Naryn

Naryn

Naryn region is the largest and most mountainous area in Kyrgyzstan with Naryn city as the administrative center of the Naryn region. The city is located 316 km south from Bishkek and 433 km east from Osh at the altitude of 2000 meters. Naryn city is shaped like a narrow 20 km string along the Naryn river canyon which is the largest tributary of the Syr Darya that flows to Uzbekistan and finally to the Aral sea

Shepherds riding in Naryn region

The climate in the high Naryn region is quite harsh climate. In the wintertime temperatures may drop to -40 C with the average being -17 C. The summertime is more pleasant and the area is therefore a good getaway from the heat of the lower Kyrgyz regions. Within the Kyrgyz people, Naryn region is often described being truly Kyrgyz, with high altitude mountain homes where the main part of every meal is meat, meat and more meat and the Kyrgyz culture and language at their purest. 

It is said that the early civilization in the region was first established in caves next to the town. The present city was founded as a Russian garrison in 1868 and the city has remained as a stopover for travelers heading to China through the Torugart Pass probably already a lot before that during the Silk Road era.

In 1920, after a bloody battle between the Red Army and the White Guards, Naryn fell under the Soviet control. In 1927, Naryn became the center of the newly created region. Today the region mainly lives from agriculture and about 80% of people work with farming and sheep breeding.

Naryn City

The Naryn region is more attractive to most travelers rather than the city itself. However, it is worth visiting the city as well because it still mostly unspoiled by tourists and you can experience pure Kyrgyz small city life. The city is extended in length along its main street (which is still named Lenin street) for 14 kilometers. One of the highest trolleybus lines in the world runs along with that main street. 4-5 trolleybuses used to run along the line but in 2008, the service was suspended to extend the line and has been stopped since then.

In 2016 the colorful campus of University of Central Asia UCA, sponsored by the Aga Khan Foundation, was opened in Naryn. Away from the capital city and higher education, there are students from other Central Asian countries studying all subjects in English as well as a lot of foreign professors. Another Aga Khan-sponsored campus in Central Asia was opened in 2017, in Tajikistan in Khorog. The project aims to give people from remote mountain communities the opportunity to access an international standard of university education. 

Naryn city center
Aga Khan university in Naryn

There is also a local etnographic museum with interesting artifacts and some examples of the cultural heritage of the area. There is also a very peculiar mosque in Naryn that is worth having a look as its structure is very unique. 

Mostly Naryn town is still a stop over on the way to the amazing nature sights and other sights in the region. There are some decent hotels also in Naryn to pick from.

Naryn mosque

Tours to Naryn region

What to do in Naryn

By traveling to the Naryn region you can experience pure Kyrgyz nomad life. You can stay in a yurt and you will be most certainly offered lamb dishes cooked in kazan (a wide steel pan over fire) and fresh kumyz (fermented horse milk). If you choose to stay in the Naryn itself or in the nearby villages you can observe how the locals live very differently than in the more modern parts of the world.

In Naryn you can see the traffic jams caused by the crowds of sheep and cows wandering along the streets on their way to eat and back in the mornings and evenings. Traveling around the Naryn region gorges and remote areas requires a powerful car to  overcome the high mountain passes and bad roads and in the winter time the snowy roads. The main road in the area has been recently improved a lot with the Chinese money and undoubtedly owing to its status as the main roadway between Kyrgyzstan and China. The highway ends at the Torugart Pass and goes on to Kashgar after the crossing to Chinese territory. 

Tash Rabat caravanserai
turks koshoi korgon

Naryn is considered being the center of Kyrgyzstan, defined by exciting views of mountains, river valleys and high lakes. The area is sparsely  populated and it is therefore an ideal place for the ones that love to feel close to nature. The entire region is covered by the mountains sprinkled with upland meadows and valleys. The lowest point of the region is about 1400 m above the sea level while the highest point being around 5000 m. 

The region owns few significant historical structures and the most well-known one is Tash Rabat Caravansarai which has remained in great shape (restored in 1970s). Another less known ancient destination is the Koshoy Korgon settlement which is an old clay built fortress, similar to the ones that can be found more in the Uzbek deserts. 

Son Kul yurts and horse
Kel Suu

Naryn region is perfect for hiking, trekking, cycling and driving for the mountain lovers. There are several high mountain areas in the region with high altitude alpine lakes such as Son-Kol, Chatyr-Kol and Kel-Suu with amazing valleys and passes connecting them. The most famous valleys are the Ak-Sai valley followed by Arpa Valley and the Kochkor Valleys. Make sure to visit Shaar waterfall as well which is visited from the nearby At Bashi village by hiking or by horseback.

Travel to Naryn

Bus or Marshrutka

Traveling by bus is the cheapest option. A trip from Bishkek to Naryn will cost about 300-400 som. Direct bus & marshrutka services leave from the Western bus station daily and you will spend no more than five hours on the way. By bus you can reach other small cities of the region like Kochkor, At-Bashi, Bayetovo, Kazybek and Chaek. 

Taxi or rented car

You can get a shared taxi from Bishkek to Naryn in the West bus station. You will immediately find them as the drivers are loudly inviting customers and after filling up the car (usually a four- or six-seater) they set off. 

Naryn region destinations and sights

Page updated 4.7.2022

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