In Kyrgyzstan, one can find alpine and sub-alpine meadows, mountain steppe, forests of Tien-Shan firs or walnuts (which originated in present-day Kyrgyzstan) or thickets of archa.
The Kyrgyz Republic is a country remarkable for its natural beauty. Majestic mountain ranges give way to rolling syrts soaring up to 4000 m above sea level. Wide valleys and vast lake basins are framed by eternally snow-covered peaks, ridges and mountain ranges.
In the fertile valleys,. the industrious inhabitants of Kyrgyzstan have planted gardens, vinyards, and fields of wheat, corn, cotton, to bacco, sugar beets, vegetables, melons, essential oils and other agricultural products.
Kyrgyzstan is rich not only in its natural beauty, but also in its natural resources. Vast mountain pastures occupy half of the Republic's territory, and a significant area is blanketed by forest. The nut forests of the Chatkal, Fergana and Turkestan ranges are the largest in the world. In the spacious Chui, Talas and Fergana valleys, the fertile soil, long growing season, and an abundance of sunlight and warmth are combined with man-made irrigation systems to create favorable conditions for intensive agriculture and the cultivation .of important warm-climate crops.
Numerous mountain rivers serve as significant sources of both irrigation and inexpensive electricity. Kyrgyzstan's mountains also contain a wealth of mineral resources.
Striking natural contrasts in the Republic are caused by a significant elevation above sea level, by mountain topography, and by a position in the center of the vast continent of Eurasia, amid the deserts of a temperate zone. Over 93% of Kyrgyzstan's surface area is more than 1500"m above sea level. 41% is bleak, high, and mountainous, located at over 3000 m, where there is unspoiled, primordial beauty no longer found in the lowlands.
Long mountain chains stretch from east to west in 88 mighty ridges of the great Tien-Shan mountains. Tien-Shan is a Chinese name; the Kyrgyz name is Tenir-Too, or "celestial mountains". They are deserving of this name. Most peaks lie above the snow line. Among them are the world-renowned peaks _Pobeda (7439m), Lenin (7134m), and the legendary Han-Tengry pyramid (6995m) of pink and white marble and granite.
The Republic's mountain relief covers almost all types of landscape: semidesert, steppe, meadow-steppe, sud-alpine, alpine, tundra and glacial.
The climate of the Republic differs widely because of differences in elevation and degree of shelter. In Kyrgyzstan, one can see the transition from the subtropical climate of the Fergana valley and the semi-desert of the Chui and Talas valleys to the eternal frost of the mountains. In summer months, travellers can spend part of a single day in a sunny valley, in a flowering meadow high in the mountains, and an ice-fall in glaciers high above the clouds.
The Tien-Shan and Alai mountains condense a significant mass of atmospheric moisture in the form of snowflakes, snow fields and glaciers. There are almost 8,000 glaciers covering an area of over 6,000km and more than 40,000 rivers and streams. All of the rivers empty into the basins of Central Asia. Their combined length is roughly 150,000km, and the yearly drainage is 47 cubic km.
Kyrgyzstan's most important river is the Naryn, which collects water from a huge area of the Tien-Shan and converges in the Fergana valley with the other major river of the Republic, the Kara-Darya, which originates on the slopes of the Alai and Fergana ranges. The confluence of these two powerful rivers forms the Syr-Darya, the second largest river in Central Asia, after the Amu-Darya.
There are many lakes in the Republic. The largest is Lake Issyk-Kul, the Kyrgyz "hot lake", which is situated at an altitude of over 1,600 meters above sea level. It is the second largest lake in the world, after Lake Titicaca in South America. In volume (1,738 cubic km) and depth (668m), Issyk-Kul is unequaled in the world. Some other relatively large lakes, Sonkyol (area 292 square km) and Chatyrkyol (180 square km), were formed by the movement of tectonic plates.
