August 26, 2019

All you need to know about Son-Kul Lake

What is Son-Kul Lake? This is a mountainous, second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan, located at an altitude of 3016 meters above sea level in the north-western part of the Naryn region. And of course, this is a place that will charm you with its beauty.

How to get to Son-Kul Lake? Let’s just say, this is not an easy place to get to. Unlike Issyk-Kul, the first largest lake in Kyrgyzstan, Son-Kul Lake freezes and is covered with ice from mid-September to mid-June. Therefore, do not even expect to get there in the fall, spring, or even more in winter. Even if you are a fearless person who is not afraid of the cold, you will most likely be stuck in the snow or coming to your destination, you will not find a single soul there, the lake will be covered with ice and snow, and all people will sit in their warm homes, away from the lake.

There is no connection either, so please do not risk. But in the summer, Son-Kul is waiting for you, all the beauty of this place will open to your eyes, the mountains will literally “embrace” you from all sides, and at night billions of stars will be looking at you. And so, four roads are leading to Song-Kul lake. The first one is from Sary-Bulak in the northeast. The second from Naryn in the southeast, the third road runs to Ak-Tal in the southwest and the fourth passes by the coal mines ofKara-Keche in the northwest. 

Three of the four roads can be easily seen on Google Maps, the fourth is not clearly shown there, but you can find it if you will look on the east side of the lake. The easiest way to get to the Song-Kul lake is from Bishkek to Kochkor village and further up to the first turn to the lake (look at the map). All roads go through the mountain passes and each of them is beautiful in its way.  But the most scenic roads are the ones called “Moldo Ashuu” and “33 Popugaiia” (“33 Parrots”). 

The quality of the roads is bad, be prepared. Besides, we recall that these roads are usually open only in summer, the rest of the time they are filled up with snow. Everything should be clear with the roads and now let’s talk about transportation. 

From Bishkek to Naryn region, to the village of Kochkor, for example, you can either get by taxi or by public transportation from the Western Bus Station. From Kochkor to the lake you better order a taxi, or get on horseback. Walking there is almost impossible. If you travelindependently, make sure that your car is all-wheel drive. Son-Kul Lake cannot be reached by the passenger car. 

Where to stay? As we have noted above, there is no connection at Son Kul-Lake, therefore, booking a place in advance almost will not work. Thus and so, you can donothing but go to the lake and settle on the spot. When going to Son-Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan, many tourists ask what is the best hotel to stay? We will answer this question: there are no hotels. Instead of hotels, there are awesome yurt camps.

The price per day in the yurt is from 700 som not including food.  If you do not want to live in a yurt, you can set up a tent, for a fee in the camp, or for free outside the camp. But it is better to ask where it is safe to set up tents, as there may be wild animals around the lake. The camps usually have electricity from the generator, so you will most likely be able to charge your devices. But we still recommend you go to the lake with fully charged batteries.  Naryn region is the coldest in Kyrgyzstan. Son-Kul Lake is high in the mountains, therefore, it is even colder there. Do not forget to bring warm clothes with you, otherwise, you risk to freeze.

What can you eat at Son-Kul lake? Food is usually cooked in the camps, but the cost of food is not included in the price of accommodation in a yurt. The average price per dish is 350 som. The ration usually consists of dishes made from meat and vegetables. Do not expect that you will get a menu with a list of various dishes.  You will probably eat what the camp cooks will cook. But you can be sure that all food will be made from exceptionally fresh ingredients.

What can you do at Son-Kul Lake? Well, you can do a lot.  First of all, you will experience a real nomadic life. Around the lake, you can see yurts intended not only for tourists but the yurts in which modern nomads, who moved here for the summer, live.  You can also do horse riding or even try horse milk, but be careful if you have a weak stomach, we do not advise you to do that. You will try local foods for sure and if you will get a chance to try fish from the lake, do not miss this opportunity. You can also milk a cow for a fee. 

If the weather is relatively warm in July and August, you could even swim, but again, be careful, most likely it will be the coldest water in which you have ever swum.  Often there are local events like Kok-Boru game and so on, try to see such games with your own eyes or even participate in them, because they are a huge part of the Kyrgyz culture. And, of course, you can do just trekking. Son-Kul Lake is a nice place to do walking. One-day or multi-day trekking  near or around the lake are also very popular there. 

If you are a photography hunter, then you are very lucky!  Photos from Son-Kul Lake are usually not just beautiful, but magical!

How to make your way back special? If you are planning to go to Tash-Rabat after Son-Kul, we recommend you go down from the lake through the “Moldo Ashuu” pass. And then you better go through Naryn or Baetovo. Both ways are beautiful, but if you are in a hurry, we recommend you go through Naryn as this way is shorter and the road is better. If you keep the path from Son-Kul Lake to Issyk-Kul Lake, it is recommended to go down by the road from the eastern part of the lake, which is not clearly visible on the map (we already mentioned it above, look at the map). This way is picturesque but longer than the road from Son-Kul to Kochkor village. 

The most unpopular, but still gorgeous route is through the western road to the village of Kyzyl-Oi. Honestly, the road here is terrible, but the places are stunning.  It is your choice to go there or not. But if you go, you will visit interesting villages, drive along a mountain river, be able to get into the Suusamyr valley and return to Bishkek through the Too-Ashu mountain pass. The quality of the roads is not the best everywhere, so please be prepared.

We hope we were able to answer all the questions that you might have when you were planning your trip to Son-Kul Lake.  Have a safe rest!

Photos from sources – wikiway.com, indy-guide.com, avatars.mds.yandex.net, yandex.ru, too.kg

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