Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian nation that shares its borders with China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Although the nation of Kyrgyzstan has been independent since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, many suggest that organized criminal groups have a great deal of influence on the major policies of the nation. Despite the fact that political stability remains elusive for the people of Kyrgyzstan, the nation has a number of natural and cultural resources that make it a popular travel destination in Central Asia.
The capital of Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek, a city of some 750,000 people that is located in the northern region of the country. Bishkek sits at the foot of the Ala-Too mountain range near the Chui River. The city is named after the national drink of Kyrgyzstan, a fermented dairy product made from mare's milk that is traditionally known as kumis. The city center consists of a mixture of marble faced public buildings and Soviet apartment complexes. Bishkek is known for its wide boulevards that are lined by countless trees that provide excellent shade for city dwellers during the hotter months. The city was built relatively recently and is designed on a rectangular grid system that makes the city particularly easy to navigate. Bishkek is the home of a number of museums that celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Kyrgyztan, as well as a number of items of historical interest. For example, the central train station of the city was built by German prisoners of war during World War II and has not been renovated or undergone significant repairs to this day.
In addition to Bishkek, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kyrgyzstan is Issyk Kul, which is the fifth deepest lake on the planet. Issyk Kul is an endorheic lake, meaning that it has a closed basin that does not allow the lake's water to flow out to other bodies of water. Although Issyk Kul was a very popular tourist destination during the Soviet era, the tourism industry experienced a long dry spell following the fall of the Soviet Union. However, the hot springs and natural mineral deposits of Issyk Kul are beginning to attract a new line of tourists interested in the health benefits that are offered by vacationing in the region.
Approximately 80 percent of the land in Kyrgyzstan is mountainous, earning the country the title of "the Switzerland of Central Asia." The snow-capped peaks of the Kakshaal-Too range attract mountain climbers and geologists alike from all over the world, and the runoff from the melting snow in the warmer months is an important source of hydro-electricity in the region. In the southern area of the country, the Fergana Valley has a subtropical climate with brutal summers, while other regions of Kyrgyzstan in the north have an almost polar climate. Agriculture is a very important part of the economy of Kyrgyzstan, and nearly half of the citizens of the country are employed in the agriculture industry, particularly in the production of beets, potatoes, cotton and wheat.
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