Animal life in the Republic is rich and diverse: there are more than 80 species of mammals, over 330 species of birds, about _ 50 species of fish and around 30 species of reptiles and amphibians. The most widely hunted animals are found at altitudes of 2,000 to 5,000 meters above sea level. Marmots, gophers, Turkmen rats, porcupines, martens, wolves, foxes, badgers, mountain goats and sheep inhabit the upper reaches of the Republic. There are also bears, lynxes' and snow leopards. Bird species represented include woodpeckers, eagles and gulls.
Nature has lavished the Republic with valuable minerals. Not only are there deposits of scarce elements in Kyrgyzstan, but also oil, gas, peat and coal of all grades. Coal reserves are estimated at 24.4 billion tons. Large occurrences of ferrous, non-ferrous, noble and rare metals have been found. Iron deposits have been estimated at more than 5 billion tons. Lead and zinc ore has been discovered in almost all regions, and deposits of mercury, tungsten, tin and gold have also been found. The Republic is also rich in non-ore mineral deposits: limestone, marble, granite, gypsum, clay and sandy gravel materials. At an altitude of 3km above sea level are found occurrences of a brownish black semimineral substance with healing properties called mumiye.
Kyrgyzstan has been called "The Switzerland of Asia". The peculiarity of its climate and the availability of numerous mineral and hot springs contribute to the Republic's reputation as a healing place. Lake Issyk-Kul never freezes, and has a wonderful complex of recreational facilities.
Location - Kyrgyzstan - a small mountainous country in the center of the Asian continent, on one latitude with the south of Italy, Spain, Japan occupies the territory of 198,5 thousand square km. The total length of the border line is 4500 km. In the north it borders on Kazakhstan, in the west - Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and more than 900 km with China in the south.
Mountains occupy 90% of the territory, high mountains - 70%, valleys - 10%. The south-eastern part of the country is located in the region of Karakorum highway and north-western China, where the main stream of tourists come to Kyrgyzstan and further to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Capital - Bishkek (former Frunze), 700,000 inhabitants. Bishkek is situated at the foothills of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range in the center of the Chu valley, 250 km away from Almaty and 600 km away from Tashkent.
Towns - Osh (300,000), Tokmok (71,000), Karakol (former Przhevalsk - 64,000).
Population - 4,500,000 inhabitants.
Nationalities - Kyrgyz - 60%, Russian - 20%, Uzbek - 14%, Dungans, Kazakh, Tajik, Uigur, Korean - 2%.
Languages - Kyrgyz, Russian.
Climate - average: January - 4-14 degrees below zero, July - 12-30 degrees above zero. The climate is continental.
Religions - Islam, Christianity.
Best travel time - from May to October.
National currency - 1 som = 100 tyin
1USD = 42.5 som (September, 2004).
Time - 4 hours ahead of GMT.
Approach - by air from Moscow - 4 hours, from Tashkent - 1,5 hours, by car from Almaty - 3,5 hours. KLM, Lufthansa, Austrian, British, Turkish airlines.
Government - The supreme power in Kyrgyzstan belongs to the President and two-chamber Parliament.
Askar Akaev is the first President in the history of Kyrgyzstan. He was born on November 10, 1944 in the village of Kyzyl-Bairak in Chon-Kemin region. He is a father of 4 children, his wife Mairam Akaeva is the head of the children's Charity foundation "Meerim".
Askar Akaev is the Doctor of technical sciences on Holography. He graduated from the Leningrad Institute of precious Mechanics and Optics, spent 17 years in Leningrad.
On October 27, 1990 he was elected the President of Kyrgyzstan.
A natural Adventure Land on the Silk Road Invites for Discovery
Kyrgyzstan is situated on the border with China, south Kazakhstan, north Tajikistan and west Uzbekistan. It is located on the same latitude as Italy, Northern Turkey and Japan. Its area is 198.55 sq. km, the population is 4,500 thousand people. The longest distance between W-E is 925 km, N-S is 454 km. Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country. The highest altitude is 7439 m, Pobeda Peak.
