A Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Osh

Osh

Osh is the second biggest city in Kyrgyzstan and also it’s oldest, with a history going back more than 3,000 years.  Yep, it’s ancient.  However, despite that impressive age and what one would expect to be a plethora of historic sites and relics, there’s not that much to see.  Much of those relics decayed over the years, or were ruined during the century-long Russian and Soviet domination over the area.  A number of religious sites may or may not have been stomped by the Soviets in order to discourage any rabble-rousing ‘superstitions’.

Osh is a border town – a stopping point – on either your trip heading West across the ridiculously complicated Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border, or East to Kashgar and China.  All that said, there are still some things to see here.  And buy.  Osh is a great place to get your haggle on.

What to see:

Sulaiman Too Mountain

Sacred Mountain and its Museum

Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain:  Looming above Osh, this mountain is the most complete and intact example of a Central Asian Sacred Mountain.  The Prophet Mohammed is said to have prayed here, and it has been place of Islamic pilgrimage ever since.  Even before that, Sulaiman-Too was important to other local, non-Islamic religions, as numerous pteroglyphs mark the cave-shrines that dot the mountain.  Many of these caves are reputed to have miraculous powers, such as the fertility cave Ene-Beshik, which is located not far to the west of the cave museum.  Sulaiman-Too is Kyrgyzstan’s only UNESCO World Heritage site.  Visiting here is a great way to look at the area’s multi-religious history, as well as get your divine mojo powered up.

Osh Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar in Osh

Osh Bazaar: One of the biggest and busiest of the Central Asian markets, you can find pretty much anything here: clothing, produce, knives, blacksmithed items, tools.  The market is busiest on Sundays, and slowest on Mondays.  If you’re visiting Osh, make sure to stop here.  Buy things, support the local farmers, and don’t forget to haggle.

Dom Babura:  Originally built in 1497 by Zahirrudin Babur (who would later go on to found the great Mughal Dynasty in India), the Dom Babura is a one-room prayer sanctuary that is a popular pilgrimage destination, because Babur was a powerful and interesting figure.  It has been reconstructed several times over the years, having been leveled by both earthquakes, as well as mysterious explosions (that were likely Soviet in origin).

Getting In/Out

The main border crossing between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan is at Dostyk.  You can take a bus or a taxi to Dostyk, and public transit connects to this area on both the Uzbek and Kyrgyz sides.  Things can be a bit crowded and hectic, and the border is subject to occasional closures depending on the political situation, but overall crossing shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.

Up next:

If you’re heading east, it’s the famed market city of Kashgar.

If you’re heading west, it’s the Uzbek city of Kokand.

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Osh Travel Guide

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Osh Airport: 40.608333, 72.793333
Buses to Kashgar: 40.536683, 72.801418
Minibus Station: 40.536144, 72.798629
Sulaiman Too Sacred Mountain: 40.527433, 72.785637
Osh Central Bazaar: 40.537547, 72.798414
UTAMK: 40.530013, 72.793243
Dom Babura: 40.530551, 72.790421
Sulaiman Too Museum: 40.528830, 72.783512
Biy Ordo Guest House: 40.558670, 72.800163
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Osh Airport
Osh Airport

Osh Airport is not big, nor is it modern.  Nor is it well organized.  There's likely to be lots of pushing/shoving through lines, and your luggage will likely be carted around on a truck, rather than distributed on orderly conveyors at baggage terminals.  That said, there are flights to most Central Asian countries, Turkey, West/Northwest China, and Russia.
Osh Airport, Osh, Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan
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Buses to Kashgar
Buses to Kashgar

Buses to Kashgar depart at 6pm on Wednesdays and Sundays from the Pekin Trade Center.. The bus tickets are sold from a small office that's the second door on the right as you walk the dead end alley along west side of the Kerechek Bazaar. It's advisable to book ahead, as buses often sell out and the route to Kashgar is a busy one.
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Minibus Station
Minibus Station

Minibuses frequently run between Osh and other cities in Kyrgyzstan.  If you are head from Osh to Uzbekistan, you'll want to catch a minibus to Dustlyk (Dostyk), which is where the main border crossing is.  It's advisable to check ahead for schedules.
Osh, Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan
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Sulaiman Too Sacred Mountain
Sulaiman Too Sacred Mountain

This sacred mountain looms over Osh, and for millenia has been a place of worship.  There are many different caves dotting the mountain, each set up as a place of worship, and each of which is reputed to have a different spiritual or physical benefit, such as enhancing fertility or curing diseases.  Veneration of the mountain existed in pre-Islamic times, and there are numerous sites with pterogylphs.  The mountain is considered the best example of a Central Asian sacred mountain and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

For more informaiton, check out the UNESCO World Heritage writeup on the site here: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1230 
Sulaiman Too, Gapar Aytiev, Osh, Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan
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Osh Central Bazaar
Osh Central Bazaar

A huge, bustling market that is open 7 days a week - though most busy on Sundays and partially closed on Mondays.  It is the largest bazaar in Central Asia, and you can find everything from traditional knives, hats, blacksmithy work (some of which is done right in the market), local fruits/vegetables, and imported goods from other Central Asian countries and western China.
Osh Central Bazaar, Osh, Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan
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UTAMK
UTAMK

A museum built to honor the city's 3000 year celebration, the UTAMK museum has some interesting displays, such as ancient weapons of the area. There are a number of other archaeological exhibits, and historical photos, including exhibits on the city's 1916 uprising.


Osh, Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan
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Dom Babura
Dom Babura

The Dom Babura was reconstructed in 1989, and is/was a prayer room that dates back to 1497.  The prayer room was initially constructed by Zahiruddin Babur, who was the progenitor of the Moghul Dynasty in India.  The prayer room has been destroyed several times in it's history, once by earthquake in the 1800's and then in the 1960's by an explosion.
Osh, Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan
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Sulaiman Too Museum
Sulaiman Too Museum

Inside what looks like a giant lady's bonnet protruding from the mouth of a cave in the side of Sulaiman Too, is a museum on the religio-cultural history of Osh and the surrounding Ferghana valley.  In addition, there are photos and guides towards which of the many shrines on Sulaiman Too is dedicated towards the curing of which ailment.
Sulaiman Too, Gapar Aytiev, Osh, Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan
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Biy Ordo Guest House
Biy Ordo Guest House

The Biy Ordo Guest House has its own green yard, along with Wi-Fi, laundry, 24 hr reception, and other amenities for guests. It's about a 15 minute drive to Osh International Airport and 5 minutes walk to Downtown Osh.  The Biy Ordo offers both dorm-style accommodations around 10-11 a night, and private rooms in the 30-45 range. 

Click here to book at the Biy Ordo Guest House.
Biy Ordo Guest House, Osh, Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan
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