The World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan are a bi-annual festival of Kyrgyz and Turkic traditions featuring sports competitions, arts and crafts and musical performances.
After successful editions in 2014 and 2016, it’s being held for the 3rd time this year from September 2nd until September 8th, in and around the resort town of Cholpon-Ata, on the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.
If you have decided to visit, continue reading for a run-down of the practical details you’ll need to plan your trip.
The World Nomad Games take place in 3 locations on the northern shore of Issyk-Kul: Cholpon-Ata, the nearby village of Bosteri and the Kyrchyn gorge, 40 km east of Cholpon-Ata above the village of Semenovka. Find all locations on the Google map below.
In Cholpon-Ata, the Games take place at 3 different locations:
- the Cholpon-Ata racecourse (Ippodrom in local parlance), 4 km east of the town center
- the Cholpon-Ata sports and health complex, right next to the racecourse
- Hotel Evraziya, 9km west of Cholpon-Ata, between Bayetovka and Kara-Oi
Bosteri amphitheater and Kyrchyn Jailoo
In Bosteri, events take place in something called the Amphitheater Nomad. We asked the organisers and they weren’t quite sure where this is, but Bosteri is small.
The Kyrchyn gorge starts from the village of Semenovka, 30 km east of Cholpon-Ata. The jailoo where the events will be held is about 10 km up into the gorge. Picturesque place.
The sports competitions are the main pull for the World Nomad Games, especially kok boru, eagle hunting and horse wrestling. But there are plenty of other sports, including 12 more varieties of wrestling, archery competitions (including on horseback), horse racing and thinking games. All of this will happen in Cholpon-Ata.
The Kyrchyn gorge will be the scene of an ethno-village with locals re-enacting their traditions: theater, song and dance, arts and crafts, horseback riding performances, fashion and workshops.
Bosteri is the site of the international ethnocultural festival. We’re not sure what this means, but we imagine it will be similar to what will take place in Kyrchyn.
- September 2: opening ceremony starts at 8 pm
- September 3, 4, 5, 6, 7: sports and performances
- September 8: closing ceremony starts at 8 pm
2 scientific conferences take place in Bishkek in the wake of the games.
We asked administration about a detailed schedule, and they said they would upload it “today or tomorrow”. This was at the end of July. Maybe we cannot find it? In any case, do not trust it. Just ask around – but don’t put too much trust in what people tell you (especially locals). Plan for serendipity.
Events are planned to start every day at 12 and run until 8 pm.
Tickets for opening and closing ceremony
The World Nomad Games are free to attend, but you will have to pay for tickets for the opening and closing ceremony. Tickets for the opening ceremony cost 400 to 4900 som, for the closing ceremony, 350 to 3800 som.
You can buy them through the World Nomad Games app on Android and iOS, but it’s not working properly. A better option would be to buy them directly from the WNG Facebook page. Another option is at post offices in Bishkek, Osh and Cholpon-Ata:
- Bishkek: Chui 96 and Kievskaya 114
- Osh: Lenina 320
- Cholpon-Ata: Sovetskaya 122.
Where to stay
We have been noticing a huge increase in interest for the World Nomad Games’ 3rd edition. There are still a good number of beds available in Cholpon-Ata, but if you have a certain standard, we would not leave it up to the last moment if you want to find a room that’s good value for money.
For those on a budget who aren’t that fussed about where they sleep or what the shower looks like: plenty of guesthouses in the area are not bookable online yet, so you should be able to find a cheap bed for a few dollars on arrival.
Cholpon-Ata and Bosteri seem obvious, and there are plenty of decent places to stay to make this the default choice for the majority of visitors. You have your pick from Soviet-era health spas, plush cottages, basic dorms and apartments for rent.
But keep in mind these towns are not necessarily the most picturesque places in Kyrgyzstan, especially for the type of visitor the World Nomad Games attracts. As busy summer resorts catering to local tourists looking for sun and sea, they are awash with disco’s, bars and plenty of people touting for your business.
The local tourists will have disappeared come September, but it still won’t be just you and 2 or 3 cows wandering the beach (which is the quintessential Kyrgyz beach experience in our opinion).
Kyrgyz people are the original campers, and camping out in Kyrgyzstan is pretty much always a good option if you have the gear. You can stay either on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul beyond Cholpon-Ata, or in one of the gorges above the lake.
It’s around 4 hr drive from Bishkek to Cholpon-Ata by minibus or (shared) taxi. Minibuses leave as soon as they fill up from the main (western) bus station, roughly between 6 am and 9 pm. Taxis run 24/7.
To get around Cholpon-Ata, use local minibuses and taxis.
What to do before & after WNG
Here are some ideas to inspire you.
Kyrgyzstan celebrates its Independence Day on the 31st of August. In Bishkek, you can get a foretaste of the games by attending the kok boru game in the Hippodrome there. There’s also song and dance on the main square.
What about helping a family of shepherds for 7 days while they migrate with their animals from the jailoo back down to lower ground? If you decide to go for this tour, mention Caravanistan for a special surprise.
Arrive or leave on foot: end of August and the beginning of September is perhaps the best time for hiking in Kyrgyzstan. While most people will head to Karakol before or after, we advise to stick around. The northern shore of Issyk-Kul has some stunning hiking and the place sees few visitors.
Start in the Chong Kemin gorge and hike east before coming down to the lake, or explore the gorges above Cholpon-Ata, Grigorievka and Semenovka. We cannot offer help with trekking routes yet: hikers still need to do their own research for the moment.
We got a World Nomad Games Q&A going on the forum – chime in with all your questions!