The Kyrgyz Republic became an independent state in 1990. The supreme power belongs to the president and the two-chambered Parliament.
The climate of Kyrgyzstan is continental. As a rule, sunny weather is the most typical feature of Kyrgyzstan’s climate (247 sunny days per year).
Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic is located where the Kazakh steppe meets the foothills of the majestic snow-capped Tien-Shan mountains (“Heavenly mountains” in Chinese, Kyrgyz call it Ala-Too, “variety of colors”).
Bishkek was founded at the beginning of the 19 century after the Kokand conquerors erected a fortress which guarded the caravan routes extending from Tashkent through the Chu Valley to the Issyk-Kul Lake and Kashgar in China.
After the battles between Russian Tsarist troops and Kokanders the fortress was destroyed and became Russian outpost (1864-1878).
After the Revolution of 1917 and the delineation of Central Asia in 1924, Pishpek became the administrative center of the Kyrgyz Autonomous region.
On April 3, 1926, the city was named after the revolutionary hero, Mikhail Frunze, who was born there. In 1991 the city was renamed Bishkek.
The city is beautiful any time of the year, through it is at its best in spring, when the squares are covered with red tulips and yellow daffodils. People say there are few cities, which can rival Bishkek for greenery. There are about 20 parks inside the city, one of the largest is the Oak-tree park.
The Kyrgyz National Nature park Ala-Archa is situated 40 km away from Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range at the height of 1600 m to 4860 m (“Korona” (Crown) Peak), the total area of the Park is 19,5 thousand sq. km.
The park’s best offerings are trekking and climbing in rocky, icy, spruce-clad canyons up to an elevation of almost 5000 m above the sea level, which are removed from civilization and require serious preparation. One of the best all round routes is to the Ak-Sai canyon and Korona Peak. Korona Peak can be sealed in a day’s outing from it’s base camp. This requires technical equipment and skills (and ideally, a guide). Crampons, ice-axe and experience will bring you up the snowy glacier surface to within 200 m of the summit, where the ice of Ak-Sai glacier starts its journey from heaven to sea in a yawning crevasse situated on the steep slope. From here there is a spectacular view of the peaks surrounding the Ak-Sai circus: Boks, Teke-Tor, Ak-Tor and Izyskatel.
On the trekking route to the Adigene waterfall there is a cemetery of mountaineers from where you can also see Korona Peak.
The park abounds in wildlife, including eagles, ibex, Marco Polo sheep, wolf, bear, lynx, boar and the rarely seen, often talked of – snow leopard.
To the Issyk-Kul lake
The road runs from the east of Bishkek through the Chu Valley, surrounded by the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range in the south and Chu-Ili, the Spurs of Zailijski-Alatay in the North, to Boom canyon, “the Stone gateway” of the blue Issyk-Kul.
Burana was the site of Balasagun city, was founded in the middle of the X century on the site of an older settlement. The minaret (Burana from the Turkish monara - minaret), one of the oldest of its kind in Central Asia, was built in the XI century and was originally 45 m tall, Balasagun was the birthplace (in about 1015) of the poet Jusup Balasagun, and was later, with Kashgar, one of the capitals of the Eastern Khanate when the Karakhanid state split (the western capital was Samarkand).
The poet Jusup Balasagun was a Brilliant example of high Islamic culture in Medieval Central Asia. Jusup’s only surviving work is “Kutadgy Bilig” (roughly, “The knowledge which brings happiness”), a long didactic poem cast in epic lines. He wrote the work in his native Uighur (Turkish) language in Arabic script in about 1070.
The Kyrgyz have taken over steward-ship of “Kutadgy Bilig”, largely as an accident of Balasagun’s location on the territory of their modern republic, and the Kyrgyz translation of “Kutadgy Bilig” is represented in the museum of Kyrgyz Language and Literature in Bishkek.
