Osh, the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, is a city steeped in history and culture, boasting a unique blend of traditions and a picturesque setting amidst the mountains. For those considering things to do in Osh, exploring Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, a UNESCO World Heritage site and an important place of pilgrimage, and wandering through the bustling Jayma Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in Central Asia, are top activities.
The city’s vibrant atmosphere is complemented by its rich history, with archaeological findings indicating that Osh has been continuously inhabited for the last 3,000 years. Nearby, the Asaf ibn Burkhia Complex, a historical and architectural monument, offers insights into the city’s past and its significance along the ancient Silk Road.
Beyond its historical and cultural attractions, Osh is also known for its warm hospitality and delicious local cuisine, with traditional dishes such as plov and manti being must-tries. For those seeking the best places to visit in Kyrgyzstan, Osh’s blend of ancient traditions, lively markets, and scenic surroundings makes it a captivating destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Osh, Kyrgyzstan
1. Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain
Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain dominates the skyline of Osh and has been a revered site for centuries, with its history dating back more than one and a half millennia. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features ancient places of worship, caves with petroglyphs, and stunning panoramic views of the city and the valley.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and bring water for the climb; also, try to visit at sunset for breathtaking views and a cooler ascent.
2. Osh Bazaar
Osh Bazaar is one of Central Asia’s biggest and busiest markets, offering an authentic experience where locals come to trade fresh produce, spices, clothes, and household goods. This colorful bazaar is a great place to soak up the local atmosphere and perhaps pick up some regional handicrafts.
Travel Tip: Bargaining is expected here, so don’t be shy to haggle a bit. Also, it’s wise to keep an eye on your belongings, as busy markets can also attract pickpockets.
3. Jayma Bazaar Mosque
Located within the bustling area of the Osh Bazaar, the Jayma Bazaar Mosque is a peaceful place of worship amidst the chaos of daily commerce. Its presence reflects the deep-rooted Islamic culture in the region.
Travel Tip: As with any religious site, dress modestly and be respectful if you wish to enter, particularly during prayer times.
4. Rabat Abdul Khan Mosque
The Rabat Abdul Khan Mosque is a historical mosque in Osh, known for its beautiful facade and interior. It’s a center for Islamic worship and culture in the city, reflecting the architectural styles of the Timurid dynasty.
Travel Tip: Non-Muslim visitors are usually welcome outside of prayer times, but it’s recommended to confirm with a local guide or the mosque’s administrators before planning your visit.
5. Three-Storied Yurt Museum
This unique museum is housed in a three-storied yurt, which is an extraordinary example of traditional Kyrgyz craftsmanship. It showcases the nomadic lifestyle and culture of the Kyrgyz people with exhibits on national customs, clothing, and felt-making.
Travel Tip: This museum is not always open to the public, so check in advance for visiting hours or arrange a visit through a local tour guide.
6. Mt. Takht-i-Suleiman
Also part of the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain range, Mt. Takht-i-Suleiman is a historical mountain known for being a place of pilgrimage. There are several ancient mosques and sacred sites dotted around the area, providing a mix of natural beauty and spiritual significance.
Travel Tip: The mountain is considered a holy place, so be mindful and respectful of any rituals or worshippers you might encounter during your visit.
7. Lenin Statue
In the center of Osh, you can find one of the few remaining statues of Vladimir Lenin in Central Asia, a relic of Kyrgyzstan’s Soviet past. It’s a point of interest for those looking to delve into the country’s recent history.
Travel Tip: The statue makes for an interesting photo opportunity but remember that it’s also a politically significant monument, so be respectful.
8. Osh National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex
This museum complex offers deep insights into the history, archaeology, and ethnography of the region. Housed under the Sulaiman-Too mountain, it’s an integral part of the World Heritage Site.
Travel Tip: Combine your visit with the exploration of Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain to have a more integrated historical perspective.
9. Osh Regional History Museum
The Osh Regional History Museum gives visitors a look into the broader historical context of the Fergana Valley and the various cultures that have influenced Osh. Its collection spans from the Bronze Age to the present day, including Soviet-era exhibits.
