Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country, over three quarter of its surface area is 4,920 feet above sea level. The Tien-Shan mountains, at the Chinese border, are the highest, the Pobieda peak measures 24,400 feet above sea level. Two other mountain chains, Mount Fergana, in the centre of the country, and the Pamir mountains in the north give Kyrgyzstan a special relief, with snowy peaks and steep-sided valleys.
The fauna and flora of Kyrgyzstan is largely defined by its mainly mountainous geography.
The flora of Kyrgyzstan is quite rich; it includes 600 wild herb species, 200 of which are officially recognised as being medicinal. The most well-known plants are the edelweiss, the juniper ('artcha' in Kyrgyz), the Temenov fir tree and various species of tulips, including the Greigii, the Kaufmanniana and the kolpakowskiana.
In terms of the fauna, Kyrgyzstan is home to 75 fish species, 33 reptile species, 368 types of birds and 83 different mammals. Starting at 3,400m, you might spot a grey marmot or brown bear during the summer season. The other inhabitants of the mountains are sheep, hare, mountain goats and wolves. Starting at 4,000m, you should be able to see a mountain goose, a blue pigeon, a partridge, an alpine jackdaw and a bullfinch. Only leopards, predatory birds and goats live above 4,500m of altitude.
There are several endangered species here, including wild sheep, the snow goat, the goat, the noble deer, the bear, the lynx and the snow leopard. 83 nature reserves and one national park have the goal of preserving these species and promoting ecological tourism.
A nomadic people that originally came from Siberia, the Kyrgyz people have always survived on stockbreeding, and horse-riding is a very important element in the culture of the country. There is an impressive amount of equestrian games that are often presented during festivals and demonstrations.
Traditional artisanry is the other main component of Kyrgyz culture and is passed on to young girls at a very early age. Rugs and yurts are probably the most well-known items from the Kyrgyz culture.
Manas is the undisputed hero of the Kyrgyz people. He is the subject of many legends and epic tales that tell the story of his life and that of his sons. The Epic of Manas, which is longer than The Odyssey and The Iliad combined, were orally transmitted from generation to generation over the last thousand years. The storytellers and singers who were able to tell/chant the most important works of the Kyrgyz people were respected by all.