Festivals and events in Kyrgyzstan mostly center around the country’s traditional nomadic lifestyle, still practiced in rural areas and honored as the root of culture. The horse plays a central role in most holidays, with birds of prey a close second and the turn of the seasons at the spring equinox one of Central Asia’s oldest celebrations. Favorite events are the National Horse Festival and the Kyrgyz Kochu Festival.
As with the rest of the world, the New Year is welcomed in Kyrgyzstan with parties, fireworks and a variety of other fun events.
Navroz Spring Festival
This incredibly ancient Central Asian festival celebrates renewal and rebirth around the spring equinox after the harsh, icy winter. Held over two days in April, it’s an Islamic adaptation of one of mankind’s oldest rituals. Highlights include traditional games, music, dance, drama, bazaars, markets, and lots of partying.
Orthodox Easter usually occurs in Kyrgyzstan in April, about two weeks after it is celebrated in Western Christianity. The event is marked by candlelit church services, parades of holy images and icons and family get-togethers.
National Horse Festival
Horses have been central to the Kyrgyz way of life for untold centuries, with a plethora of contests and games evolving to test the skills of riders and their mounts. The National Horse Festival every July is one of the country's most popular events, featuring races, team games such as Ulak Tartysh (a form of polo), Kyz Kuumai (the chase between horsemen and horsewomen), Tyiyn Enmei (riders picking up a coin on the ground at full gallop), and the spectacular Kurosh (wrestling on horseback). The rules date back centuries, making the event a not to miss experience for visitors.
Birds of Prey Festival
Traditionally, birds of prey such as the falcon and the golden eagle were captured as chicks and trained by nomadic people to hunt small animals for food. Just one bird could support an entire settlement’s protein diet, making thema held in high value and treated as members of the tribe. The Birds of Prey Festival takes place every August, with proud owners bringing their avian treasures to take part in contests. Visits to sacred sites, horse games and folklore shows are also highlights of the event.
The August national holiday of Independence Day is marked with pride and celebration all over Kyrgyzstan. In the capital, parades and exhibitions take place, and folk events, concerts, and demonstrations form part of the revelry.
Kyrgyz Kochu Festival
This unique Kyrgyzstan event is celebrated in August and marks the annual migration of nomadic herders and their flock from the high summer pastures to winter in the lowlands. National games, horse races, eating and drinking, folk music, dancing, and hordes of animals dressed up for the occasion are the centerpiece.
The Islamic month of Ramadan is the religion's most important event in Kyrgyzstan, taking place according to the Muslim calendar usually in August or September, with the devout fasting between sun-up and sundown. They hit the streets every evening to feast and be merry with friends and the month ends with Eid al-Fitr, a joyful day of feasting and family parties.