February 11, 2020

Sary-Chelek – the Treasure of Southern Kyrgyzstan.

All you need to know about Sary-Chelek Lake

What kind of lake is Sary-Chelek, why it is so known, how to get there and where to stay – read about it all in our article.

If Issyk Kul Lake proudly bears the nickname “Pearl of Kyrgyzstan”, then we can call Sary-Chelek “the treasure of Southern Kyrgyzstan” without any hesitation. If you are on this page, then you are probably going to visit this beautiful place. So let’s find out a little more about it.

The Sary-Chelek State Biosphere Reserve and the lake itself

Sary-Chelek Lake is one of the most beautiful places in Kyrgyzstan. It is located on the territory of the Sary-Chelek State Biosphere Reserve, 500 km from Bishkek.

Every year, the reserve is visited by tens of thousands of tourists who admire not only the beauty of the lake itself but also the uniqueness of the natural landscapes of the reserve. Of course, Sary-Chelek Lake is the main attraction of this place.

The reserve is known for its unique picturesque and untouched nature, an abundance of wild animals and the lake itself. The length of the lake is 7.5 km, the widest place of the lake is 3 km, and the maximum depth is 244 m.

According to researchers, the lake bowl was formed as a result of a mountain collapsed, about 10 thousand years ago. The collapse blocked the river valley, as a result, a significant amount of water was collected, which formed Sary-Chelek Lake. It is located at an altitude of 1876 m.

Sary-Chelek State Reserve was created in 1959 on an area of ​​20.5 thousand hectares. It was designed to preserve the unique landscape of the midlands and highlands of the Western Tien Shan.

In 1962, part of the Baltyrkan tracts of the Avletim forestry with an area of ​​3 thousand 53 hectares was added to the reserve. Thus, currently, the territory of the reserve is 23 thousand 868 hectares.

Only 38 employees guard such a large territory, among them several research workers. In the adjacent territory of Sary-Chelek Lake, 3 people work there – one researcher and 2 huntsmen.

In addition to Sary-Chelek, there are 6 smaller lakes in the reserve: Kyla-Kol, Aram-Kol, Iri-Kol, Choychok-Kol, Bakaly-Kol, Tuyuk-Kol. The largest of them are Kyla-Kol, whose length is 700 m, width – 400m, and Iri-Kol, length – 1500 m, width – 230 m.

The reserve is home to 40 species of mammals, 175 species of birds and 5 species of fish. 1200 species of plants will grow. Some of them are included in the Red Book of Kyrgyzstan.

The famous scientist professor Daniil Kashkarov, having visited the lake in 1925-1926 with the expedition of the Central Asian Museum, wrote that Sary-Chelek looks like a Swiss lake.

What is the best time to visit Sary-Chelek and how to get there?

To get to this unique place, you need to overcome the 10-hour journey from Bishkek. Or drive about 5-7 hours from Osh. The best time to travel is the warm season (end of April – mid-September). Nature has already woken up after winter, everything is buried in verdure, the trees are blooming, and the slopes of the mountains are strewn with the flowers of all colors.

So, following the Bishkek-Osh highway, you will pass two passes – Too-Ashuu and Chychkan, and drive along the Toktogul reservoir and the Naryn River. In addition to gas stations, you can make a couple more stops for your personal pleasure: in the Suusamyr valley for the scenery of hills and for kymyz, in the Chychkan gorge for the sheer cliffs and Jalal-Abad dumplings. You can also take billions of photos on your way!

To get to Sary-Chelek, you must cross the Naryn River. This can be done in the city of Tash-Kumyr. From there, you will head straight to the nature reserve.

Food on the road
The road goes through the Chychkan gorge, where you can stop for lunch in one of the roadside cafes. The menu usually has the most popular dishes: lagman, shorpo, kuurdak (meat with potatoes), manti, dumplings.

If in Chychkan you feel that you are not hungry yet, then you can have lunch near the Toktogul reservoir, also in a cafe by the road. You can choose the same dishes that are listed above, as well as fried trout or pink salmon.

Where to stop?
At the entrance to the reserve, you will meet a post with a gate and a price list. You can get to the lake Sary-Chelek by car, on foot, or by horse. The main base of the reserve is located in the village of Arkyt – the only settlement on the territory of Sary-Chelek. 1310 people live there.

Sary-Chelek Lake itself is a conservation area and it will not work to be located directly on the shore of the lake, nor can one set up a camp and burn bonfires. So you will need to overnight in the village of Arkyt.

The residents of Arkyt meet visitors to the reserve. Converting their homes into hotels, in the spring-summer season, locals provide tourists with overnight accommodation and meals. In addition, residents can arrange transport to the lake itself, which is an hour’s drive from the village.

We hope that this article was useful to you. We suggest you pay attention to other, no less picturesque lakes of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Links to external resources:

Photos from sources: yandex.kz , club.foto.ru,


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