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 scorching at low altitudes, but cooler in the mountains. Precipitation is moderate in the west, while the east-central is arid, and also desert to lower elevations. From the vast deserts of neighboring countries, winds bringing dust, sometimes stormy, can blow.
Kyrgyzstan is crossed by several mountain ranges: in the north-west the Fergana Mountains, in the south-west the foothills of the Pamir and Alay, and in the center and east the various branches of the Tien Shan
, which reaches its highest point in Jengish Chokusu (formerly Pik Pobedy), on the border with China, 24,406 feet high. At high altitudes, above 13,100 feet, there are vast glaciers that feed rivers, which flow in deep valleys between the mountains.
In Kyrgyzstan there are no flat areas, and at most there are areas where the altitude is between 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 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 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 17.5 inches, with a summer minimum (when only rare downpours 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 neighboring mountains located south of the city, in all seasons a warm dry wind may 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 26.5 °F in January, is just the result of very different situations: periods with temperatures at night around freezing, and mild days with highs around 50/59 °F, alternate with colder periods when the temperatures are near the average, but also with glacial periods when the minima plunge around -13 °F, and the maxima remain around 5 °F. The records in Bishkek are respectable: -29 °F the lowest, and even 109.5 °F the highest!
, Kyrgyzstan's second largest city, is located in the south-west at 3,300 feet of altitude, and Jalal-Abad
, the third, at no great distance, at 2,450 feet. 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 6,600 feet above sea level, the average in January is 4 °F, while that of July rises to 63 °F. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Naryn
Throughout the year, 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 rain 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 5,250 feet on the shores of Lake Issyk Kul, which is large enough to create a micro-climate, slightly milder than areas of equal altitude of the country. Winter is still cold, with an average in January of 14 °F, though the lake never freezes because it is salty, while summers are pleasantly warm, with highs around 73/77 °F and cool nights: local people 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 already get hot during the day: you can choose then 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 6,500 feet, and from June to August above 9,800 feet, given that it's the only period in which the temperature rises above freezing.
What to pack
: in Bishkek and the major cities, under 3,000 feet, warm clothes, sweater, down jacket, hat, scarf, gloves; some lighter clothes for the mild days, scarf for the wind. For the Tien Shan and the high mountains, cold weather clothing, synthetic thermal long underwear, fleece, parka, wind jacket, warm boots.
: in Bishkek and the major cities, under 3,000 feet, light clothes, sun hat, scarf for the wind, a sweater for the evening. For the mountains, at intermediate altitudes, light clothes for the day, sun hat, sweatshirt and light jacket for the evening, hiking shoes; above 10,000 feet, sweater and jacket for the evening; above 13,000 feet, down jacket, hat, gloves, scarf.
For women, it is best to avoid shorts and miniskirts.