Issyk-Kul

Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Issyk-Kul (“hot lake” in Kyrgyz) is the world's second largest salt lake ( after Caspian) and is 1609 above sea level. The lake is about 180 km long by 70 km wide and 668 meters deep at the deepest point, (the average depth is about 300 meters ).The lake never freezes ( hence the name), even though surrounded by mountains.

The area was basically unknown to the Western world until Russian “explorers” like Tianshansky Semeyenov ventured into the mountains nearby. There was greater contact with the East, however, and the Chinese traveler Jan Chan Tzan reached the lake in about 128 BC as part of a 6-year journey of exploration (138-126BC). The first written account of the lake comes from another Chinese traveler, Suan Zsan, when describing his 16-year journey of exploration. The first written example of the use of the name, Isi-kul, dates from an anonymous work – “The boundaries of the world from East to West” – written in Tajik in 982 AD. It also accurately states the size of the lake.

Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

From Bishkek the lake is approached through Boom Gorge, and it is possible to cut into the mountains here to the Chon Kemin valley. The lake lies at the bottom of a drainage hollow, or depression and has no outflow.

Mountains ring the lake and there are several valleys worth visiting, Gregorievka and Simeonevka on the North, Barskoon on the South and numerous others around Karakol. To the North are the Kungei (“Sunny”) Ala-Too mountains and are criss-crossed by trekking routes including ones that connect the lake with Almaty – while to the South lie the Teskei (“Shady”) Ala- Too mountains. These mountain ranges protect the Issyk Kul hollow from winds bringing either extreme cold – or extremely hot winds. Moreover, the lake valley is a unique combination of sea, steppe, mountain climates and eternal ice zone. The very appearance of Issyk-Kul Lake is a “geological mystery”.

Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Issyk-Kul is a special place famous for its warm, sandy beaches, thermal mineral radon springs, alpine meadows, coniferous forests of the park type. All this is beside the enchanting and alluring peaks and glaciers, including many of the highest mountain verticals.

The lake Issyk-Kul has been held in high regard by the Kyrgyz – it is known as the “pearl of the Tien Shan” – and in 2004, the government declared the lake as the “property of the nation”.

Due to its size it sometimes appears like an inland sea, and it has a fair number of beaches. Most of these are on the Northern shore and have long acted as a magnet for tourists. There is a large number of hotels, sanatoria, guesthouses and homestays at various points around the lake, many of which can make arrangements for services to the neighbouring mountains. Some of the sanatoria have hydrothermal springs and offer mud baths.

Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

The tourist season usually runs from June until September – but the peak season is from about 25 th July until 25 th August – and it may be difficult to find places and prices are at a premium. A number of the sanatoria, hotels, guesthouses and homestays around the lake operate all year round – although some are open only during the summer season.

Those who have health problems are offered a wide range of effective health treatment and spa. There is a beautiful resort area with mud and thermal mineral spa. There is a dead lake, an analog of the Israeli Dead Sea 200 m from Issyk-Kul Lake and 8 km from the southern highway.

Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Issyk-Kul region is also home to many nesting and resting migratory and wintering birds, including swans, geese, ducks, cranes and many other representatives of the fauna.

The area relishes in some 2900 hours of sunshine a year. Because of the effect of the mountain ranges North and South, it does not suffer from extreme Continental climatic conditions. Summer temperatures are usually around 25-28 °C, but as the lake lies at an altitude of some 1606m, it can get quite chilly, especially at night. Winter temperatures can be around –5 °C.

Air and Water Temperatures

 Air and Water Temperatures, °C

 

Month

 

 May

 Jun

 Jul

 Aug

 Sep

 Daily Air temperature

 18

 20

 24

 23

 18

 Night Air temperature

 8.5

 10

 11

 11

 8

 Average daily Air temperature

 16

 18

 21

 19

 12

 Daily Water temperature

 7

 12

 20

 20

 14

 Night Water temperature

 6

 10

 18

 18

 12

 Average daily Water temperature

 6

 11

 18

 18

 12