With its vast circumference and lapping waves, Issyk Kul has earned its reputation as an inland sea. Spectacular hiking trails snake out into the mountain foothills from the lakeshore, which is dotted with small towns and traditional villages. Swim in the chilly waters, discover millennia-old petroglyphs or trek into the mountains amongst some of the most magnificent landscapes in Kyrgyzstan.

Issyk Kul is the second largest alpine lake in the world, set at the foot of the Tienshan Mountains. This huge body of water never freezes despite the bitterly cold Kyrgyz winters, thanks to sub-surface thermal activity, earning the name ‘hot lake’. Karakol is the best base from which to explore the lake, with its myriad of walking trails and interesting architecture that includes colonial houses, a mosque and a cathedral. At the northern end of the lake lie the golden beaches and ancient petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata, that date back as early as 1,500 BC.  Skirt the southern shore and look out for Kyrgyz men hunting with eagles, before visiting the stunning geological formations of Skazka or ‘Fairytale Canyon’.


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