Issyk-Kul and Son-Kul lakes

Kyrgyzstan is not only a country of mountains but also a country of alpine lakes.  The number of lakes on the territory of Kyrgyzstan runs to 1923. The origin of the lakes is different: tectonic  lakes , erosion lakes, glaciation lakes and karstric lakes. Some lakes reach the size of small seas but some are not even mapped because of their  tiny size. The beauty of many lakes is so unusual and marvelous, that local people living there from ancient times invented many legends about their origins.

But most mountain lakes are small  water bodies of glacier and erosion origin. The exceptions are large lakes in holes of tectonic origin. The three biggest lakes in Kyrgyzstan are Issyk-Kul, Son-Kul and Chatyr-Kul formed exactly by tectonic processes.  


In the north-east of Kyrgyzstan among mighty mountain ranges that make up the Nothern Tien-Shan is located a big hollow of the Issyk-Kul Lake sometimes called “Kyrgyz Sea” because of its size. The hollow stretches from west to east over 275 km, from north to south over 146 km. Lake Issyk-Kul (in Kyrgyz “hot lake”, in ancient Turkic “Holy lake”) is regarded as a pearl of the country and whole Tien-Shan. The first record of the Issyk-Kul  Lake is found in the Chinese chronicles of the end of II century B.C.  where it is called “Dje-Hai” (“warm sea”).  The lake is located in the north-east of Kyrgyzstan in a wide tectonic hollow formed more than 50 milliard years ago. 

The surface square of this lake located at the altitude of 1607 m above the sea level makes up 6236 According to its size it is on the 23th place among words biggest lakes. Moreover, it is one of the deepest lakes of the globe. It follows only the Baikal Lake, the Kaspian Sea, the Tanganika and Nyasa Lakes.  Issyk-Kul is the second largest mountain lake in the world after the Titikaka Lake in South America. Its length  is about 178 km, and its width makes up 60 km, the coastline reaches to 668 km and the maximum depth makes up 668 meters.  The coastline of the lake is much  indented – there are about twenty picturesque bays and creeks. 

A narrow lakeside plain adjoins straight to the lake crossed b many rivers.  The lake has no outflow, but about eighty rivers and brooks flow into the lake. That is why the water in the lake is a bit salty, (almost 6 gr/liter), not drinkable but very transparent.  The main sources supplying the water to the lake are the Djyrgalan , Tup, Karakol, Djuuka, Ton, Djety-Oguz, Chon Ak-Suu, Ak-Terek, Barskoon, etc.  rivers.  

As a result of the climate changing and increase in using water of the rivers flowing into the lake for irrigation, the water level in the lake has decreased recently, but, according to the latest information, this process has begun developing it the opposite direction.

The Issyk-Kul Hollow is encircled by two massive mountain ranges – Kungei Ala-Too in the north (length 285 km, Chok-Tal – 4771 m), the Terskei Ala-Too in the south  (length 354 km, Karakol – 5280 m).  The mountain ring seems to fence the lake hollow from penetrating of the cold air from the north and the hot air from  the deserts of Central Asia that is why the climate here is pretty mild and makes the Issyk-Kul lake one of the biggest holiday centers of Central Asia. The water temperature in summer reaches +224 degrees, in winter - +4 degrees Celsius   (this is the reason of its name’s origin). The famous Russian explorer Semenov Tien-Shanskii called Issyk-Kul  “Aquamarine in a silver frame of the mountains”.

The name of the lake means “hot lake”  because it doesn’t freeze up all year round. The climate of the lake hollow is warm, dry, temperate, mountain-sea, favorable for  and treatment in sanatoria and health resorts, having holidays, tourism, water and mountain-skiing sports: few rainy days, many sunny days, high level of ultraviolet radiation, ionized air, good sandy beaches,  clean air, comfortable temperature (air temperature is +22-28 degrees, water temperature is +19-24), medicinal mineral waters and mud, plenty of fruit and vegetables – all this will create wonderful opportunities for rest and health recovering.    Various sanatoria, health resorts and holiday hotel concentrated mainly on the northern shore of the lake enable this opportunity . Cristal pure water, mineral springs together with mountain and at the same time mild, almost marine climate, enable a unique opportunity for resort rest with mud and thermal treatment. Lake Issyk-Kul is a true pearl of Central Asia. 


