Travelers who have an interest for adventure tourism will be delighted to have Issyk Kul Lake as part of their itinerary. This lake is one of the main tourist attractions in Kyrgyzstan, a republic in Central Asia which won its independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The lake is the 10th largest in the world in terms of volume and is endorheic, meaning it has no outflow to the ocean or sea. Its Kyrgyz name “Issyk Kul”, translates to “warm lake”. The locals call it this not because its waters are warm but because the lake never freezes despite being surrounded by snow-capped mountains whose glaciers actually feed it with water. The lake is in the eastern part of Kyrgyzstan in the province that is also named Issyk Kul, with Karakol as its capital.
One source of delight for visitors is that they would in fact be tracing part of the ancient Silk Road interconnecting trade routes between the Asian and the European continents. Historians say that Issyk Kul Lake was one of the stopovers of traders who took these routes for over 3,000 years since prehistoric times. Among the traces of that these ancient travelers left was an Armenian monastery ca. 14th century, found on the lake’s northeastern shores. Underwater archeologists have also discovered at the lake’s bottom lots of artifacts and structures indicating that a metropolis with an advanced civilization flourished at Issyk Kul when the water level there was very much lower some 2,500 years ago.
A popular vacation destination during the Soviet era, Issyk Kul Lake visitors dwindled after the USSR breakup. But tourism is again picking up. An increasing number of tourists are now again flocking to Issyk Kul to enjoy swimming and sunbathing at the many beach resorts surrounding the lake, as well as challenge their stamina trail-hiking in the surrounding mountains.