Kyrgyzstan: Issyk Kul - Cycling Around the Eye of the World 11

Kyrgyzstan: Issyk Kul – Cycling Around the Eye of the World

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Issyk Kul Terskey Ala-Too range
Issyk Kul and the Terskey Ala-Too range

Cycling Kyrgyzstan: Bikepacking Itinerary, Advice, and Highlight

Cycling Kyrgyzstan – Direction: lake Issyk Kul, 1600 meters above sea level, surrounded by much higher mountains (up around 7000msl), the Ala-Too range, Kungoy (sunny) Ala-Too in the north and Terskey (Shady) Ala-Too in the south, part of the Northern Tien Shan. It’s called “the eye of the world” for its peculiar shape.

Issyk Kul is the tenth largest lake in the world by volume (though not in surface area), and the second-largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. The lake is a cradle of Central Asia civilization with a lot of mysteries around it yet unsolved.

But besides his historical and cultural interest, Issyk Kul is the beach resort of Central Asia. The water, being slightly saline, resembles that of a sea, and it’s crystalline moreless anywhere, especially down the south coast.

Which coast is the best one?

We went all around the lake, 450km in about one week (excluding the time we spent in Cholpon Ata, watching the World Nomad Games).

But if you have time, or just want, to do only one of the shores, we absolutely advise to cycle (or travel however you please) the south coast of the Issyk Kol. The road is often very close to the lake, and the best beaches on the Issyk-Kul are to be found here.

Despite that, this side of the coast is inexplicably undeveloped, with very few touristic facilities. A lack of restaurants, hotels and even decent sized settlements, makes it a great, adventurous route for bicycle touring and wild camping, although maybe not ideal for complete camping beginners.

The north shore of the lake instead, is much more developed. There are a few medium-sized towns and the road condition is better. This route though is often far from the Issyk Kul, which is thus not in sight for the most of it.

The only good beach we found on the north side is in Cholpon Ata*, a resort town where all the local tourist seems to go. Good if you’re looking for guesthouses and restaurants. Less so if you’re looking for peace.

Bathing in the cold cold water of Issyk kol lake! So nice to be in a beach after so much desert