Pete R. traveled to Kyrgyzstan to hike its mountainous peaks, explore its diverse cities, and fall in love with its charm and hospitality.

Why did you decide to visit Kyrgyzstan?

When I was hiking around Petra in Jordan two years ago, I met a Danish woman who was working with Doctors Without Borders and had the chance to hike around the mountains of Central Asia. As she showed me the photos on her phone, I became intrigued by the idea of traveling to Central Asia and hiking in one of the most uncharted areas in the world.  

That opportunity came when I decided to meet a friend of mine in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital city.

What surprised you most about the country?

I was taken by the sheer amount of off-the-beaten-track trails. I experienced them all — from staying with a nomadic family in a yurt by a lake 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level to hiking three days along the alpine line of the Ala Kul trail toward a lake tucked away in the Terskey Alatau mountain range.  

What was interacting with the local people like?

The hospitality of the Kyrgyz people reflects their Persian background — more often than not, you’ll be invited to a dinner with a table covered in food prepared by a family. I was also surprised to see the diversity of the people there; the population of Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful blend of different cultures and ethnicities. The northern city of Bishkek reflects a mixed culture of the West and the East, whereas the southern city of Osh is more traditional due to the Uzbek population..

What did you learn from your experiences in Kyrgyzstan?

Kyrgyzstan reinforced my belief that diversity is a gift. With all the problems we are seeing in the world right now, Kyrgyzstan reminded me that, even though we all look different, it is possible to live together peacefully. In this country alone, Russian, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Dungan, and Uyghur people all live under the same flag. The country has its problems, but it gives a glimpse as to what the future could hold for the rest of the world.

Did you have any difficulties documenting the trip?

The landscapes of Kyrgyzstan are so photogenic — you can simply point your camera at the mountains and let them do the work for you. It’s also the perfect place to photograph with a drone, since the diverse landscapes are especially stunning when seen from above. The orange canyon of Konorchek (shown in the video 1:45) is one of these incredible places and is only an hour away from Bishkek. Accessing stunning landscapes is easy since many of the national parks and mountain ranges are situated near major cities.

What was your favorite moment from the trip?

When I stood on the Ala Kul pass, 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level, all alone, overlooking a beautiful mountain range. Thinking about it brings back a sense of adventure, solitude, independence, and accomplishment. I felt pure euphoria in that moment, and it was the most memorable of my entire trip.