The problem with events across Central Asia is two-fold. First off, it’s difficult to find out when and where something will happen. Festivals are badly advertised, so it’s best practice to keep asking people when and where a certain event will take place. On the day itself, things usually don’t happen according to plan. Don’t bank on a schedule
Kyrgyzstan is no exception to this rule. Stay flexible and keep your ear on the ground, and you are bound to have a good time.
If you’d like more tips to time your trip, check out when to visit Kyrgyzstan.
If you are worried about the effect of Ramadan on your trip, read more on what Ramadan in Central Asia actually entails.
Ramazan Hait: Date changes. Called Eid Al-Fitr in the Arabic world, this celebration ends Ramadan with tasty food.
Kurban Ait or Kurban Bayram: 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.
On and around these days it may be hard to find a driver or guide, and some services may not be available. There is not much public celebration: it’s a family holiday (but it’s easy to get invited).
Independence Day: 31st of August. Dancing and music in every city. In Bishkek, a kok boru game in the hippodrome is a major draw – read a trip report here.
Folk and music festivals
Nooruz: 21 March. Celebrated across Central Asia, the whole region welcomes springtime with song, dance, kok boru 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.
Read a report from a Nowruz festival with obligatory kok boru game in Bishkek.
Bishkek Jazz Festival: April, Bishkek. 3 days of jazz music across Bishkek, with musicians from Central Asia, US and Europe.
Kuturgan Fest: Bishkek, dates change. Heavy metal festival that has hosted some big names in the past. Offshoot Bloodystan runs in smaller venues throughout the year. Facebook page.
CBT summer festivals: local CBT offices organise events during summer for tourists and locals alike, all offering a mix of horse games, eagle hunting, traditional crafts, song and dance. The most important are the horse games festival in Kyzyl-Oi (end of July), Song Kol (end of July) the eagle hunting festival in Bokonbayevo (end of August), the games in Sary-Mogol 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: Similar to the other summer festivals, the World Nomad Games however are 100 times bigger, with more games, a much higher budget and many international participants. They were organised to great success in 2014, 2016 and 2018, but the 2020 edition will be held in Turkey.