The ultimate guide to Issyk-Kul Lake, the Earth's eye

The ultimate guide to Issyk-Kul Lake, the Earth's eye

3 minutes to read

Issyk-Kul Lake is not only the biggest lake of Kyrgyzstan, covering 6,236 square kilometres surface area but also the second biggest mountain lake in the world, after the Lake Titicaca. Despite being surrounded by always snowcapped mountains (Kungey Ala-Too and Teskey Ala-Too), Issyk-Kul never gets frozen. This characteristic gave it the name, which means "a warm lake" in the Kyrgyz language. Scientists explain its unfrozenness by the saltiness of the lake. A unique combination of the sea and mountain climates and its beauty have always attracted tourists from all over the post-Soviet Union. There are many health sanatoria, nature and cultural attractions around Issyk-Kul Lake, both in the north and south shores. That's why Issyk-Kul is the ultimate source of tourist income in Kyrgyzstan. No wonder that it is referred to as "the pearl of Kyrgyzstan" in many local guides, but also as the Earth's eye

Picture © Credit to iStock/Ozbalci
Picture © Credit to iStock/Ozbalci

Issyk-Kul is an oasis of Kyrgyzstan

When summer reaches the highest degrees, locals seek an exile in a cool breeze of Issyk-Kul Lake. Meanwhile, it can get from 30 to 40 degrees in big valleys or cities like Osh and Bishkek. Issyk-Kul Lake is located in the north of Kyrgyzstan and locked between the Tian-Shan Mountains. The temperature all around Issyk-Kul Lake is mild and doesn’t get hotter than 30 degrees.  Plus, there are many nature resorts, hiking possibilities, museums, making it one of the most popular summer touristic destination in Kyrgyzstan. The north of Issyk-Kul has a longer touristic history, there are more hotels, restaurants, discos, touristic agents, guides and, of course, more tourists. But if you prefer more quiet resorts and beaches, then you should check out the south shore of Issyk-Kul. Even though it doesn't lack places to stay or touristic attractions, it is less populated. 

Picture © Credit to iStock/longtaildog
Picture © Credit to iStock/longtaildog

What to do in Issyk-Kul?

It takes around 3-4 hours to get to Issyk-Kul from Bishkek by a car, and 6-7 hours by train till Balykchi, where you have to take a taxi to get to bigger cities or villages. The touristic season starts in June. The peak of the season happens from mid-July to mid-August, when the water temperature is the highest. The most popular city on the north is Cholpon-Ata. It has many old and new hotels, sanatoria, tourist agencies, that can take you to nature reserves around it. Another popular village in the north is Bosteri. You can stay in a hotel, hostel, sanatoria (with spa and medical services), guest house (where hosts also live) and yurta hostels. All of these accommodations usually can include a full board for an extra price. There are many nature resorts that must be checked out. The most popular is Chon-Ak-Suu Gorge, located in the Tian-Shan Mountains. it has everything that Kyrgyz mountains are rich for: glaciers, pastures with yurtas and cattle, beautiful alpine lakes and rivers. Canyon Skazka is a new popular destination for travelers who want to see different Kyrgyzstan. If you are into history and culture, Issyk-Kul has something for you as well. Check out "Petroglyphs' museum" for ancient history and "Rukh Ordo" cultural center for more recent history. 

Chon-Ak-Suu Gorge
Chon-Ak-Suu Gorge
Chon-Aksu, Kyrgyzstan
Museum of petroglyphs in Cholpon-Ata
Museum of petroglyphs in Cholpon-Ata
Cholpon Ata, Kyrgyzstan
Cultural Center Rukh Ordo
Cultural Center Rukh Ordo
Sovetskaya St, Cholpon-Ata, Kirghizistan
Canyon Skazka, Tong
Canyon Skazka, Tong
Tong, Kyrgyzstan
Picture © Credit to iStock/Elena Odareeva
Picture © Credit to iStock/Elena Odareeva

For centuries Issyk-Kul has inspired admiration among poets, shamans, painters, locals and foreigners. Astronaut Sergey Ryazanskiy found the view of Issyk-Kul Lake from cosmos very fascinating and called it "the eye of the Earth". It is an ultimate summer attraction, a must-visit destination that will be recommended in any tourist guide. If you can visit just one place in Kyrgyzstan, it has to be Issyk-Kul Lake. The pearl of Kyrgyzstan, as referred by locals, it has rich possibilities for having relaxing, rehabilitating, adventurous, fun or even spiritual vacations. 

Cover photo © credit to iStock/alsem

Issyk-Kul Lake
Issyk-Kul Lake
Lac Iessik, Kirghizistan

The author

Gulzat Matisakova

Gulzat Matisakova

Hello. I am Gulzat, from Kyrgyzstan. I studied documentary filmmaking in Europe. In my free time I enjoy watching films and hiking. I am here to guide you through the treasures of Kyrgyzstan.

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