishkek. Once there it was very easy to find another van to Cholpon-Ata. The drive was stunning so try to get a seat near a window to enjoy the beautiful landscapes, luckily I got a seat at the very front of the van. The van will drop you wherever you want in Cholpon-Ata.
I spent a few days in Cholpon-Ata. Since I went during low season it was very quiet, only one restaurant open and not much happening. Luckily I was there to explore nature and do some trekking.
I spent a morning at the petroglyphs museum. Many tour guides suggest to get a taxi to get there, I actually walked there easily. If you are interested there is an abandoned (Or I believed it was abandoned) airport runaway just in front of it. I took a few pictures of myself standing on the runaway to discover after 3 hours that 9 helicopters from the Kyrgyzstan army were stationed there! It was super strange because I didn't hear the helicopters landing and there was no sign of military action when I was there!
The other highlight of my staying in Cholpon-Ata was a nice Lenin statue, this can be also seen on the way to the petroglyphs museum I made my way back to Bishkek, At Cholpon-Ata station most marshrutkas drive to Bishkek.
I have spent 3 days in Bishkek mostly discovering old soviet architectures.
I have found very useful the blog post from Concrete and Kitsch, they put together a nice walking tour of the Soviet buildings of Bishkek which I have downloaded as a PDF and took it with me. You can find it here.
One thing to be wary of in Bishkek is fake policemen that will target tourists to get money from them. This is a scam that happens in many other countries so never give your passport to anyone, they will ask you money if you want it back. As a rule, I never carry with me my passport and never stop to policemen anyway, I just ignore them!