The Lake Song Kol, "the Last Lake" in the Kyrgyz language, is located in the Karatal-Japyryk Natural Reserve in Naryn region and is accessible to the tourists only during the summer. For 200 days a year, the lake and the road leading to it, are entirely covered in snow and are unreachable to tourists. But, during the summer, it turns into a peaceful oasis and a perfect getaway from city noises. While the rest of Kyrgyzstan is melting under the hot summer sun, the Song Kol Lake, the second biggest lake in Kyrgyzstan, is protected from the heats by the serenity of the Tian-Shan Mountains. Raising at the height of 3016 meters above the sea level, it is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the whole Eurasian continent. Because of its distant location, there are far fewer tourists here, than in the Issyk-Kul Lake. The only inhabitants of the lake are diverse fauna and nomadic farmers. For thousands of years, it served as a water-drinking place for herds. The petroglyph paintings on the stones around the lake are there to prove it.
The Song Kol's nature is what your therapist would prescribe for stress-related diseases. Because of its distance from the cities, this site has very little anthropogenic influence. From November till April, Song Kol Lake area is covered in snow and absolutely untouched by people. However, in May, locals around the Naryn region start to settle around the lake for jailoo, a summer pasture. Despite not having even one single tree around the lake, it is a very green area with lots of nourishing grass that animals love. It is a must-visit place for ornithologists, as Song Kol Lake is home to 66 different bird species. There are also other animals like fox, wolves and snow leopards. Like many other places in Kyrgyzstan, Song Kol Lake is best enjoyed by lovers of sustainable eco-tourism. The areas around the nature reserve are suitable for hiking, camping, horse riding, and if it is warm enough, maybe even swimming. But there are no hotels, hostels, and restaurants around the lake. Only peace and incredibly beautiful nature are guaranteed.
The Song Kol Lake is 280 km away from Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. For the better part of the trip, you will be following the Bishkek-Naryn road, which is also a road to China. You can take a taxi or a mini-bus from Bishkek to Kochkor, and then take a cab to Song Kol. Many tourists use the services of a company "Community Based Tourism", known more as CBT. It has an office in Kochkor and organizes transportation to the Song Kol Lake, but also can provide guides and help find a yurta accommodation in Song Kol. Otherwise, you can go to the local market, or the main square, and get a private taxi. It is also possible to hike to the Song Kol from Kyzart, which would take around two days. You can get to Kyzart from Kochkor for around 200-1000 som. Lastly, it's possible to just stay in your tent, and avoid paying anything, since these lands are not private property.
A couple of centuries ago, Tengriism, a shamanic religion, was spread in Central Asia and Mongolia. It was crucial for people to take nature into account at every step of their lives. When you come to Song Kol Lake, you can still see this principle in practice. People live in close contact with nature; they rely on it and respect it. Far from urban cities, at the 3000 meters altitude, it is an excellent place for meditative, rehabilitating vacation. If it is hard for you to deal with 40 degrees summer, then a trip to Song Kol Lake could be a great getaway for you. Serenity, fresh air, and astonishing beauty are waiting for you here.
Cover photo © credit Flickr/Ninara
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