If you've never heard of Kyrgyzstan, then fortunately for you, I'm here to welcome you to the exclusive group of travelers who are in the know about this El Dorado of travel destinations.
1.First, some basics: Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian country sandwiched between Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. It has a population of about 6.3 million.
2.Here's the detail you really need to know, though: THIS is what Kyrgyzstan looks like.
3.I mean, even a glance at its Google Maps photo is enough to seduce you.
4.I can tell you from personal experience that Kyrgyzstan really does have one of the most gorgeous natural landscapes I've seen in my life. Some of the hikes are seriously interstellar.
5.If a country could ever be called a "hidden gem" with zero irony or exaggeration, Kyrgyzstan would be it.
6.I have no idea why it hasn't been Instagrammed to death given the unprecedented Mountain Porn-ness of its every corner.
7.And the mountains might be amazing, but the lakes? They'll make you furious at your iPhone's inability to capture 100 shades of blue in a single shot.
8.If you've ever harbored romantic notions of a nomadic life, you can live them out in Kyrgzystan. Ever wanted to stay in a yurt camp? Now's your chance.
9.Ride a horse? YEP.
10.Hike down Mordor and dissolve the one ring to rule them all?!
11.And if some of these photos look a little too perfect, then what you're noticing is the utter LACK OF TOURISTS. (If you've ever tried to enjoy the stillness of a peak swarming with other humans, then you know what a rare treat this is.)
12.That said, the people I DID meet here were some of the most interesting people I've ever come across. I guess a remote, mountainous region draws a very specific kind of crowd.
13....also, lots and lots of goats.
14.If you've never tried freshly churned butter, now is your chance to have it with literally every meal.
15.The other best part? Everything — from the horse rides, to the yurt stays, to personal guides — is incredibly affordable.
16.You don't even have to be good at planning things to travel here. Just get connected to the CBT (Community-based tourism) office of your choice and tell them what you want to do and they'll let you know all the options. Just think of them as a travel agency, but completely FREE.
In conclusion, everyone who wants to feel like they've died on Earth needs to visit Kyrgyzstan.