The Song-Kul Lake is situated in the heart of the Inner Tien-Shan 90 km to the west of Naryn Town. The hollow that is 57 km long and  29 km wide is located inside massive  mountain ranges.  In the center of this hollow is spread the second largest lake of Kyrgyzstan – Song-Kul.  Its length is 29 km and its width is 17 km. Its surface is located at the altitude of 3013 m above the sea level, the square of the surface is 270 km, maximum depth is 13.2 m. The lake is of tectonic origin filled with fresh water.

Eighty brooks flow into the lake but only one river- the Song-Kul River flows out of the lake. Only four rivers have permanent flow into the lake: Kum-Bel,  Ak-Tash, Tash-Tebe and Kara-Keche.  The coast line is variable. North-west part is cut by rocky bays, but the rest part has sloping shores with swampy  spots. In the valley of the Song-Kul River there are many thermokarst craters that have been formed as a result   of melting of permafrost located at the depth of 1.5 m. 4 km away from the water source the water stream is hiding to the rocky gorge as a cascade waterfalls – Kek Jerty.  The lake freezes up in the second half of October and ice begins to break up on the lake at the end of April.  In some years the ice can be 1 m thick.

Animal life is very variable.  Different kinds of ducks, seagulls, herons, and other kinds of waterfowl nest there in summer (66 species). Due to severe climate there was no fish in the lake before 1959. At present time osman, peled, cisco  has been  introduced into the lake.

Best time: June - September 
Activity: Rest, Auto-tour, Excursions
Duration: 6 days

Day 1 Bishkek. Airport "Manas". City tour. yurt B/L/D 
Day 2  Transfer to Bokonbaevo village. Homestay B/L/D 
Day 3  Day in Bokonbaevo village. Homestay B/L/D  
Day 4  Transfer to Son-Kul lake. yurt B/L/D
Day 5 Drive to Kyzyl-Oi village. Homestay B/L/D 
Day 6  Transfer back to Bishkek through suusamyr valley. yurt B/L/D 
Day 7  Departure. ---- B/-/-  

Price for groups:

2 – 3 pax - 948 USD per person

4 – 5 pax - 665 USD per person

6 – 7 pax - 540 USD per person

8 – 9 pax - 478 USD per person

10 + pax - 440 USD per person


Price includes:
1. Transport according to the program (driver will speak English)
2. Accommodation in the houses of locals
3. Meals – full board (B/L/D)
4. Excursions according to the program
5. Water 1 l. per day per person
6. Eagle hunting show in Bokonbaevo, “Shyrdak show” in Kochkorka.

Price does NOT include:
1. Any changes in the program
2. Alcohol beverages
3. Excursions not included in the program
4. Tips for guide, driver and hotel personnel
5. Any personal expenses in hotel: international calls, bar, etc.
6. Visa (Please look over this information in case you need visa)
7. Guide



Duration: 6 days 
Location: Kyrgyzstan. Issyk-Kul. Son-Kul.
Best time: June - September
Activity: Rest, Auto-tour, Excursions
People quantity: 2 - 12 

Day 1. Bishkek  

Arrival to Bishkek, meeting at the “Manas” airport, Transfer to Bishkek. Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and the biggest city in the country. It’s a distinctive administrative unit and is a town of the Republican Submission. The very first name of it was Pishpek, then it was called Frunze and only in 1991 it finally got the name it has now - Bishkek . Its population is about 1 million people. The town is located on the north of Kyrgyzstan in Chu valley at the foot of Tian-Shan mountains about 40km from Kyrgyz ridge and about 25km from Kazakh border.

Bishkek has many places for you to see. There are some large museums, the most interesting are: the Historical National museum, the Arts museum and the museum of M.V. Frunze. The center of the town is dappled by the show bills of Opera and Ballet Theater, Russian and Kyrgyz theaters, Bishkek Theater of Drama and National Philharmonic of T.Satylganov.

