Did you know that Kyrgyzstan is the farthest country from any sea or ocean in the world? That’s right! However, do not let your mind paint a bleak picture of this Central Asian country because of its lack of ocean beaches. Children in Kyrgyzstan do not sit around staring at beach balls in the middle of a desert with quiet, forlorn tears running down their cheeks. Even though the country is far from the ocean, the quantity of water resources in Kyrgyzstan is actually quite staggering.
Bodies of water sprinkle the entire countryside in Kyrgyzstan. The country has an area of roughly 200,000 km² and in that space contains just under 2,000 lakes alone! It is also home to thousands of rivers and streams. Most of the water resources in Kyrgyzstan are not sustained by constant rainfall, but are instead glacier fed, so do not expect to warm up by going for a swim in one! There are also about a dozen popular waterfalls and several hot spring sites to visit as well.
So if you are a water junkie who finds yourself traveling in Kyrgyzstan, as a gift to you, here are 6 “water points” across Kyrgyzstan that are great destinations for you to visit:
ISSYK ATA HOT SPRINGS
Issyk Ata Gorge is located just a couple hours outside of Bishkek by car and contains several mineral spring sites with roughly half of them also being thermal. The sulfur hot springs in the gorge are over 30°C and are well-known for helping treat skin conditions and easing arthritis pains.
NARYN RIVER: THE LONGEST RIVER IN KYRGYZSTAN
The Naryn River, the longest river in Kyrgyzstan, is 807 km long and is a great destination for white water rafting. This river contains long stretches of still water, but it famous for a section called the Naryn Falls Canyon. Here you can tackle 4-5 class runs.
LAKE SONG KUL
Lake Song Kul is one of Kyrgyzstan’s major bodies of water with a length of about 20 km. What does this lake have to offer by way of water sports and activities, you ask? Absolutely nothing.
That is actually the beauty of this destination. Lake Song Kul is located at 3,016 meters asl and is only surrounded by nomadic yurt camps, smooth green mountains, herds of wandering animals, and no cell signal. This is a great place to sit back, relax, and just enjoy basking in the beauty of the lake.
BARSKOON GORGE WATERFALL
In Barskoon Gorge, there is a waterfall called Tears of the Snow Leopard that is not only a sight to behold in all its rushing 100 meters of glory in summertime, but when it is frozen solid in the winter as well. It is beautiful to capture in a photo to be sure, but these falls are also a fascinating destination for ice climbers in the winter. Never climbed a frozen waterfall? Here’s your chance!
The Kekemeren River is a great river in Kyrgyzstan to go fishing at in the spring. There are several good rivers for fishing in Kyrgyzstan, but the Kekemeren spits out a wider variety of fish including the osman, marinka,and Amudarya Trout. The river itself is 200 km long and contains lots of places where you can fish from the riverbank, but most anglers prefer fishing from a raft.
LAKE ISSYK KUL
Of all the major bodies of water in Kyrgyzstan, Lake Issyk Kul beats them all. Lake Issyk Kul is the world’s second largest alpine lake and an excellent place for all kinds of water sports and activities: jet skiing, boat rides, kayak rentals, diving, swimming, etc. The water is extremely clear and slightly saline. Of course it is a good place to relax as well, but be aware that it draws quite a crowd in the summertime.
GETTING YOUR WATER FIX
There are plenty of bodies of water in Kyrgyzstan for you to check out and explore. What is your preference? Sunbathing next to an alpine lake? An adrenaline rush? A relaxing day of fishing or swimming? Diving in Lake Issyk Kul? Kyrgyzstan has destinations for everyone.
Photos by Sergey Kalachov