Balasagun was so important and celebrated that Genghis Khan’s Mongol horde spared the city from destruction when they began to conquer the world in the early 13th century. They renamed it Gobalik, “a good city” – high praise indeed from the people who were the greatest nemesis to sedentary life in history.
“Tien-Shan looks like a sleeping camel, And among its humps, in the circle of mountain ranges, Issyk-Kul is sparkling like A birth-mark on the girl’s face”. (an old Kyrgyz folk song).
Issyk-Kul occupies the Central part of the valley surrounded by the circle of the Terskei and Kungey Ala-Too mountain ranges. The lake greatly affects the climate of the area. It doesn’t freeze in winter (“Warm” lake in Kyrgyz), and so, the whole region surrounding this large body of water has a more mild climate than the altitude of the area would normally have. Also, the sun is very strong here and this affects the climate. The Issyk-Kul lake is the largest in Tien-Shan mountains (6,236 sq. km) and has a maximum depth of 668 m. The altitude of the lake is 1609 m above the sea level. Next to the lake Titicaca, in South America, it is the world’s second largest mountain lake in area. Issyk-Kul is unique in that dozens of rivers and streams flow into it, yet none flow out. The wooden mountain slopes around it are populated with wolves, magnificent deers and other wildlife.
At present at the bottom of the Issyk-Kul lake scientists have discovered three types of ancient relics and monuments: settlements, graves and hoards. They date back from the first millennium B.C. to the middle of the second millennium A.D.
What about diving in Chigu (the town of the Red valley)? It was the head-quarters of Usuni nomads since the second century B.C., and the most ancient trade center of the Tien-Shan on the Great Silk Road. About 2000 years ago the town was destroyed by the roaring Issyk-Kul waves as a result of the lake’s catastrophic transgression.
These submerged towns give us reach archaeological material proving the close links between the inhabitants with the steppe, ancient Fergana and ancient China Empire.
Stone inscriptions of Cholpon-Ata
The stops of pristine tribes of the Neolithic period were found in many places in the Chu valley (Chumish dam, Alamudun river, near by Bishkek), near Tokmok, on the shores of the Issyk-Kul lake, near Cholpon-Ata, Naryn Tien-Shan, Talas and in Osh region (the world-known “Saimaly-Tash” (“embroidered stones”), “heavenly” horses of Fergana in Airmach - tay). Patient and careful browses will be rewarded with intriguing glimpses of the world view of early Iron Age people. The primitive images are mostly ibexes, as well as horses (some with riders and bows) snow leopards, camels, etc. & belong to the II millennium B.C. The stone inscriptions of Cholpon-Ata (Issyk-Kul Lake petroglifs) encount more than 10,000 pieces.
Karakol is situated near the eastern end of the lake Issyk-Kul and near the highest mountains (Peak Pobeda, “Tomur” in Chinese, 7439 m and Khan-Tengri, Kan Too in Kyrgyz, 7010 m) and the largest glacier Ynylchek in the Tien-Shan mountains. During the sightseeing tour of Karakol, founded at the end of the XIX century, you will see the Dungan’s mechet built in the style of a Buddhist pagoda and made of wood. It was built without a single nail. There is also a Russian orthodox church – “Sviato-Troitski Sobor”, history museum, oriental bazaar.
After a military garrison was established at nearby Teploklyuchenka in 1864, and it dawned on everybody what a fine spot it was- mild climate, rich soil, a lake full of fish and mountains full of hot springs- the garrison commander was told so scout out a place for a full-size town. Karakol was founded on 1 July 1869, with streets laid out in a European- style checkerboard, and the garrison was relocated here. The town’s early population had a high proportion of military officers, merchants, professionals and explorers.
