Homestays are one of the true delights to come out of Kyrgyzstan’s tourism drive. In many towns and villages you can find a family willing to host you for a night, stuff you with home-cooked food and arrange local activities like horseback riding and trekking. While enjoying the good life, you’re also helping to provide a much-needed income in often rural areas. Prices range between 350-500 Som per person, depending on the quality of the homestay.
We spent our first homestay with Askar and Tamara, a cheery Kyrgyz couple. We met Tamara by chance as we were leaving Karakol. As fate would have it, we were heading for exactly the village she lived in so we took her details and two days later we turned up at her front door in Tamga on the southern short of Lake Issyk-Kul.
“I’m so glad to see you,” she shouted from an upstairs window, smiling and waving as we rang her front bell. She came down the stairs, we wheeled our bikes into her garden and soon all three of us were around a table laden with tea, cookies and homemade jam, having the first of many pleasant chats about Kyrgyzstan and life in general.
Tamara, who speaks very good English, started the guesthouse in 2005. Tourists come to enjoy the nearby sanatorium in the summer or just to relax in the peaceful surroundings, perhaps reading under the fruit trees or dozing on traditional Kyrgyz blankets laid out on the grass. It’s also possible to swim in the lake, a few minutes walk away.
We only planned to stay one day but ended up spending an extra night, won over by home-cooked meals and eggs fresh from the chickens roaming around Tamara’s yard. We briefly contemplated cycling out to a nearby waterfall but laziness got the better of us and instead we lounged around enjoying a truly tranquil rest day. The only noise to be heard was that of nearby sheep and cows, kept by the neighbours.
Tamara charges 500 Som per person, including breakfast, for a night in her guesthouse and 200 Som for meals. Tea is always on tap and the modern shower is properly hot, a real treasure in Central Asia! We found it well worth the price and definitely recommend you stop by if you’re passing through Tamga. (4 Issyk-Kulskaya Str, Tamga. Next to the bazaar and sanatorium. Email: timnyc at mail.ru Telephone: +996 394 625 361 or +996 772 988 449 or +996 772 619 973 or +996 772 328 865)
If you’d like to find a homestay elsewhere in Kyrgyzstan, just contact the Community Based Tourism association or drop into one of their offices, which are scattered across the country in places including Bishkek, Karakol and Kochkor.