Tourism in Kyrgyzstan
Although Kyrgyzstan’s mountains and lakes are an attractive tourist destination, the tourism industry has grown very slowly because it has received little investment. In the early 2000s, an average of about 450,000 tourists visited annually, mainly from countries of the former Soviet Union.
Kyrgyz culture is based on nomadic traditions that harkens back to the days of the Mongol hordes. Although modern Kyrgyz people live mainly in houses or apartment buildings, in the summer time it is still possible to observe the native people living in a yurt with their herds of sheep, goats, horses, and occasionally even yaks. There are a number of yurt camps that cater to tourists in every oblast; some of the most notable (and remote) are in Tash Rabat, the "House of Stones" in Naryn oblast past Naryn City, and in Jeti-Ögüz ("Seven Bulls") Valley near the city of Karakol on Lake Issyk-Kul.
Kyrgyz women produce a variety of handicrafts created out of felt, including slippers, bags, decorative panels, traditional hats known as "Kalpaks" and colorful carpets called "shyrdaks." These carpets are made in a variety of sizes, from foot-by-foot sized to several yards in length. Shyrdaks come in a wide variety of traditional patterns; the Kyrgyz favor brightly colored ones, often combining bright red and green. More subtly-hued shyrdaks, made for foreign customers, can be found in Bishkek, often for a slightly higher price than the more "traditional" carpets. Naryn oblast is widely considered the home of the best shyrdak makers in the country; there are several cooperatives there where it is possible to commission a work specially.
Currently there are several efforts to promote "eco-friendly" tourism in Kyrgyzstan. Helvetas, a Swiss cultural development organization, sponsored several projects of this sort, including "Shepard's Life," and "Community Based Tourism." The many tourist companies in Kyrgyzstan understand that "eco-" anything sounds very appealing to the many backpackers that come to their country, so they tend to use it to describe their organization, even if they do nothing to promote "low-impact" or "leave no trace" camping. However, the very nature of the type of tourists that are attracted to Kyrgyzstan dictates that most of the tourist attractions offered are aimed at enjoying the beauty that the local environment has to offer. In year 2010 Kyrgyzstan joined The Region Initiative (TRI) which is a Tri-regional Umbrella of Tourism related organisations. TRI is functioning as a link between three regions----South Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe which is also joined by Armenia, Bangladesh, India, Georgia, Kazakhstan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tajikistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
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