It was called Przhevalsk in Soviet times, after the explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky, whose last expedition ended here, and who is buried on the lake shore nearby. It didn’t escape a trashing by the Bolsheviks. Its elegant Orthodox church lost its domes and became a club; only one small church on the outskirts was allowed to remain open. Of nine mosques (founded by Tatars, Dungans and various Kyrgyz clans), all but the Dungan one were wrecked.
What looks for all the world like a Mongolian Buddhist temple on the corner of Libknekhta and Tretiego Internatsionala is in fact a mosque, built without nails, completed in 1910 three years’ work by Chinese architect and 20 Chinese artisans, for the local Dungan community. It was closed by the Bolsheviks from 1933 to 1943, but since then has again been a place of worship.
This is no match for Kashgar’s Sunday Market, but is still one of the best weekly bazaars we saw in Central Asia. The big animal market (mal bazaari) in the northern outskirts of town, in particular, is a must-see: several blocks jammed with people from throughout the region- in array like you won’t see down in Bishkek- here to buy and sell horses, cattle sheep, pigs and other creatures. You can buy a good horse for US$150 to US$300, or at US$20 a sheep makes a nice gift. There is no evidence of the pickpockets or other lowlife that inhabit urban markets. Go early: it starts at 5 am and is over by 10 am.
The regular bazaar back in town is also particularly busy in Sunday, though unlike the animal market it’s also open and less crowded on other days of the week. Across the road is a brewery, built before the Revolution with the latest technology of the day. Locals say, not surprisingly, that it once made the best beer in the region but has gone downhill since independence.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
A handsome cathedral is rising again from the rubble of Bolshevism, among birch and popular trees at the corner of the Lenina and Gagarina. Karakol’s first church services were held in a yurt on this site after the town was founded. A later stone church fell down in an earthquake in 1980 (its granite foundations are still visible). A fine wooden cathedral was completed in 1985. But the Bolsheviks closed it in the 1930s, destroyed its five onion-domes and turned it into a club. Serious reconstruction only began in 1961, proceeding at a snail’s pace as available money and materials permitted. Services are again being held, since its formal reconsecration in 1991 and again in 1997. Listen for its chimes on Sunday morning.
Other Colonial Buildings
The colonial-era of town sprawls south-west from the cathedral and the Hotel Karakol-lots of single storey “gingerbread” houses, mostly plain but some (eg those built by wealthier officers and scientists) quite pretty, and a few (those of Rissian merchants and industrialists) with two storeys. Among decaying former merchants’ houses are the Pedagogical College on Gagarina opposite the cathedral, the radio and TV office on Gebze (Kalinina), a blick south of the Hotel Karakl, and another old merchant’s home at the corner of Koenkozova and Lenina.
Karakols modest regional museum is in a sturdy colonial brick building, once the home of a wealthy landowner, on Dzerzhinskogo near Toktogula. It's of interest for ex¬hibits on the petroglyphs around Issyk-Kul, a few Scythian bronze artefacts, a Soviet history of the Kyrgyz union with Russia, some Kyrgyz applied art, and photographs of old Karakol - all of it better with a guide, since nothing is in English. It's allegedly open daily 8 am to noon, and 1 to 5 pm. Entry is 10 som, plus another 10 som for an English-speaking guide.
One exhibit features Nikolai Andreevich Nestorov, a Bolshevik hero who later took up life here as a trapper and naturalist (and built the tiny museum at Altyn Arashan). Strangely enough, he died in Karakol on the day we were at the museum.
Przhevalsky Memorial, Crave, & Museum
Thanks perhaps to the efforts of Soviet his¬toriographers, and to the fact that he died here, the Russian explorer Nikolai Przheval¬sky is something of a local icon, an increasingly poignant reminder of what the Russians accomplished in this part of the world. His grave, a memorial park and museum are 7 km north of Karakol on the Mikhaylovka inlet. A visit with a Russian guide still has the flavour of a pilgrimage.
Przhevalsky died in 1888, and a huge monument and tiny chapel were erected by his grave six years later. The museum and garden are Soviet creations opened in 1957, displacing the rest of a village graveyard.