Travel Tip: It’s best to go with a local guide who can translate and provide context to the exhibits, as most of the information may not be in English.
10. Kurmanjan Datka Mausoleum
Dedicated to the memory of Kurmanjan Datka, a revered national heroine known as the “Queen of the South,” this mausoleum is a tribute to her role in Kyrgyz history. It is situated near the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain.
Travel Tip: Learn about her story before you visit to appreciate the significance of the site fully.
11. Asaf ibn Burhiya Mausoleum
A lesser-known but historically significant site, the Asaf ibn Burhiya Mausoleum, is said to be the burial place of Solomon’s (Suleiman’s) wise adviser. It’s a place of pilgrimage and holds much spiritual significance for locals.
Travel Tip: Be dressed modestly when you visit and try to avoid interrupting prayer times.
A short drive from Osh, Uzgen is an ancient town with a rich history dating back over two millennia. Its highlights include the Uzgen Minaret and Mausoleums, remnants of the Karakhanid era.
Travel Tip: Take time to climb the minaret for a small fee to enjoy the views of the town and the surrounding rice fields.
13. Arslanbob Walnut Forests
Arslanbob’s walnut forests are a natural wonder not far from Osh and are said to be the largest single natural source of walnuts on Earth. The village of Arslanbob is nestled in this lush landscape, with opportunities for hiking and experiencing local life.
Travel Tip: Visit during the harvest in autumn to see the local methods of walnut collecting and to enjoy the freshest nuts.
14. Alay Valley
The Alay Valley is a stunning, high-altitude region south of Osh, offering some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in Kyrgyzstan. It’s a great area for trekking, horseback riding, and experiencing the semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz people.
Travel Tip: Make sure to acclimate to the altitude before embarking on strenuous activities and consider arranging a stay in a traditional yurt for a complete cultural experience.
15. Alymbek Datka Tomb
Another historical site, the tomb of Alymbek Datka, reflects the 18th-century political dynamics in the region. He was the husband of Kurmanjan Datka and an influential leader in his own right.
Travel Tip: Visiting this tomb along with the Kurmanjan Datka Mausoleum can provide a fuller understanding of Kyrgyzstan’s history of leadership and resistance.
FAQ About Things to Do in Osh, Kyrgyzstan
What are the must-see sites in Osh, Kyrgyzstan?
Osh is known for Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as the Osh Bazaar, one of the largest markets in Central Asia. The Jayma Bazaar is also a must-visit for a vibrant shopping experience.
Can visitors explore the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain?
Yes, Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain is accessible to visitors. It features trails leading to historical sites, museums, and a mosque. Hiking to the top provides panoramic views of Osh city.
What cultural experiences does Osh offer?
Osh is rich in cultural heritage, offering experiences like traditional Kyrgyz meals, yurt stays, and the opportunity to attend cultural events or folklore shows which showcase the nation’s traditions and music.
Are there any natural hot springs near Osh?
Yes, there are several natural hot springs in the region around Osh. These are reputed for their therapeutic properties and offer a relaxing experience amidst the scenic mountains.
What adventure activities can tourists do in Osh?
Osh and its surrounding regions are perfect for adventure seekers. Activities include horseback riding, trekking in the Alay Mountains, and experiencing the breathtaking Pamir Highway.
Is Osh suitable for family travel?
Absolutely! Osh is family-friendly, with activities and sights that can be enjoyed by all ages, such as visiting the Osh National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex or strolling through Ak-Buura Central Park.
Can tourists experience a traditional Kyrgyz yurt stay in Osh?
Yes, one of the unique experiences in Osh is staying in a traditional Kyrgyz yurt, which can be arranged in the city or in the nearby mountainous areas.
Are there any guided tours available in Osh?
Guided tours are available and are a fantastic way to explore Osh’s rich history and culture. These tours can include visits to historical landmarks, cultural sites, and natural wonders in the area.