Issyk-Kul Lake

Kyrgyzstan's Issyk-Kul Lake is not only one of the world's few remaining ancient lakes, estimated to be an incredible 25 million years old, but also the second-largest alpine lake on the planet. Surrounding the lake are the snowcapped Tian Shan mountains, towering as high as 13,000 feet in the sky. The lake itself reaches depths of over 2,000 feet.

Boasting a long and storied history, the lake was once a stop along the ancient Silk Road. Issyk-Kul was also once used by the Soviet Navy as a torpedo testing site, during which time foreigners were not permitted to visit the area. The lake was a popular summer escape during the Soviet Era, and continues to attract sun-seekers from around the world, especially in the warm month of August. A mountain pass will soon connect Issyk-Kul and Almaty, allowing for easier visitor access to the beautiful lake.


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Ancient Scythian Cemeteries

Issyk-Kul Lake, with its ancient and mysterious history, is home to huge burial mounds of historic Scythian Kings. These are marked with silent stone statues to commemorate the civilizations that once inhabited this area. It’s an enchanting sight, also dedicated to the legendary Ferghana horses and is decorated with symbols of solar representations and mythical creatures.


Issyk-Kul Lake is home to beaches that stretch for hundreds of miles, perfect for enjoying some sun and swimming in the lake’s cool, refreshing waters. Those enjoying the sun should, however, be careful - due to Issyk-Kul’s elevated position, skin can succumb to sunburns much quicker than in lower-lying areas.


Due to its salt content, Issyk-Kul Lake never freezes, making it an important stopover point for migratory birds. Bird-watchers can come to catch glimpses of the birds who graze and breed in the foothills of the lake, including the Common Redshank, Kentish Plover, Common Snipe, Little Bittern, Ferruginous Duck and Demoiselle Crane.


With several species of fish, including Soman, Chebak, Carp and Trout, combined with the area’s incredible beauty, Issyk-Kul Lake is a popular fishing destination. Fishing should, however, be done with caution and moderation, as the lake has been a victim of overfishing in the past.


There are many hiking routes in the steep mountains surrounding the lake, allowing visitors to get up-close and personal with the area’s flora and fauna. Rushing rivers and hot springs make wonderful stopping points along a hike at Issyk-Kul Lake.

Water Sports

In the lake’s most popular areas, like Cholpon-Ata, it’s possible to rent rowboats and even jet-skis, making the lake even more attractive for those who wish to have some fun in the sun. There are always plenty of sailboats on the lake as well, being a popular boating destination.

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