The museum, a branch of the one in Karakol, features a huge map of Przhevalsky's explorations in Central Asia and a gallery of exhibits on his life and travels, plus a roll call of other Russian explorers. Cap¬tions are in Russian. There is usually a Rus¬sian-speaking guide on duty, delightful in her earnest explanations. Look out for the murals that change perspective from different angles.
The grave and monument overlook the Mikhaylovka inlet, though it's a rather different scene than that beloved by Przheval¬sky. The shore has receded hundreds of metres since 1888, and the area - called Pristan Przhevalsk or just Pristan - is a clut¬ter of cranes, docks and warehouses, all once part of the old Soviet top-secret “poly¬gon" for torpedo research.
To get there on your own, take bus No 37, marked ДАЧИ (Dachi) from the center of Karakol, departing every two hours or so, or a taxi (budget about 200 som for the return trip, including waiting time). There is a mu¬seum entry fee of 20 som.
“Pristan” (Russian for pier) is a strip of lake shore several kilometers long that, includes a sea of dachas to the north-east, a beach to the west, and in between various factories, ware-houses and workers' homes. The beach is a jumping local scene in summer, with swim¬ming, boats for hire, carts for hire, food, and occasional live music. Some of the dachas are in the restricted military zone and you may have problems staying here.
From Karakol center to the beach, take any of the buses marked ПЛЯЖ Plaj (Beach), which run every hour. A return taxi will cost around 100 som.
Probably the most popular destination from Karakol is a spartan hot spring development called Altyn Arashan (Golden Spa), set in a postcard-perfect alpine valley at 3000m, with 4260m Pik Palatka looming at its southern end. From the turn-off to Ak Suu Sanatorium it's an often-steep, five to six hour (14km) climb south on a track beside the Arashan river, through a piney canyon full of hidden hot and cold springs.
Much of the area is a botanical research area called the Arashan state nature reserve Somewhere up here President Akaev and some other government bigwigs are said to have holiday yurts.
Altyn Arashan has several small hot-spring developments. In the order that you come to them, they belong to the government meteorological service, the Teploklyuchenka collective farm, and the forestry service. The collective farm has three concrete hot pools in wooden sheds, open to all for about 10 som a soak.
Across the stream is a little log house and museum with stuffed animals of the region. From the springs it's about five hours on foot to the snout of the Palatka glacier, wrapped around Pik Palatka.
About 25km west of Karakol, at the mouth of the Jeti-Oghliz canyon, is an extraordinary formation of red sandstone cliffs that has become a kind of tourism trademark for Lake Issyk-Kul.
A village of the same name is just off the main round-the-lake road. Beyond it the earth erupts in red patches, and soon there appears a great splintered hill called Razbitoye Serdtse or Broken Heart. Legend says two suitors spilled their blood in a fight for a beautiful woman; both died, and this rock is her broken heart.
Beyond this on the west side of the road is the massive wall of Jeti-Oghuz. The name means Seven Bulls, and of course there is a story here too - of seven calves growing big and strong in the valley's rich pastures. Ero¬sion has meant that the bulls have multi¬plied. They are best viewed from a ridge to the east above the road. From that same ridge you can look east into Ushchelie Drakonov, the Valley of Dragons.
Below the wall of Seven Bulls is one of Issyk-Kul’s surviving spas, the ageing Jeti-Oghiiz Sanatorium, built in 1932 with a complex of several plain hotels, a hot pool, a restaurant and some woodland walks. It's open to all, but in summer only. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Kyrgyzstan’s President Askar Akaev had their first meet¬ing here, in 1991.
From here you can walk up the park-like lower canyon of the Jeti-Oghuz river to popular summer picnic spots. Some 5km up, the valley opens out almost flat at Dolina Svetov, the Valley of Flowers; it's a kalei¬doscope of colors as summer passes and has poppies in May. There are also said to be pre-Islamic petroglyphs up here, similar to those at Cholpon-Ata. You really need a tent to make an enjoyable couple of days trip here. Bridges sometimes get washed out so check the best route with locals before set¬ting off.
