Kyrgyzstan is a country in Central Asia with 92% of its area covered by mountains. It has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to ancient times owing to the fact that it’s the midpoint of the Silk Road – a traders’ network of roads that connected East to West.
That’s why Kyrgyzstan was a vital hub for cultural and goods exchange. Some of the ancient Silk Road sites are still standing – preserved to the delight of backpackers and those who love history.
Here is a journey through some of the most intriguing Silk Road sites in Kyrgyzstan:
Kyrgyzstan’s Silk Road Sites
The Silk Road passed directly through Kyrgyzstan and thus the country is dotted with remnants from the glorious past of merchants and traveling salesmen. Caravanserais, religious monuments, and mythical markets bear witness to the centuries-old history on Kyrgyzstan.
1. Tash Rabat Caravanserai
Located in the remote and rugged Tien Shan Mountains, Tash Rabat Caravanserai is one of Kyrgyzstan’s most unique Silk Road sites.
Built in the 15th century, this stone caravanserai served as a stopover point for traders and travelers on their way along the Silk Road. The building, with its massive walls and domed chambers, is a testament to the incredible engineering and architecture of the time.
Getting there is a challenge in itself. You can’t simply take a public bus and hop off in front. It’s so remote that starting from Bishkek, you’d have to change at least twice – once at Naryn and then at At-Bashy.
Take a marshrutka from the Western Bus Station in Bishkek to Naryn (5 hours, 500 KGS / 5.3 EUR), then take another one to At-Bashy (1h, 200 KGS / 2.1 EUR) and lastly take a taxi to Tash Rabat (probably around 600 KGS / 6.4 EUR).
You can hitchhike, especially the last leg of the journey, but keep in mind the region is remote and traffic is low.
2. Burana Tower
The Burana Tower is a minaret located in the Chuy Valley, about 70 km east of Bishkek.
Built in the 11th century by the Karakhanids, a Turkic dynasty that ruled Central Asia at the time, the tower was originally part of a large complex that included a mosque, a madrasa (Islamic school), and a palace.
Today, the tower stands as a symbol of Kyrgyzstan’s Islamic heritage.
To get to Burana Tower, get a marshrutka from Bishkek’s Eastern Bus Station (note: Eastern, not the main Western one) bound for Tokmok. It should cost about 50 KGS / 0.5 EUR and take about 1 hour.
Once in Tokmok, there are marshrutkas to take you to Burana Tower. You can also hitchhike or negotiate a private taxi for around 300 KGS / 3.2 EUR.
3. Jayma Bazaar in Osh
The Jayma Bazaar in the city of Osh is one of the oldest and most vibrant markets in Central Asia. People often mistake it for the Osh Bazaar which is the biggest market in Bishkek – an old and vibrant market in its own right. Jayma Bazaar is older though.
It’s frequently listed as the oldest market (and Osh the oldest city) in Central Asia.
I’ve explained in detail how to get from Bishkek to Osh with optional stops in Toktogul and Arslanbob.
The market is a hub for local produce, textiles, and handicrafts. It’s quite long at almost 2 km and hugs the Ak-Buura River on both sides.
4. Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain
The Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the city of Osh. The mountain has been a site of religious significance for over 1,000 years and is home to numerous caves, petroglyphs, and other ancient relics. Visitors can climb the mountain and explore its many shrines, mosques, and holy sites.
There’s an entrance fee of 20 KGS / 0.2 EUR to go up the mountain. I advise you to take the city entrance from Kurmanjan-Datka Street. From there go all the way up to the viewpoint and then follow the trail down through the many caves and hills.
There’s a museum on the other side about history, archeology, and biology. The entrance fee is 150 KGS / 1.6 EUR. What makes it unique is that it’s built inside a cave! It’s quite impressive!
5. Uzgen Minaret
The Uzgen Minaret is a 12th-century tower located in the city of Uzgen, between the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad. The tower was part of a larger complex that included a mosque and a palace and served as a symbol of the Karakhanid dynasty’s power and influence. Today, the 27-meter-high tower stands as a testament to Kyrgyzstan’s rich architectural heritage.
To get to Uzgen from Osh, take a shared taxi from the entrance to Kelechek Bazaar. A ticket should cost no more than 100 KGS / 1.05 EUR. There are also marshrutkas from Noviy Avtovokzal (New Bus Station) in Osh, which is a bit out of the city and you’ll need to use public transport to get there.
All public transport in Osh is uploaded in 2GIS which you can use even if you don’t have internet.
Marshrutkas to Uzgen depart frequently and cost 50 KGS / 0.55 EUR.
Go Explore Kyrgyzstan’s Silk Road Sites!
Kyrgyzstan’s Silk Road sites offer a fascinating journey through the country’s ancient history and culture. From the remote Tash Rabat Caravanserai to the bustling Osh Bazaar, each site tells a unique story of trade, exchange, and innovation.
Whether you’re a history buff, a cultural explorer, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the past, Kyrgyzstan’s Silk Road sites are well worth a visit.