While New Zealand has successfully branded itself the “adventure capital of the world” — it’s not the only game in town. Next time you have the itch to explore the great outdoors, consider Kyrgyzstan as an affordable and stunning alternative.
Note: This is the first post in a multi-post series on under-the-radar alternatives to popular travel destinations.
Most Americans have never heard of Kyrgyzstan — which is a shame, because this Central Asian nation is spectacular. After you’re done Google mapping where this stunning country is located, start looking into how to make a trip happen. Kyrgyzstan offers incredible scenery, outdoor activities for all levels, and pristine access to nature.
What Makes Kyrgyzstan Unique As An Off The Beaten Path Travel Destination
While tourism-related infrastructure is still a work in progress, the small size of this country means it’s easy to get around. Plus, Kyrgyzstan is insanely affordable by western standards. This means that luxuries such as having a luggage porter or cook accompany your trek are very accessible.
My personal highlights on my visit this summer included an overnight stay in a traditional yurt on the banks of a high-altitude lake, watching an eagle hunter demonstrate his ancient custom, and trekking through the Tien-Shen mountains.
My recommendation is to spend a day or two in the capital, Bishkek, before heading to Karakol to plan your adventures.
In Karaol, you can pick from dozens of adventures, such as day hikes, multi-day treks, horseback treks, etc, and rent all the equipment you’ll need. Karakol is increasingly oriented toward western tourists and English is widely spoken.
How To Get To Kyrgyzstan With Points And Miles
Despite being far less popular, Kyrgyzstan is actually easier to get to than New Zealand for the points and miles enthusiast.
Air New Zealand is famously stingy with releasing business class award availability. In contrast, Turkish Airways availability on its Istanbul to Bishkek flights is wide open every day. (While in transit — be sure to check out the over-the-top Turkish Airways lounge).
Those with American Express Membership rewards can transfer 78,000 points to Avianca’s LifeMiles program to book one-way business class awards to Bishkek from the US. This award can use any combination of Star Alliance carriers to travel to Istanbul for the final connection to Kyrgyzstan.
For those traveling round-trip, consider booking with ANA, another AMEX transfer partner, to spend only 68,000 points each way. ANA also allows award travelers to book free stopovers in Europe on both legs of the journey.
Chase card holders with Ultimate Rewards can instantly transfer 85,000 points to United to book a similar routing.
Aeroflot, a member of the SkyTeam alliance, also offers an easy route to Bishkek via Moscow. Hypothetically, this flight should be bookable through the Delta SkyMiles or Air France/KLM Flying Blue programs. However, for the past 12 months, Aeroflot has blocked all award redemptions as part of an ongoing dispute with Delta.
Need More Points And Miles For Kyrgyzstan Travel?
Small business owners (including sole proprietorships) should consider the Chase Ink Preferred, which is currently offering 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in 3 months. The sign-up bonus alone is enough for a one-way flight to Bishkek. The card also earns 3x on all travel purchases.
Check out our cards marketplace to find the most lucrative sign up bonus offers available today. As always, Juicy Miles award consultants, are always happy to find and book award flights. I’ve previously reviewed many of the premium cards that could get you to Kyrgystan in a seperate post.
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