The Chatyr-Köl Lake is located between the At-Bashy and Torugart-Too mountain ranges at 3,350 m (10,990 ft) of altitude. It is the third largest lake of Kyrgyzstan with a surface of 180 km2. Literally, its name means in Kyrgyz means “celestial lake” and probably originates from the high location of the wild lake.
The Chatyr Kul Lake is a biodiversity reserve, known as a resting place for several breeds of wild birds. There is little fish in this very cold and isolated lake.
Back in history
The Lake was discovered on March 11th, 1859 by the famous traveler and researcher of Central Asia, Shokan Valikhanov.
The Chatyr- Kul Lake nowadays
Chatyr-Köl is an alpine and relatively shallow lake (up to 20 m or 5.6 ft of depth), which extends over 23 km (14.3 miles) long and 10 km (6.2 miles) wide. The water mostly comes from glaciers and it is always very cold. The lake occupies the lowest part of the tectonic cavity located between the At-Bashy and Torugart-Too mountain range, at an altitude of 3,350 meters.
The lake is located right at the border with China and is sometimes a dispute point between the two neighboring countries.
In summer, the Lake region recorded temperatures relatively cool but pleasant, bordering 10 °C (50F), whereas in winter, temperatures can sometimes drop below - 20 °C (-4F). The lake is usually frozen from October to April.
Visiting Chatyr Kol
The landscape that surrounds the lake and will accompany you throughout your journey is spectacular. On foot or on horseback, you can enjoy the view of the blue water of the lake, which reflects the snow-capped mountains from a high mountain pass.
You can hike from Tash Rabat to the pass giving a panoramic view on the Chatyr Kul Lake. Back and forth, it will take around 8 hours of intense walking. The total distance is just above 25 km (15.5 nmiles). However, the difficulty of the altitude, which starts already above 3,000 m, and the unstable climate can make walking difficult.
You may want to consider taking two days to go to Chatyr Kol. Be careful, however, the lake is located in a border zone and you will need a special border permit to access it without problem and spend the night there. You can hike up to the pass without a permit.
The surroundings of the lake are very swampy and can be dangerous, it is better to go there with a guide.
You may see many different wild animals including marmots, goats and golden gooses, or even see footprints of snow leopards.
A little further to the South of the mountain range Torugart-Too, you can discover the Small Chatyr Köl Lake, connected to the main lake by a channel. Not far from there, some thermal springs, a natural reserve and a mausoleum can offer a pleasant break.
How to get there?
Before the passage of the Dolon Peak, a road forks westward in the direction of the lake Chatyr-Köl.
You can also get there from the caravanserai of Tash Rabat on foot or on horseback. To get to the lake, you will need on average 5 in 6 hours.