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Jailoo (yurt) Tourism


Some of Kyrgyzstan’s more exotic providers of Bed and Breakfast are local shepherds in a high mountain pasture – a jailoo. Accommodation is in a yurt – a round felt tent, (also known as a "boz ui") – the largest of which can accommodate up to ten people. Here it is possible to experience the centuries-old nomadic way of life – taste national dishes, see how goats, cows, mares are milked, drink a cup of koumiss, (fermented mare’s milk), taste home made bread and, in some places, fresh fish from a nearby lake.

In the middle of September, towards the end of the traditional tourist season, a bus load of tourists from New Zealand drove up to Lake Son Kul in Central Kyrgyzstan and happened upon something which, in their words, ”made their trip”.

There, on the remote, treeless, mountain plateau, with a backdrop of high mountain peaks and overlooking a serene lake, they came across a family celebrating a traditional Kyrgyz wedding. Crowds of relatives had gathered for the celebrations. In keeping with the tradition of nomadic hospitality which typifies the Kyrgyz, they welcomed the newcomers and invited them to participate in the celebrations.

A plentiful bounty of food was scattered over several dastorkons – “tablecloths” spread on the floor – supplemented by the group’s packed lunches. An impromptu game of Kok Boru – a horse game, like polo, played with the carcass of a goat in place of a ball – was underway. Other games followed, such as: At Chabysh (races), Oodarysh (wresting on horseback) and Kyz Kuumai (“Chase the Girl”).  All of this was punctuated with music as individuals took up their komuz to perform traditional melodies, or sang traditional songs.

“It was a real, authentic, experience,” said one of the tourists. “We were really sorry when it was time to go.”

Many of the visitors who travel to Kyrgyzstan are intrigued by the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz shepherds who spend the summer living in yurts in remote jailoos, (high mountain pastures), and welcome the opportunity to witness such an event. Unfortunately, however, such things cannot be planned as part of a tour package. This group just happened to be lucky enough to be “in the right place at the right time” to participate in the celebrations.

It is possible, however, to time a visit to this small Central Asian republic in order to attend one, (or more), of the several festivals that are organized – and some tourists do just this. The Celestial Mountains Tour Company is happy to offer you its services in organizing a visit to the festival – either as a special visit – or as part of a longer tour to Kyrgyzstan. Our staff can advise on and arrange accommodation, transport, guide services and take care of all your needs.