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.
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.
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.
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.
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 horse-trekking guides 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.
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.
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.