One thing we’ve all probably got a lot better at in the last few months is our capacity for social distancing. In fact, it’s a fair bet to suggest that before this ill-fated year- the term had never even crossed your mind. Nowadays- crowded cities and busy supermarkets spark panic and we’ve all got used to a more spaced out existence. Well- much of Central Asia- has beaten us to it and the vast expanses of wilderness, lakes and open country mean that social distancing isn’t a social choice but an easy reality. There’s very little need to check the one metre distance between people when you have chasms of open air around you and vistas without another soul in sight.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Kyrgyzstan where we’ll hike amidst the verdant countryside and take in truly awe-inspiring panoramas. In England there are 432 people per squared kilometre whereas in Kyrgyzstan this figure is just 34. Essentially, you’ll have over 10 times the amount of space to spread your wings, relax and ensure you are distanced even if you don’t need to be. Kazakhstan actually has an even lower population density with vast swathes of the country being filled with wilderness. Kazakhstan is actually 10 times the size of the UK! At the Charyn Canyon- which you can visit on day 2 of your 2021 Central Asia Tour– you can witness the enormity of the rock-filled emptiness. The sparse landscape is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon but without the tourists or, indeed, Mars albeit with a few more people. Whilst we may well not need to social distance next year- this region is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the vast openness.
If your year so far has been filled with Netflix binges, takeaways and twitter then you’ll partly be ready to step into an alternative cultural reality. The good news is that Central Asia is filled with cultural intrigue and you can easily step into something very different. In Uzbekistan, wrestling is second only to football in terms of popularity with their most famous sportsman being wrestling Olympic champion: Artur Taymazov – a three time gold medallist. You can try your hand at this sport known as kurash on your 2021 Central Asia Tour. As for food, it’s a fair bet that your takeaways didn’t include too much in the way of plov, ashlan-fu or fermented camel’s milk!
If modernity has gone too far and you like the idea of simply stepping back in time to a bygone era where things were more simple then the nomadic games experience in Kyrgyzstan might be for you. These games are popular throughout Central Asia and include a range of different sports often involving horses. One of the most famous is Kok-boru which is essentially polo with a goat’s carcass. It’s hugely popular in the region and Kyrgyzstan won the 2018 championships. You can also learn the art of eagle-hunting and other nomadic sports- it’s pretty safe to say that these experiences will be a far cry from those of 2020!
Central Asia is not somewhere that plays host to too many tourists. There’s been a lot made of over tourism is destinations like Thailand as well as high profile European destinations. Tourism can cause issues but, in general, it promotes huge economic boosts for nations and provides employment, education and inspiration. In Central Asia, tourism plays an increasingly important role in economies which are trying to diversify and stand on their own two feet in the wake of increased independence. By visiting these places, you’ll be helping these economies and the people in these countries as well as gaining all the cultural benefits of visiting somewhere not many people have seen! You’ll both be helping the world and gaining the social cache of being a pioneer! What’s more- it’s the chance to reach these destinations before more travellers come along. There’s no way that these natural highlights and spectacular scenery are going to remain as untouched for so long so grab your chance in 2021 to experience Central Asia!
Still not sure where you should be exploring in 2021? Take our travel personality quiz to see which countries suit you!