What is the best time to visit Kyrgyzstan? It’s the winter season from December to March, and the short summer during July and August.
Breakdown per season
In July and August, you can explore Kyrgyzstan’s mountains on foot or on horseback, and stay with traditional families in yurts. It’s also when local CBT groups hold their annual festivals to showcase Kyrgyz traditions.
It’s the most popular time to visit: Kyrgyzstan has attained some fame in trekking circles (for very good reasons) and popular treks are busy (but it’s still easy to escape the crowd).
If you don’t like to be tied down, though, there is no need to book accommodation in advance. There is always some space available, even in peak season.
Summer can be stretched a bit: the last 2 weeks in June and the first 2 weeks of September are usually also fine for trekking, but many of the shepherds’s yurts will not be around, and if the weather is not cooperating, you risk finding many trekking passes still snowed under.
Winter is totally overlooked. It’s sad really, because we rate it as the best season to visit Kyrgyzstan.
You can do all the things you do in summer (except rafting): explore the mountains on foot, on horseback, or on skis, and stay in a yurt.
Yurts are more exciting when hungry wolves howl nearby.
Need more upside? You have the place completely to yourself since 90% of tourists come in summer (meaning prices go down as well), and Kyrgyzstan looks amazing covered in a blanket of snow.
And while you may find that the cold stings, it is weather you can dress for. When the quicksilver hits 40+ Celsius in the lowlands of Osh and Bishkek in high summer, there is no escape.
But we would not be honest if we left out the drawbacks: sudden heating or electricity black-outs are not unheard of, and roads can get blocked by avalanches or heavy snowfall. You do need extra flexibility and a bit more of an adventurous spirit in winter.
Summer is for the trekkers. Winter is for the outlaws.
Spring and fall
The shoulder season is not the best time to be in Kyrgyzstan.
In spring (April-June) the snow has disappeared from the ski slopes, but the high passes are still covered, severely limiting your trekking options. The winter ski yurts are gone but the shepherd yurts of summer only set up in July and August.
Autumn (September-November) is the same. The yurts have gone, and the snow has started covering the passes, but not the slopes.
Hiking: Mid-June to September is good for most hiking, but July and August are the only 2 certain months for hiking. A long winter can snow over passes as low as 2000m in June. July and August are the only months you can get to the higher reaches (above 3000 m).
Horse riding: Can be done year-round.
Cycling: Big roads are kept snow-free in winter, but these are roads you should try to avoid as a cyclist. June to September is best, seeing how you have to cross some high passes.
Skiing: December to March.
Rafting: Depends on the river, but generally August – October is best as the glacier melt is highest then. Easy-going kayaking can be done throughout spring, summer and fall.
Eagle hunting: Real hunting happens in winter (November to February), whereas summer is only for showcasing the birds.
Kok boru: winter is traditional for village games, but summer festivals and national holidays are a good time to find a game.
Check our calendar of notable events and festivals in Kyrgyzstan you might want to consider while planning your trip for details.
Note that the bar charts above are averages. For instance, it is absolutely normal to have an August afternoon in Osh where the heat soars above 40°C, or a January morning in Bishek at -25°C. Also note that these cities are situated at low altitudes, unlike most of Kyrgyzstan.
Climate bar charts courtesy of World weather online