Located in the northeast of Kyrgyzstan , the Issyk-Kul lake , also spelled Ysyk-Kol , is perfect for a trip into the heart of nature. It ranks as the second largest lake of Central Asia. This place attracts numerous tourists thanks to its magnificent equestrian and pedestrian itineraries in the surrounding mountains.
Many years ago, the cities located on lakeshores were flooded. Legend has it that the lake was born after neighboring wells overflowed from not being properly locked; the flood affected all the surrounding cities, shaping the Issyk Kul Lake as we know it today. Formerly, Issyk-Kul used to be a Silk Road stopover for travellers headed westbound. According to historians, the black plague that struck Europe and Asia would have taken its origins in the region. On November 10th, 1976, the lake was recognized as a Ramsar heritage site. On December 8, 2006, at the bottom of the lake, archaeologists discovered items from an ancient civilization that had existed for nearly 2,500 years.
Issyk kul today
This small sea of fresh and crystal clear water is one of the largest lakes in Central Asia and is part of the twenty oldest lakes in the world. Its name can be translated to "hot lake", reflecting one of its main specificities: at 1,608 meters above sea level, the slight salinity of its water prevents it from freezing indeed, despite its altitude. Over 182-km long with a width of 60 km, Issyk-Kul covers an area of 6236 km2 with depths reaching 702 m.
Many streams and rivers come to feed its water just as the ice melt from the neighboring glaciers. Coiled in the middle of mountains, the Jenish Chokusoet Khan Tengri mounts of the Tien Shan chain rise at its end. The Issyk-Kul lake is the second world largest lake of transparent water after Lake Baikal (Russia). Around the lake, many cities have been built, including Cholpon-Ata, Balyktchy and Karakul , the administrative center of the region.
When approaching the lake, one can only be seized by the beauty of the site and the striking contrast between the blue water of the lake and the backdrop of mountains with snow-covered peaks. Lake Issyk-Kul is a relaxation center that gets its fame from its various medical institutions specializing in the treatment of tuberculosis. The northern shores are a little more landscaped and resemble a holiday destination with perfect seaside resorts to enjoy the virtues of its waters.
Still in the north of the small village of Kosh Kol , you can enjoy a lovely beach and its warm sand. Tanning sessions, long naps under the parasols and small baths await you. Some water activities are also offered, always under the supervision of the rescue team. The southern and eastern shores are ideal for trekkers. In the wilderness, you can enjoy nature and its magnificent panoramic views by following hiking trails on foot or horseback towards the highlands situated 4 000 meters high and beyond. At nightfall, you really should stop by a yurt camp for the night, only to wake up at dawn and watch the dramatic sunrise, gradually revealing the lake's greatness and the mountains' immaculate peaks.
Continue your travel towards the east of the lake, and explore the old rupestral drawings from the 8th century.
For mountaineers, there are drop-offs on the Khan Tengri massif, 150 km southeast of Issyk kul.
How to get there?
Like most places in Kyrgyzstan , the best way to get there is by bus or collective taxi. Most buses and taxis leave from Bishkek. The journey takes between 3 and 4 hours.