Easily accessible versions of each of Kyrgyzstan's diverse landscapes and topography are made accessible by 4x4, from lush green forests or emerald alpine lakes to red sandy desert canyons or chalky white cliffs, and in the winter season a cap of blindingly white snow and ice under a deep blue sky makes these landscapes even more beautiful.
The country's most popular journeys are defined largely by the major highways – a loop around 182km Issyk-Kol lake is by far the most popular for short term visitors due to the combination of proximity and accessibility to the capital city (and major international airport) of Bishkek. Visitors traveling to Kyrgyzstan as part of an extended overland journey along the Silk Road countries often enjoy the long mountains road from Bishkek past the Toktogul reservoir to Osh, eventually continuing south through the Chon-Alay valley along the Pamir Highway to the border with Tajikistan or west across the border to neighboring Uzbekistan and the rest of the Ferghana Valley. With previous arrangements, it's also possible to cross the border to China near here at the Irkeshtam Pass or to cross the Kyrgyz interior via Kazarman (very soon, on a new national highway connecting Jalalabad and Issyk-Kol) to Naryn's Son-Kol lake Tash Rabat caravansaray before turning towards the Chinese border at the Torugart Pass.
Of course, your itinerary need not be planned out in such detail in advance – as with road trips anywhere in the world, much of the joy is in giving in to the inspiration of the moment to stop for a particularly mesmerizing panorama or a particularly empty wild beach, reveling in the freedom offered by the open road!
Short-term visitors to the country need only a Russian-translated copy of their foreign license in order to self-drive, either buying a car outright during their stay or renting from a local agency. However, winter conditions on remote mountain tracks make it inadvisable for the unexperienced or unskilled driver to stray far from the major roads, so this is advisable primarily for less-adventurous itineraries or for experienced drivers traveling in a group of at least two (or preferable even more) vehicles.
For all other visitors, local tour operators can arrange transportation and even themed tours based around driving itineraries, including to some of the farthest corners of the country. Whether wildlife safaris in remote Naryn oblast, visits to the beautiful wide-open visits of Sary-Jaz and Enilchek, or road trips across the full length of the Chon-Alay valley for wintry views of 7,134m Peak Lenin, there's an overwhelming wealth of options to choose from.
[here let’s put Visit Karakol’s poster/video on their Winter-tour]