Bokonbayevo is a small town of 12,500 inhabitants located on the south shore of Issyk-Kul Lake, 160 km (99.4 miles) West of Karakol and 280 km (174 miles) East of Bishkek. The village got its name from a Kyrgyz poet.
Bokonbayevo, Kyrgyzstan's ecological tourism centre, welcomes many tourists every year who come to enjoy the picturesque nature of the region and to get acquainted with Kyrgyz traditions.
Bokonbayevo experienced a glorious time during the Soviet era with full employment. Nowadays, the city knows a very strong unemployment rate and many industries are shut down. The inhabitants who stayed in the village returned to the practice of traditional farming techniques and artscrafts to meet their needs.
Despite its banal appearance, the small village is a great place to spend the night. The city serves as a base for hiking, especially in the eastern peaks and valleys of the south. There are many guest houses in the villages and yurt camps settled near the beach to stay overnight.
This village, located at 1,800 m (5,905 ft) above the sea level, offers to its passing guests a museum and some reminders of its Soviet past, including a monument of Lenin and a war memorial. The small museum of the city proudly exhibits a collection of paintings of local artists representing Manashi, eagle hunters and other local scenes.
For those who are interested, Bokonbayevo is home to a small local craft factory producing shyrdaks (carpets) and other felt products. The shyrdak is a traditional Kyrgyz felt rug that you will find in every household. It is now recognized by the Unesco. You can stop there to discover the manufacturing techniques and get some of the felt pieces.
Bokonbayeva is also the only region home to traditional eagle hunting in Kyrgyzstan. The eagle hunting festival takes place during the summer. Many falconers then go to Bokonbayevo to present their technique and make a few presentations. If you miss this unique event, you can also get a private demonstration of eagle hunting at any time.
Bokonbayevo is mostly famous for its surrounding nature with the Terskey Alo-Too mountain range, hot springs, waterfalls and lake. Several guesthouses and yurt camps were installed on the shores of Issyk-Kul Lake in order to relax in an exceptional setting while discovering Kyrgyz culture and traditions. You can swim in the lake or go fishing. In the evening, relax by the fireside and listen to Kyrgyz songs and national music.
This unexplored region is a jewel for alpinists or for hiking enthusiasts.
There are public buses leaving from the bus station West of Bishkek for Bokonbayevo. The bus leaves as soon as it is full and takes around 4 hours to reach the village. You can also take a taxi.