Meet Our Members
Learn the stories behind the faces.
Meet Destination Jyrgalan
Destination Jyrgalan is more than an organization, it’s a community-led movement to use tourism as a force for positive change. The members of the Jyrgalan community have created a growing tourism industry that benefits the entire community while also giving tourists a unique chance to experience rural life in Kyrgyzstan. Meet the team of people making this dream a reality.
Rahat Zhakypov & Janyl Bekboeva
Rahat and Janyl have had unique perspectives on Jyrgalan throughout the years. Between Rahat’s work as the town’s only police officer for 13 years and having raised five children in the town, the couple both wished for the town to prosper. But they worried declining job opportunities limited their ability to create a strong future. For this reason, they helped found the Jyrgalan DMO, opened one of the town’s first guesthouses, Rahat Guesthouse, and are grateful for the legacy they can now leave their children — both a sustainable business, and a prosperous village to call home.
Nazira Makenova & Azamat Karimov
Nazira and Azamat both had one focus in the years before tourism came to the Jyrgalan Valley: escape. Leaving was seemingly the only way to prosper. And yet, they loved their home. When given the opportunity to open a guesthouse, they were skeptical but hopeful that tourism would turn the tide for their community. Now that Nazira has seen that tourists come — and enjoy! — the region’s nature and unique culture, she is optimistic about her family’s future. She is enthusiastically improving her English skills, and plans to grow her business and hospitality skills alongside the growing tourism.
Emil Ibakov & Gulmira Primova
Emil and Gulmira wanted a quieter life when they moved to Jyrgalan Village in 2014. When they arrived, the community was struggling economically, but Emil and Gulmira saw great potential. Having come from other parts of Kyrgyzstan, they had a unique perspective on tourism — they knew tourists would enjoy the region’s untouched beauty and nature, if only there were tourism services to support independent travel. Their new community was on board and they collectively jump-started a tourism industry that has changed the entire fabric of village life. They opened the first guesthouse in town, and are also founding members of the Jyrgalan DMO.
Bermet & Azamat Japarov
Bermet and Azamat are long-time residents of the Jyrgalan community who thoroughly believe that tourism has saved their hometown. When tourism arrived, they both enthusiastically embraced it and began adjusting their life plans. They run a guesthouse and Azamat works as a horse trekking guide, too. Even more, their children now dream of a future in tourism. One of their sons is finishing school and plans to become a local guide as soon as he graduates. According to Bermet, it’s the valley’s year-round beauty that made tourism efforts so successful — tourists can’t help but enjoy the breezy summers and snowy winters.
Begaiym & Ulan Urakunov
Begaiym and Ulan are a mother-son duo who have opened their home to tourists. Begaiym has long dedicated her life to serving the town as the local paramedic and midwife, and Ulan believes he has the skills and knowledge to serve the growing number of tourists visiting Jyrgalan village. Although they both once thought that most economic potential lay outside of their community, they are optimistic that the pristine air and unique beauty of the region will fill their village with new opportunities. In addition to their guesthouse and sauna, they plan their growth into transportation services, tours, and more.
Danik & Yryskul
Danik and Yryskul are nomadic shepherds who live a lifestyle that dates back three millennia. They tend their flocks in the summer months on the jailoo, the summer mountain pasture. The couple’s lives opened to the outside world when tourism began in the summer of 2017, and they welcomed their first tourists to the Eki Chat yurt camp above the village of Jyrgalan. Tourism has enriched their world and they deeply enjoy hosting travelers and sharing their Kyrgyz traditions.
Mukalaev Talgat is a strong advocate and supporter of Destination Jyrgalan. He has degrees from the Agroindustrial College of Tokmok and the Academy of Law in Karakol. In 2015, he became a head of Regional Administration in Jyrgalan village. He is responsible for working with local communities to organize subbotniks (community work days) to keep the area clean, holding promotional activities for the town, and interacting with the government (police, emergency, ambulance, fire service, forestry). Most recently, he secured funding for a football (soccer) pitch that was completed in fall 2017.
Ruslan is a family man and true horse lover. He guides on the range of horse treks offered from town, and he also provides Jyrgalan village with kymyz treatments. Horses are a huge part of his life and he enjoys sharing with tourists what it’s like to enjoy the region’s beauty on horseback.
Meet the guides who will lead you on unforgettable horse treks or treks on foot through the Jyrgalan Valley. All guides are local — employing locals and boosting the local economy is a central part of our mission — and have their own unique reasons for guiding tourists through the mountains, rivers, lakes, and valleys in this place they call home. To learn even more about each guide, read their full stories here.
Azamat is one of the key horse-trekking guides in town and he deeply enjoys the hands-on work that goes into training his stable of 30 horses. He and his wife are active community members and are committed to helping Jyrgalan develop a lasting, sustainable tourism industry. They also run the Baitor Guesthouse.
Urmat has always loved the mountains, and it shows in his work and life. He is a part-time shepherd during the summer, living in the jailoo (summer mountain pastures) one day each week. And now that tourism has come to his hometown, he particularly loves sharing with tourists his extensive knowledge of and passion for natural spaces.
Born in the Jyrgalan Valley, Taalay believes that Jyrgalan is a holy place — the beauty of nature is unsurpassed — and he could never imagine living elsewhere. Although he worked in coal mining for a time, he has now fully realized his goal to become a mountain guide for tourists.
Azamat has many roles in the Jyrgalan community — long-time employee at Jyrgalan’s Emergency Ministry Department, mechanic, driver’s education instructor, and local mountain guide. He has a deep love for nature and works as a guide so that he can help tourists safely and thoroughly explore the region’s mountains, lakes, and valleys.
Almaz is a student of life with a keen interest in modern and ancient history. He fluently speaks Mandarin Chinese and is quickly learning English, too. Born and raised in Jyrgalan, he and his small family plan to make a life and future for themselves within the village’s growing tourism industry.
Elaman Imanbay Uulu
Elaman loves art and storytelling. He pulls inspiration from his culture’s traditions, as well as the beauty of the Jyrgalan Valley, his hometown. He deeply enjoys working with tourists as a trekking guide and he plans to expand his village’s tourism offerings by opening a panorama cafe at a scenic spot above town.
Altynbek is a local trekking guide committed to making his hometown a better place for locals and tourists alike. He plans to build an open-air gym and park. He is enthusiastic about the cross-cultural experiences that tourism has brought to his corner of the world, and he enjoys sharing stories with tourists.
Fluent in Russian and Kyrgyz, Eldiyar worked in construction for many years before returning to Jyrgalan to work in the village’s parliament and to help the community grow tourism. He loves guiding tourists and is improving his English skills so he can better share with tourists the region’s immense beauty.