Kyrgyzstan formally the Kyrgyz Republic is a Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Landlocked and mountainous, it borders Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the southeast. Annexed by Russia in 1876, it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It has the most liberal tourist visa policy in Central Asia and one of the more progressive post-Soviet governments in the region. Kyrgyz is a language spoken by 4 million people primarily in Kyrgyzstan and, to a lesser extent, in adjacent regions such as Kazakhstan, Xinjiang (China), Uzbekistan, Tajikistan. In Kyrgyzstan, the language is co-official with Russian, which is the predominate language used in urban areas (especially Bishkek) while Kyrgyz is predominate in rural areas and small cities/towns. It is a Turkic language and has many similarities with languages such as Turkish, Tartar, Kazakh, Azeri, & Uzbek. As a result of close ties culturally and economically, Kyrgyz has become increasingly mutually intelligible with Kazakh in recent decades. Bishkek is the capital of what is called officially the Kyrgyz Republic and sits in the Tien Shan mountain range in the Chui Valley. It is a relatively new city and has limited historical sites, but it makes a great place to start your trips to the mountains and alpine lakes of the Tien Shans. Bishkek is, however, an interesting example of a czarist planned city; lay on a grid with wide boulevards flanked by irrigation canals and large trees, buildings with marble façades, and Soviet apartment complexes. Many young travellers find Bishkek’s nightlife a delight and the people are friendly and very hospitable. Bishkek is a city of many young people that hang out in Clubs and small cafés. Kyrgyzstan has the most liberal tourist visa regime in Central Asia, so Bishkek makes a great place to start a tour of the silk road and collect your visas to neighboring countries.