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Kyrgyzstan

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Kyrgyzstan sits southeast of Kazakhstan and west of China, a landlocked, mountainous country that’s often overlooked when people dream of visiting southwest Asia.

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The high desert peaks make for some of the most extreme downhill skiing in Asia, and while resorts haven’t quite caught up to the rest of the world, for backcountry skiers it may as well be paradise. Yurt camping in Kyrgyzstan is also popular among those seeking a completely disconnected experience. You’d be remiss if you didn’t pay a visit to Archa National Park, though, and horseback riding through the Jeti-Oguz Valley offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the region.

The capital city of Bishkek is full of bizarre-yet-provocative Soviet-era architecture — be sure to check out the Ala-Too movie theatre, the oldest in the country (and yet shows 3D movies), the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts, and the National Museum, both equally as fascinating outside as they are in. Though the country is best known for its nomadic tribes and vast countryside, the city is worth a couple days to explore, if nothing else to see how the Soviet Union built an entire city from scratch — and how it’s evolved in the decades since.

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