Around Ысык-Көл (Lake Issyk Kul) in Kyrgyzstan

Continuing with the adventures in Kyrgyzstan. (I need to hurry a bit with blog entries I guess. It´s almost 2016 and I still didn´t report on half of my travels in 2015! By the way, I wish everyone a happy new year!)
Because of the public Easter holidays, Kathi and two more friends of her, Babsi and Aibek, could join us for a weekend road-trip to Issyk-Kul. But first Janine and me had to color some eggs. This is the little Easter-Greeting card I assembled from the pictures.

Happy Easter:

Issyk-Kul or Ysyk Köl is the second largest mountain lake in the world with nearly 200 km length and 60 km width. It is located in the north-east of Kyrgyzstan. Even though its location on high altitude it is actually never freezing. Another interesting fact is that there are many rivers feeding the lake but not a single out-flow. You can drive round the lake by car and that was our plan.

Here a little overview of what I´m talking about:

We start our trip on Friday afternoon. First we take a taxi to the car rental, where we meet Babsi and Aibek. We reserved an SUV, Aibek is driving. The way to our first accommodation is quite long, we arrive in Kaji-Say in the darkness and cannot see much of the surrounding. Our hosts prepared dinner, filled the water tank to wash ourselves and brush our teeth, and heated our rooms. Hence, we feel very welcome immediately.

Our Homestay in Kaji-Say:

The next day we drive a few kilometers to a place called the “Fairytale-Canyon” (Skaza Valley). The name is self-explanatory, as soon as you can see the bizarre formations and colors that the sandstone has here. Everything is colored in bright ocher, orange and red. We meet a couple of other familiar faces, among them Kares Le Roy ( whose travel reports are definitely worth a click (even though in french) and his pictures are of course 1 million times better than mine.

Fairytale Canyon:

Zoom in:

We´re doing a pick nick at the lake for lunch. We have a vegetarian dish and potato plus beet root salad. On the other side of the lake we see the impressions of the mountains. Somehow all of my pictures give me a kind of “warm” feeling. In reality, however the temperature was still cold, even though the sun made it possible to stay outside a bit longer.

Pick nick:


The shore:

We watch the sunset outside drinking a beer. Lateron we play “Cards against humanity” (try if you haven´t yet) and talk about life. About how it is to grow up in Kyrgyzstan compared to Germany and what kind of world we would like for our potential own children. Aibeks brother has a project for teenage orphans in Kyrgyzstan, feel free to have a look:

Sunset in Kaji-Say:

The next morning, we leave Kaji-Say in the direction of Karakol. We include a little detour in the direction of the Kumtor goldmines. We stop next to two statues of Yuri Gagarin, that seem to be all alone in the valley. It is said, that Gagarin went for holidays in the region after his spin in space. There should be some waterfalls around and we have look for them, thinking that we should be able to hear the water. That´s of course impossible, if the waterfall is frozen. In the end (and that´s a rather sad fact) we find it following the plastic trash and cigarette leftovers that form a path.

The valley:

Second view:

Say hello to Yuri:

The waterfall:

Later we arrive in Karakol. We booked a night in a Hostel with rooms in the format of real yurts! To protect them from harsh weather they are build under a second roof and quite luxurious they have floor heating, but except for the hot month during summer this is surely appreciated (me having a little cold was at least happy to have it). The operator is Happy Nomads We heard of some thermal baths around Karakol and take the car to have a look for them. After some time we really find a place unfortunately closed and under quarantine. We turn around quickly. The thermal baths that our travel guide describes are not reachable without a jeep, as we get to know later. In the evening we order pizza to our yurt and play Catan. Most probably that is not the most classic way to sleep in a yurt. Anyway.
Streetview Karakol:

To the other direction:

Searching for the thermal baths:

Our yurt:

From the inside:

A little touristy activity is of course needed in Karakol the next morning. But first we search for the hidden coloured eggs. It´s Easter! Aibek is able to organise horse back riding. Relatively unusual, we pick up the horses and are left alone with them for 2h. On the other hand the horses are really calm and do more what they like themselves than what we like to do. I find it is a nice trip.

My horse:


The group:

Because the plan is to drive around the lake we continue our journey on the north shore. Some well known summer holiday spots for wealthy Kazakh people can be found on this side of the lake. Even with the cold temperature we can imagine the beautiful summer setting very well. The streets are basically empty and so we´re tempted to drive a little too fast. At the end of a long curve the police stops us. We are lucky. When converted into Euro, the fine is easily payable. On our way we cross a tiny bit of Kazakhstan. We arrive back in Bishkek in the dark.

North shore:

From inside the car:

This is a movie that Aibek recorded on a later visit to the lake:

With this I´d like to close my Kyrgyzstan report. It was an unconventional trip that I recommend to everybody who wants to visit places that are not overrun by tourists. Now there´s Sevilla, California, Dubrovnik and Porto waiting for their reports…

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