When it comes to ecotourism, Kyrgyzstan seems to be overflowing with eco-conscious tour operators and hostel owners.
But for many Kyrgyz tourism entrepreneurs, putting eco- in front of their offerings is simply a marketing ploy. Although most are not ‘against’ nature, they are also not doing anything extra.
Ecotourism companies and activities
Honestly, we have not found a company in Kyrgyzstan that stands out as greener and more attuned to ecological sensibilities than any other. The companies we work with to offer tours try their hardest, but all are in the end dependent on existing infrastructure, working within the restraints of what is currently possibly, while still trying to give tourists what they want.
On the other hand, maybe we are being too strict here: going for a horse trek, staying in shepherding families’ yurts and eating the food they are producing themselves: it’s not bad in terms of ecotourism.
Green places to stay
CBT and Shepherd’s Life are the biggest purveyors of yurt stays. The families you stay with are not green in a Western way (meaning, quite trashy), and their is doubt as to how far these schemes benefit the community at large as opposed to only the local administrator.
Nevertheless, any type of yurtstay, homestay or small bnb is likely to be a good way to pump money into the local economy. It’s great fun, and an interesting look into a wholly different way of life.
We go deeper into this topic at our overview of accommodation in Kyrgyzstan.
Responsible travel shopping
I would say that almost any shopping for traditional souvenirs is responsible travel shopping in Kyrgyzstan. Some might be better than others, though, both in terms of quality and in terms of money ending up in the hands of the maker.
Following handicraft cooperatives and NGO’s unite women making shyrdaks, felt slippers and more. Best price guaranteed, and money goes straight into the hands of local women.
- CACSA: Central Asia Crafts Support Association in Kyrgyzstan, located at 162A Manaschy Sagynbai Str., Bishkek. Trains women and sells textiles and shyrdaks. You can also follow courses with them, provided you speak Russian.
- Kyrgyz Style: NGO training women and selling feltwork. Bokonbaeva Str., Apt.12, 133, Bishkek.
- Altyn Omok: women’s cooperative in Bokonbaevo on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. Address: Kyrgyzskaya 73. Usual range of felt goods.
- Altyn Kol: The biggest cooperative with many high-quality goods. Address: next to CBT office on Pioneerskaya.
We do not recommend shopping for souvenirs at Bishkek’s Osh bazaar. The quality is extremely low and the source unknown.