Chatkal Lakes - To the Lake of Sary-Chelek

One of the most beautiful places is Kyrgyzstan is the Sary-Chelek lake in the mountains of Tian-Shan. Sary-Chelek is translated from Kyrgyz as the “Yellow Bucket”, though the hosts call this ground “the Golden Hollow”. Sary-Chelek reserve covers the south side of Chatkal ghat and looks like a charmed part of land getting into which for most of Kyrgyz people is being a pipedream. This part got a great popularity due to its natural beauty – Turbulent rivers coming from the glaciers; blue-greenish lakes sparkling on the bottom of serrated rock ridges that give way to smooth slopes covered by rich amount of relict walnut forests and plentiful grass carpet covering the alpine meadows with multicolority.

The Sary-Chelek Lake itself is like a pearl that was beaded on the string of mountain chains. It goes from the south to the north for 7.5 km in the mountain gorge on the height of 1878 m. The lake is encircled by yellow boulders and fir trees clinging to the steep slopes and on their branches goosanders and gannets make their nests. Also the slopes are covered by graceful clematis and rare fern.

Sary-Chelek reserve founded in 1959 provides habitat for more than one third of Kyrgyz  species of flora and fauna including many of the most rare and endangered animals and plants such as the legendary snow leopard that finds it’s haven and solitude on the peaks of surrounding mountains. The nature here is absolutely unique, you will be stunned by the variety of mountain lakes and by their beauty. 

On the 11th day of our journey we will have a chance to see the national game “Ulak Tartysh”, an ancient competition widely spread among Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Tadjik, Uzbek and Karakalpak nations, that reminds one of polo, but instead of the ball people use the body of a dead goat. The point of the game is to grab the goat placed in the center of the field and throw it in the other team’s gates. There’s no limit on the quantity of the people in the team, it can be men or boys that try to reach each other in gallop and get the goat from their rivals. The team that gets more goals – wins. Besides these base rules, anything else is allowed; the game is a very extraordinary show, when the riders beat each other with the whips trying to get the goat out of that mess.

But Besides this wild spectacle we will give you a chance to get the idea of the peaceful life of Kyrgyz people, summer villages of which we will meet almost every day. Kyrgyz people come to their summer houses to breed the cattle on the summer pastures. Here you may also see gold diggers that wash the golden sand in Kashka-Suu river.

Best time: June-August

Activity: Horse-back riding trip with the elements of ethnography

Duration: 15 days

 Day 1. Arrival to Bishkek, Accommodation in the cozy guest house “Asia Mountains”. The hotel has all needed conveniences: conditioners in all rooms, TV with the multichannel satellite system, fridge, open air pool and BBQ. This day we open Bishkek, the small capital of Kyrgyzstan, located at the foot of Kyrgyz Ala-Too Mountains, at all corners of which there is a great view on the encircling snow peaks. We will see Ala-Too square, may also visit Historical Museum and souvenir shops where the Kyrgyz beautiful cotton carpets, slippers and hats of hand work are sold.

 Day 2. We leave Bishkek early in the morning going to the small village called Djaryk-Tash, it is located on the main Road going from Bishkek to Osh. We will drive about 600km by the good paved road until we finally turn to the mountains and continue our way by subterranean road. We will have our lunch on the way. In the evening we will make our camp on the river bank near the path that goes into the mountains. All our trip this day will take about 9 hours.

Day 3. Today we will start our horseback riding trip. The stunning scenery of forest mountains encircled by the snow peaks will be waiting for us, at the bottom there are green meadows full of beautiful field flowers. After the picnic we will make a descent to the bank of Kara-Suu river in the picturesque valley where we will make our camp for tonight. The length of our trip will be about 30 km.

 Day 4. Today we will make about 27 km. At first going through Kyzyl-Kyol village where you will see a blacksmith shop that still works. After that we will go up into the mountains covered by the bright carpet of field flowers from where there is an axciting view of the horizon. This day we will have our lunch in the Kyrgyz family house in their summer camp on Jailoo and get acquainted with their way of life. Then we will descent into the neighboring gorge to the Arkyt village where we will camp on the bank of mountain river.   

 Day 5. This day we will horseback ride nearby our camp, we will see the close mountains enjoying the magnificent sceneries and join one more Kyrgyz family for lunch. After that we will get back to our camp.

 Day 6. Today our aim is to make 30 more km of the gorgeous way. One can see it as if he suddenly found himself in the real reserve, the nature here is so untouched and it’s so beautiful. The fruit gardens are all around, walnut forests, picturesque meadows. After our lunch under the mulberry and walnut shadows we will continue our trip to the foot of Ashuu pass with the height of 2551 m. We will sleep in the camp at it’s foot in a beautiful secluded valley covered by wild raspberries and flowers.

 Day 7. The road to the Bakaly Lake is about 24 km. At first we will go by the path that goes straight into the mountains through the forest landscape and then cross the wild flower pastures on the way to the lake, hidden at the foot of high cliffs. After having lunch on the shore if the lake we will make other 15 km, along the lakeshores of Cacha-Kul and Iri-Kul and camp  in the great place on the shore of turquoise waters of Iri-Kul where the encircling mountains rise high above us and where we will have a chance to fish and swim. Not far away from our night stay there is a spring with the crystal clear water rich with minerals.

 Day 8. We will leave our camp in the morning to go to the south shore of Sary-Chelek lake. Our lunch will be in this one of the most beautiful places on Earth, on the shore of the lake that is surrounded by sheer cliffs and caves, hidden in the high green fir thickets full of bats. After lunch we go back by different path to our camp on the shore of Iri-Kul lake.  

 Day 9. Today is the day of rest for you and for your horses. While your horses are eating grass on the meadow you have a chance to choose what you prefer to do today, either it’s fishing, swimming or walking along the closest mountains. This place really reminds us of the heaven on Earth so you may just stay on the camp side nearby the shore enjoying your rest after so many days of trip. This will be our last night at Iri-Kul lake.

 Day 10. We will go to Kara-Suu lake today which is about 15 km far. The cross over Kyotyormyo pass will be very steep and narrow and you will be very surprised by the ability of Kyrgyz horses to go up by such difficult and rocky passes going over the mountains. From the top of the pass you can enjoy the picturesque view before the horses will finally start going down by the path curling between the high boulders which most of the time leave just inches to go through. We finally will come to Kara-Kamysh lake where we will put our camp for tonight.

 Day 11. Our plan for today is to go up the mountains and see the summer stays of Kyrgyz shepherds. After lunch we will have a chance to see Kyrgyz national game called Ulak-Tartysh.

 Day 12.Today we will descent from the lake Kara-Kamysh along the banks of Kara-Suu river passing the breathtaking waterfalls on our way. The river takes it’s waters along small meadows and then suddenly flows into the narrow canyons, the view changes so fast that one cannot get used to one scene for the other comes fast as in kaleidoscope. At lunch time there is a chance to swim in the river and get rest from the day heat. After lunch we will end our trip coming back to civilization and overnight in Kyzyl-Kyol village.

 Day 13. We will be transferred back to Bishkek and stay in “Asia Mountains” hotel for tonight.

 Day 14. You can have rest on the territory of the hotel with all the conveniences needed including conditioners in every room, TV with multichannel satellite system, open air pool and BBQ. This day if you want you may go for the sightseeing and shopping in Bishkek. We will have our driver and a van for you. At the end of day there is going to be a farewell dinner.

 Day 15. Flight home.


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