There are many places reminding people of the Soviet Union period of time. The influence of that epoch is mostly felt in the center where you may still see the row of soviet architecture buildings: Philharmonic, Government building, Historical museum, Victory monument. But you will also be able to see the modern samples of Kyrgyz architecture: Manas monument, monument of Courage, the monuments of akyns (Kyrgyz poets), manaschi (Kyrgyz Manas legend tellers) and local rulers of different times. The interesting fact is that Bishkek is the only town in Central Asia that still has the monument of V. I. Lenin on the central square.

Bishkek remembers its history and will definitely tell it to everybody who wants to visit this small but cozy capital. The town is also known to be the most ecological town of the world due to a lot of green parks keeping the shadow and coolness even on the hottest summer day.

Day 2. Bishkek – Bokonbaevo 

In the morning after the breakfast we will be transferred to Bokonbaevo village. On the way we will visit the historical-architectural complex of Burana Tower.

Burana tower (minaret) is located on the territory of an ancient settlement 90km far from Bishkek. The historians and archeologists proved that the settlement was once the capital of Karakhanid Khanate and was called Balasagun founded in 10th century AC. Burana tower is the central monument of this complex. After the excursion we will have lunch in one of the local families and continue our tour to the southern shore of Issyk-Kul lake to the village of Bokonbaevo where we will stay for the night in local family. 

Day 3.  Bokonbaevo

Today we will have an excursion to the national woolen carpet factory, see how the Kyrgyz national carpets are made nowadays and then see the eagle hunting show.

After lunch we may go to the shores of the Issyk-Kul Lake and have rest.

Issyk-Kul Lake is the second biggest mountain lake after Titicaca in South America; it is one of 25 biggest and 7 deepest lakes in the world. The length of this lake from west to east is 178 km, from south to north is 64km, depth is 668m. Issyk-Kul Lake ranks second in the transparency of water after Lake Baikal. The climate here is very soft, the average temperature of the summer is +17 C, it seems that at such a low temperature of summer the winters should be severe but vice versa the winters here are quite warm, average temperature in January is -3 C. The number of hours of sunshine is 2700 that is even more than at the Black Sea. The local people call this lake the “Pearl of Kyrgyzstan”. As a small bead put on the chain of mountain ridges it definitely justifies this name. The “Pearl” is located on the height of 1609 m above the sea level and enclosed from two sides by the ranges with the poetic names Terskey-Ala-Too (turned from the sun) and Kungey-Ala-Too (turned to the sun).  

Day 4. Bokonbaevo – Kochkorka – Son-Kul. 

In the morning we will enjoy the view of Terskey-Ala-Too ridge and after breakfast will continue our way. We will drive to Kochkorka village where we will have lunch and see the crafts show. You will see how Kyrgyz people made their carpets long long ago and will have a chance to visit the handicrafts museum where you may buy some souvenirs for your relatives and friends. After that we will be transferred to an amazing mountain lake Son-Kul which is opened only in summer as all the roads and the lake itself is covered with snow for the rest of the year. Dinner. In the evening we will be able to see the national horse games. Overnight in local yurts. 

Day 5. Son-Kul – Kyzyl-Oi. 

We will leave Son-Kul and go to Kyzyl-Oi village.  At first stopping at Djumgal valley which is about the same size as Suusamyr valley but much drier. Mountain slopes surrounding the valley are almost snowless. The river Djumgal counts only on subterranean waters and that’s why it’s a wide hollow river which may be forded in many places. Djumgal river flows into Kekemeren which is being the culmination of our day. We will stay in Kyzyl-Oi village for lunch and will enjoy the view of one of the most beautiful rivers in Kyrgyzstan. Overnight in the village.

Kekemeren means the “Blue flow”. It flows through the canyon with steep walls of the 500 meters height then goes into the valley and further into the canyon again… It comes to Naryn river going first through Kavak ridge being a big turbulent and high-water river deep curved into the bottom of the valley. It gives its cold waters to Naryn cooling the river for over a degree. 

Day 6. Kyzyl-Oi - Bishkek.

We continue going to Suusamyr and soon we will dive to the main Kyrgyz road going from Bishkek to Osh and come into the green wide valley (steppe). The mountains surrounding it gave the valley so much space that for a moment one may forget being in the harsh mountain country. Here you may see many nomads who brought their yurts for the summer time. On the green grass canvas all these yurts look like white minarets. Going back to Bishkek. Arrival. Accommodation.

Day 7. Flight home from “Manas” airport.

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