A lot of events are badly advertised, so it’s a good thing to keep asking people when and where a certain event will take place, since opinions tend to differ.
Nooruz: 21 March. Celebrated across Central Asia, the whole region welcomes springtime with song, dance and good food. In Kyrgyzstan, men and women have their own special dish. Sumalak is a sprouted wheat dish for women, while halim is a meaty porridge for men.
Bishkek Jazz Festival: April, Bishkek. 3 days of jazz music across Bishkek, with musicians from Central Asia, US and Europe.
Russian Orthodox Easter: Date changes. An Orthodox celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Eggs are hamstered by babooshkas days in advance to bake the special ‘kulich’ dish, and the midnight mass has a special atmosphere.
Tash Bashat carpet festival: June, Tash Bashat. Not important enough to make a huge detour, but if you are into carpets or just in the neighbourhood, some of the best examples of Kyrgyz shyrdak come from this region.
Sabantui: Mid-July, location changes. Tatar holiday celebrated by some of the roughly 40 thousand Tatars in the country. Traditional song, dance and games.
Summer festivals: In some places, shepherds, in conjunction with the local CBT group, organise events during summer for tourists and locals alike, all offering a mix of horse games, eagle hunting and traditional song and dance. The most important are the horse games festival in Kyzyl-Oi (end of July), the eagle hunting festival in Bokonbayevo (end of August) and the shepherds festival in Karkara valley, near Char Kuduk (end of August). Contact CBT to find out exact dates and planning.
World Nomad Games (Kyrgyzstan): Similar to the other summer festivals, but much bigger, with more games, a much higher budget and many international participants. First edition in 2014 and is organised biennially.
At Chabysh: Peak Lenin base camp, July. Well-known At Chabysh festival featuring a long distance horse race, buzkashi and other horse games, concerts, poetry contest, handicrafts exhibition, yurt village and more. Part of the festival is held in Murghab, Tajikistan.
Orozo Ait: Date changes. Called Eid Al-Fitr in the Arabic world, this celebration ends Ramadan with tasty food. Ethnic Uzbeks take Ramadan more seriously than Kyrgyz.
Independence Day: 31st of August. Dancing and music in every city. In Bishkek, a kokpar game in the hippodrome is a major draw.
Kurban Ait: Date changes. Called Eid Al-Adha in the Arabic world, on this Muslim holiday it is traditional to go to mosque, sacrifice a sheep and give meat to the poor. This is also big for Kyrgyz.