Although Kochkor is best described as a gateway community for its natural surroundings (mainly trips to Song Kul), there is still much to do during your visit. The people are very friendly and willing to strike up a conversation with visitors.
- 1 Taxi stand & bus station. Kochkor has built this new taxi stand and bus station on the main road. There you can catch marshrutkas to the main destinations in the region, or negotiate shared taxi rides to more remote places like Jumgal or the Ferghana Valley.
Kochkor lies on the main route between Bishkek and At Bashi, with many options of buses, marshrutkas and shared taxis at hand.
Kochkor is a large village, but can be easily explored on foot. However, if you want to visit a nearby village, finding a taxi might be difficult. The best thing to do is walk in the direction you want to go and wave at a passing car if you want them to stop. If they do give you a ride, it is polite to offer them money for petrol.
There are marshrutkas that run east/west on the main road from one end of the town to the other. But they keep irregular schedules.
- 1 Animal Bazaar (Skotskiy Rynok). Saturdays. Here you can view Kyrgyz livestock and observe local farmers buying and selling their animals. The bazaar is also a good place to stock up on any essentials that you might be running low on.
- 2 Kochkor park. A haven of greenery just south of the taxi stand. Within the park are various Soviet-era structures in various stages of use. There you will find the Kochkor museum (which may or may not be open), the Wedding Palace, the cinema (now closed), the Cultural Hall (still open and working, inside you will find a billiard hall, library, performance hall, and antique Soviet video games), the Sports Hall.
There are three competing community-tourism organisations, what makes Kochkor the best place to plan an unforgettable trip to Song Kul or other Kyrgyz jailoos. These trip are generally only practical in the summer months between mid-May to mid-September according to the daily weather conditions.
For a very common two-day, one-night horse trip in a small group to Song Kul the rates at the upper end are in total around 7,000 som (1,000 for accommodation in a yurt, 2,600 for two days for horse rental, 1,600 for transportation, 1,200 for a guide, 600 for food). However, asking around can bring prices down.
- 1 CBT Kochkor. This community-based organisation has the biggest network throughout the country.
- 2 Shepherds Life. Another professional tour organizer with a homestay in Kyzart village (20 km west of Kochkor).
- 3 Jailoo.
If purchasing sheep isn't what you came for, Kochkor still can offer the shopping traveler a variety of experiences. In the center, there are two bazaars, one for food and the other for clothes. If you are planning on going up into the mountains and haven't got a pullover, now is the time to get one. Also, stop in the UNIMAG (Universal Magazine) and check out the bargains there.
But what Kochkor is truly known for is the women's handicraft cooperative, Altyn Kol (Kyrgyz for 'golden hand'). Founded in the mid-1990s as a way to provide an alternate source of income for struggling rural families, Altyn Kol has become world known for its handmade felt carpets (shyrdaks). If you are visiting Kyrgyzstan during late May or late November, inquire about their bi-annual exhibition at the Kyrgyz Cultural Museum in Bishkek.
Kochkor offers the standard fare for travelers, Russian cafe food with a Kyrgyz taste. The main cafes are:
- Retro Restaurant Formerly known as Cafe Baba Ata, they changed names two years ago. They have real coffee (espresso, cappuccino, etc.) barista style, an English menu, good food and generally cater well for tourists. On the main road just west of the CBT Office and west of the Adamkaly hotel, beside Beeline.
- Cafe Visit. one block west of the post office.
- Ash Liyam Fu (АШ ЛЯМ ФУ) (on the main road next to the police station). This little shack is run by one of the few Dungan families in town. There they serve one thing, homemade Ash Liyam Fu, a cold and spicy Dungan noodle dish. It is the cheapest meal in town (around 25 som) and is said to be a great hangover cure.
If you want to self-cater, the food bazaar sells wonderful fresh vegetables and fruit in the summer (make sure to wash with purified water). You can also find bread, cheese, and a variety of confections around the center.
- Retro Restaurant and Coffee Bar. Has coffee bar with espresso machine and full coffee menu, as well as tea and hot chocolate
There are two locally run homestay providers: CBT Kochkor and CBT+ECO. Each have their homestay networks that sometimes overlap. Both offices are near the new bus station and taxi stand.
- 1 Adamkaly Hotel, email@example.com. The hotel is close to the traffic light junction. It is more a homestay, but still most comfortable accommodation in town. Double rooms with/without bathroom are 1000/700 som including breakfast. Wi-fi is available for 50 som.
- 2 Happy Hostel, Исакеева № 67, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. A nice hostel with 20 bunk beds inside and a shared yurt. Run by friendly babushka who can not speak English, but can call her son to translate everything. Bunk bed 350 som, good breakfast 150 som.
Mobile signal is present in the city, but often very slow. Hostels and hotels provide free Wi-Fi, but this is again very slow. This is not their fault - the internet infrastructure is underdeveloped in this part of the country.
Kochkor is the gateway to:
- Song Kul – A scenic and very remote lake nearby. Horseback riding is very popular, but a strain for you body. If needed tours can be arranged in town. But (hitch)hiking is also possible.
- Tash Rabat – One of the highlights of Kyrgyzstan. You need to get to Naryn first.
- Kyzyl-Oy – A village popular with foreign tourists, has beautiful orange mountains around it and a mountain valley for hiking and yurt stay. Also gateway to the western regions of Kyrgyzstan. See Naryn Region#Get around on how to get there.
- Ferghana Valley – With places like Osh and Arslanbob. Going directly from here, you can save time instead of heading back to Bishkek and going from there. See Naryn Region#Get around on how to get there.