Lake Issyk-Kul located in Kyrgyzstan is a unique place which is famous for its sandy beaches, thermo-mineral radon sources, alpine meadows and picturesque gorges. It is also famous for the healing effects of its water.
The most beautiful lake of Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul lake can be called “a sapphire”, “the pearl of Kyrgyzstan”, “a diamond lost among the mountains”, but it is quite clear that it is one of the most beautiful lakes in Central Asia and, perhaps, in the whole world.
“Issyk-Kul” is translated from Kyrgyz language “a hot lake”. It is called so because of the physical and thermal features of the lake: despite Issyk-Kul is located between the ridges of Northern Tien-Shan at 1609 m above sea level, it never freezes, even in winter. The Kyrgyz people very often call it “the pearl of Tien-Shan”. It is the second largest lake in the world after Lake Baikal. The climate of Issyk-Kul valley is quite unique: it is a rare combination of marine-like climate, steppe and mountainous climates. Moreover it is located very close to the zone of eternal glaciers.
Lake Issyk-Kul is known since ancient times. A Chinese explorer and traveler Zhan Tsan visited the lake in 128 B.C. and wrote about it in his notes. There is also a mention of Issyk-Kul lake in the written works of another Chinese explorer Syuan Zhan, in the description of his 16-year expedition.
Tourism in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan
Lake Issyk-Kul is a unique place which is famous for its sandy beaches, thermo-mineral radon sources, alpine meadows and picturesque gorges. It is also famous for the healing effects of its water.
Tourism to Issyk-Kul lake offers a great travel experience combining the classical swimming and beach tourism with adventure tourism, through hiking in the mountains. The Grigoriev (or Grigorievskoe), Semenov (or Semenovskoe) and Altyn Arashan gorges will impress visitors by unforgettable landscapes and high mountains giving an unbelievable spirit of liberty.
The Grigoriev gorge was called after Grigoriy Nikolaevich Lytikov as in the Soviet times he based the same name village near to the gorge. In 1912 he got a permission in Petersburg to build the village. The tourists will be impressed by the high and mighty Tien-Shan pines, growing on the mountainsides. You will be offered to ride a horse or make photos with falcons of different sizes. Tourists will also be offered to buy highly ecological honey or buckthorn wine or to have dinner with fresh trout or shish kebab. Those who wish to spend the night in the Grigoriev gorge can do this by staying in the set yurts.
The Semenov gorge differs from the Grigoriev gorge despite it is located only 30 minutes’ drive from it. The Semenov gorge will not surprise you with pines, but with meadows instead. The mountains here seem very far, but you can find herds of beautiful horses grazing very close.
The Altyn-Arashan gorge is located 10 km from Karakol city, which is also located in the Issyk-Kul region. All year round you can see tourists coming to Karakol as it is a very popular destination for skiing and snowboarding lovers in the winter (here there is a famous mountains-ski base) and hiking and camping in summer. Altyn-Arashan is translated from Kyrgyz language as a “golden spring”. It is difficult to get to them even by car, but the sense of unspeakable pleasure is worth it. Only imagine: among high mountains, when the weather is cool and fresh, you are basking in the hot thermal water! By the way, in Karakol city tourists should obligatorily taste “karakolskoe ashlyam-fu” – the dish of a Doungan origin, but modified to the Kyrgyz version. It is a cold soup with noodles, starch and fried eggs and it is usually served with a little potato pie. Just delicious!
What to do at Lake Issyk-Kul
As for Issyk-Kul lake – it is described by visitors with words of great admiration as it is really beautiful. There are many hotels, sanatoriums, hostels and small private houses for rent. The prices can significantly vary depending on the type and class of the service. Nevertheless, tourists can find for the period of their stay an appropriate accommodation with a standard package of comfort facilities and it will not exceed 25 dollars per day.
Tourism to Issyk-Kul lake will include excursions as well. You can visit the canyon “Skazka” (“fairytale” from Russian language). Why is it called so? The relief and shapes of this canyon are so unusual and bizarre that to call it a fairytale looks rather logic.
Excursions around Issyk-Kul lake include visiting the beautiful waterfalls. On the way to them tourists will see the Yuri Gagarin monument – the legendary Soviet cosmonaut.
A very interesting destination is the Jeti-Oguz gorge as well. It is translated from Kyrgyz as “seven oxen”. This name came from seven ridges of the rock of the Jeti-Oguz gorge. The other rock which the tourists should visit is called “Broken heart” – the top of the rock is divided into two parts, in such a way making an impression of a broken heart. The cave paintings Saimaly-Tash (several thousands of famous petroglyphs) located in the northern shore of Issyk-Kul is a unique opportunity to “touch history”.
Legends and myths of Lake Issyk-Kul
Concerning to the cultural requests of the visitors, a great number of legends are connected with the Issyk-Kul lake. Local people remember many of those which survived until today. One of them tells that in ancient times a ruling khan fell in love with a beautiful girl. He ordered to kidnap her and take her to his palace. But the girl already loved one young man and she rejected the khan’s love. The young lover saved her with his magic horse Tulpar. They escaped from the khan’s palace. But the guard of the cruel khan returned the unhappy girl. She dropped herself from the window of the tower. As a punishment for the khan’s cruelty water from the mountains came down on his palace and turned it into ruins. In such a way the beautiful Issyk-Kul appeared.
There is also a legend according to which on the bottom of Issyk-Kul exists a treasure trove, left by Nestorian monks which ran to Kyrgyz land during the revolution.
There is even a legend in which they say that the greatest conqueror Chinghizkhan was buried on the shore of Issyk-Kul lake. There are many others, connected with this beautiful sapphire of the Central Asia.
Which one will you learn when you come to Issyk-Kul?