A Central Asian state bordering China, Kyrgyzstan became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is a nation defined by its natural beauty.
Joyously unspoilt mountainscapes, stark craggy ridges and rolling jailoos (summer pastures) are brought to life by semi-nomadic, yurt-dwelling shepherds. As can be expected in a country where the vast majority of attractions are rural and high altitude, the timing of your visit is crucial. Summer is ideal with cycling and roads generally accessible. From October to May, much rural accommodation closes down and the yurts that add such character to the Alpine vistas are stashed away – think twice about a winter visit unless you've come to ski or snowboard (by Lonely Planet).