One place I was eager to visit during my time in the Kyrgyz capital was Burana Tower, the country’s answer to the Leaning Tower only with more mountains and less pizza. The minaret was used as a watchtower centuries ago and is still standing (albeit a bit shorter) after hundreds of years and a couple of earthquakes. The tower itself is pretty cool but the scenery that surrounds it makes it all the more stunning.
Burana is situated just outside of Tokmok which is around an hour away from Bishkek. The journey there sounded like a bit of a hassle when I looked it up but in reality it was pretty simple. To start with I took a city marshrutka (minivan) to Bishkek’s east bus station from where the 353 departs to Tokmok. They leave when full so just wander round the station looking for the bloke shouting “Tokmok!”. You pay on the bus and it costs 50 som one way.
After about an hour’s drive, I arrived at Tokmok’s bus station where I was immediately greeted by a taxi driver offering to drive me to Burana (about 10 or so km away). He offered 1000 som but he went right down to 500 som with little persuasion – you could possibly try getting him down even lower. This would include return transport and him waiting for me (make sure you establish that).
I’d had visions of it being stunningly clear like I’d seen in other people’s photos but unfortunately I was in Bishkek when the weather wasn’t so good (though I’m saying that as I sit in a Bishkek beer garden in glorious sunshine) so I got quite a moody reception. It added to the atmosphere though with the mist descending on the mountains behind the tower.
The archaeological site was all but deserted. I paid my 60 som entrance fee and was basically free to roam. There are various paths, hills and vantage points from which you can snap pictures of the tower. Sadly they’ve stuck a big industrial staircase on the side of it which takes away from the mood slightly, so all my photos involved having to manoeuvre round that.
As well as the tower, there are various petroglyphs which are pretty quirky. Surprisingly, there were also information boards in English so I could learn about the history too. When I was ready to leave I headed back out and returned to the bus station. The 353 and the 300 go back to Bishkek. Overall, it was a good half day trip – relatively easy and cheap with an insight into the history of this nomadic country.