Map from Google - Kyrgyzstan
In Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous country of central Asia, the climate is continental
, with cold winters, often frosty, and warm and sunny summers, sometimes scorchingly hot at low altitudes, but cooler in the mountains. Precipitation is moderate in the west, while the centre-east is arid, and also desert at lower elevations. From the vast deserts of neighbouring countries, winds able to bring sandstorms can blow.
Kyrgyzstan is crossed by several mountain ranges: in the north-west the Fergana Mountains, in the south-west the foothills of Pamir and Alay, and in the centre and east the various branches of the Tien Shan
, whose highest point is Jengish Chokusu (formerly Pik Pobedy), on the border with China, 7,439 metres (24,406 feet) high. At high altitudes, above 4,000 metres (13,000 ft), there are vast glaciers, which feed rivers, which in turn flow in deep valleys between the mountains.
In Kyrgyzstan there are no plains, and at most there are areas where the altitude is between 500 and 1,000 metres (1,600 and 3,300 feet).
The capital Bishkek
is located in the north, in the valley of the river Chuy, at an altitude ranging between 650 and 950 metres (2,100 and 3,100 feet). Here the climate is continental, with cold winters and hot summers, in which the days can be torrid, often around 35/36 °C (95/97 °F), but with dry air and lively breezes in the afternoon.
Here are the average temperatures of Bishkek.
Average temperatures - Bishkek
Precipitation is moderate, the annual total being around 450 millimetres (17.5 inches), with a summer minimum (when only rare showers occur to interrupt the sunny days), and a maximum in spring, between March and May. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Bishkek
From the mountains located south of the city, in all seasons a warm dry wind can blow, while there are no obstacles to cold air masses coming from the north, so that there may be intense cold waves. Therefore, the average temperature of the coldest month, about -3 °C (27 °F) in January, is just the result of very different situations: periods with night temperatures around freezing (0 °C or 32 °F), and mild days around 10/15 °C (50/59 °F), alternate with colder periods, when the temperatures are near the average, but also with glacial periods, when lows plunge around -25 °C (-13 °F), and highs remain around -15 °C (5 °F). The records in Bishkek are respectable: -34 °C (-29 °F) the lowest, and as high as 43 °C (109 °F) the highest!
, Kyrgyzstan's second largest city, is located in the south-west at 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) of altitude, and Jalal-Abad
, the third, at no great distance, at 750 metres (2,450 ft). In these cities the temperature is similar to that of Bishkek, with slight differences due to the altitude, but the more southern location and especially the presence of mountain ranges to the north, make them less vulnerable to cold spells, however, glacial days are possible here as well.
In the vast mountainous areas
, winters get really cold. In Naryn
, at 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) above sea level, the average of January is -15.5 °C (4 °F), while that of July rises to 17 °C (63 °F). Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Naryn
Throughout the year, 300 mm (12 in) of rain or snow fall, so the climate is still arid, but the pattern is different from the western cities, because there is a relative minimum in winter and a maximum in late spring, with some rains possible even in summer, reflecting the fact that the central-eastern part of Kyrgyzstan is slightly affected by the Asian monsoon. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Naryn
is located at 1,600 metres (5,250 feet), on the shores of Lake Issyk Kul, which is large enough to create a micro-climate, slightly milder than other areas of equal altitude of the country. Winter is still cold, with an average in January of -10 °C (14 °F), though the lake never freezes being salty, while summers are pleasantly warm, with highs around 23/25 °C (73/77 °F) and cool nights: locals bathe in the lake.
When to go
To visit the major cities of Kyrgyzstan and the lowlands, the best times are spring and autumn
, especially the periods April-May, and September-October. Considering the climate variability and the diurnal temperature range, it must be said that in April and October it can be cold at night, and in May and September it can get hot during the day: you can therefore choose the intermediate periods (mid-April to mid-May, and mid-September to mid-October).
To visit high altitude areas, the summer
is preferable, from May to September at around 2,000 metres (6,500 feet), and from June to August above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), given that it's the only period in which the temperature rises above freezing.
What to pack
: in Bishkek and the major cities, under a thousand metres (3,300 feet), warm clothes, sweater, down jacket, hat, scarf, gloves; some lighter clothes for mild days, scarf for the wind. In the Tien Shan and high mountains, cold weather clothing, synthetic thermal long underwear, fleece, parka, wind jacket, warm boots.
: in Bishkek and the major cities, under a thousand metres (3,300 feet), light clothes, sun hat, scarf for the wind, a sweatshirt for the evening. In the mountains, at intermediate altitudes, light clothes for the day, sun hat, sweatshirt and light jacket for the evening, hiking shoes; above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), sweater and jacket for the evening; above 4,000 metres (13,000 ft), down jacket, hat, gloves, scarf.
For women, it is best to avoid shorts and miniskirts.