Issyk Kul and the Tian Shan is a region and administrative district in the east of Kyrgyzstan.
The following raions and regions contain further information:
- 1 Lake Issyk Kul – surrounded by the massive snowcapped Tian Shan, this is the main attraction of the region (and the country, for that matter) with a touristy north shore and a rugged south shore
- 2 Ak-Suu – a rural area and raion far east
- 3 Jeti Ögüz – a rural area and raion that comprises much of the eastern end of the Teskey Ala-Too Range
- 4 Tong – a rural area with salt lakes and historic sites on the southwest shore of Issyk Kul
- 1 Balykchy – The gateway to Issyk Kul, Balykchy is a small, dying industrial center on the western shore, and a former fishing town, with a train service from Bishkek through a beautiful passant Chui Valley.
- 2 Bokonbayevo – A laid-back village east of Tamga, horse treks and eagle shows.
- 3 Cholpon-Ata – An upscale summer resort town and central city for tourism surrounded by mountains, with the popular Grigorievskoe Trail nearby and most of the resorts within 50 km.
- 4 Jyrgalan – Kyrgyzstan's most eastern village and formerly mining town, jump off point to the picturesque border region for skiing and impressive hiking.
- 5 Kadji Sai – A small lakeside picturesque town, where you can (literally!) have a radioactive bath, climb the nearby Tashta Ata Mountain, or have a magnificent view from the Shatyly Panorama outlook. Its twin village Kadji-Sai 2 is a popular beach resort at the highway.
- 6 Karakol – One of the gems of Issyk Kul, this began as a Slavic settlement with a wealth of hiking, outdoor and sports available, including the Altyn Arashan hot springs, Karakol Canyon, and the beautiful Ala Kul glacier lake.
- 7 Tamchy – mainly a beach resort, overnight yurt stays and horseback riding trips can be arranged here, too
- 8 Tamga – named after the nearby petroglyphs, this is a town with a red sand beach; Fairy Tale Canyon is a geological curiosity nearby
The region's shimmering Issyk Kul lake and the towering Tian Shan mountains are two of the biggest draws for travelers in Kyrgyzstan, and they dominate the views over this portion of the country.
Due to the attractiveness and accessibility of the region, it is the one served most by marshrutkas, people in cars (see Kyrgyzstan#By autostop), and (shared) taxis. Checkout the specific articles of the region, specifically Issyk Kul, Cholpon-Ata, and Karakol.
- 1 Tamchy Airport (IKU IATA, Issyk Kul Airport), Tamchy. Tamchy has limited air service during the summer travel season from/to the nearby cities of Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek), Kazakhstan (Almaty), Uzbekistan (Tashkent), and even Russia (Novosibirsk).
Numerous marshrutkas and shared taxis connect all cities, towns and villages along the main routes, and it is easy to get around. As always, relying on hitchhiking can be efficient, economical, and a great way to get into more remote places in this region. But of course, any taxi driver will be willing to take you as well, for the right amount of money—bargain hard if you look like a tourist.
- See the salt lakes in Tong District and near Tamga village.
- For hot springs, checkout Kadji Sai, and a few more in Tong.
There are many routes for hiking into the mountains surrounding Issyk Kul, especially in Ak-Suu.
- 1 Grigorievskoe Trail. About 30-40 km (return) in a beautiful valley north of the lake about 10 km from its shore. Apparently sometime a small fee is charged at the entrance of the gorge, but this does not seem to be enforced consequently. There are several beautiful lakes along the way. The gorge leads into a rough river valley and later up to a pass from where you can reach the neighboring Semenovsky Gorge. Download coordinates: GPX, KML.
Eat and drink
Please see the relevant city articles for details.
There is virtually an infinite number of free camp sites available. If you want to stick with proven ones, checkout OpenStreetMap. Also, to the southern side of Issyk Kul, many yurts catering for tourists can be found along the side roads (south of the highway) leading to the various sights in this area, between Kara-Talaa and Tosor.