Jeti-Oghuz canyon is one of several al¬ternatives for treks to/from Altyn Arashan and Ala-KoI (see the boxed text “Trekking around Karakol”, earlier).
Tash-Rabat, X c.
The stone fortress Tash-Rabat is situated at the height of more than 3000 m above the sea level, 80 km from Torugart, 3752 m (China-Kyrgyz border post) and 90 km from Naryn town in Kara-Kojun Gorge of the Inner Tien-Shan. It is known as the caravansarai of the XV century, (the medieval inn of the merchants and travelers on the Great Silk Road). It was recently dated by the X century due to the archaeology and architecture research of the last years. It is supposed to be the monastery of nestorian-christians (or Buddhists) who came here before the Mongolian invasion and the spreading of Islam in Tien-Shan.
Tash-Rabat fits in well with the mountain landscape. It has the form of a multidomed rectangular with the sides of 35,7 m and 33,7 m. The whole structure consists of a big Central hall (in the interiors of which “ganch” (burnt clay) plaster and the traces of painting preserved) and 31 rooms around it, enclosed by 20 domes with 11 vaultings.
There are numerous underground passages, secret exits and underground prisons (zindanz) in the fortress. It is the largest structure in the Central Asia made of stone and similar of the kind in Samarkand, used like a fort, the refuge of hermits, and the place to study the religion, the shelter for the trade caravans – caravansarai during many centuries.
The second largest lake (after Issyk-Kul) lake Son-Kul is located 90 km away to the north-west from Naryn town in a high mountain desert in a valley 60 km long and 30 km wide, surrounded by the rocky Son-Kul Range (4042 m) in the north and Moldo-Too Range in the south and north-east (3900 m) covered with Tien-Shan fur-trees.
The total area of the lake is 275 sq. km, it is 15 m deep and is situated at the height of 3016 m above the sea level. In winter it is covered with thick (1,5 m) ice. The lake is the favorite place for nestling of wild geese, ducks and sea-gulls. The only river flowing out of the lake is Son-Kul with the cascade of waterfalls in a rocky Kok-Dzherty Gorge 4 km away from the lake. The river is the tributary of the largest Tien-Shan river – Naryn.
The largest rivers of Central Asia are Amu-Darja and Syr-Darja in the Fergana valley. Naryn, the largest river of Tien-Shan, is the largest tributary of Syr-Darja.
“Naryn” is translated as “Sunny” from the Mongolian language. The name is connected with the mountain massif Ak-Shiyrak, the river-head of Naryn, raising high to the sun.
Naryn is 600 km long, 500 km in Kyrgyzstan, and has more than 500 big and small tributaries. There are 360 lakes in high mountains in the basin of Naryn, Son-Kul and Chatyr-Kul, the largest.
The river-head of Naryn, a small stream Kumtor, flows out from a small lake (800 m in diameter) near the icy precipice of Petrov glacier knot of freezing in Central Asia.
Ak-Shiyrak glaciers remind the Scandinavian type in the mountains of Norway, Sweden and Shpitsbergen. Petrov glacier, the largest in Ak-Shiyrak, is 20 km long.
The Nature reserve, where Big and Small Naryn flow together (40 km away from Naryn town) is usually visited by the tourists.
Osh city is the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan, one of the oldest in Central Asia, 3000 years old, as old as Rome. The evidence of this is the four-headed Sacred Suleiman Mountain in the center of the city with stone inscriptions, signs and the ancient settlement of the Iron Age on the southern slope of it.
In the X century Osh was the third city in Fergana Valley and an important point on the Great Silk Road, which led to China, India and Afghanistan.
In the XIII century, during the Mongolian invasion, it was destroyed and later restored.
Until the XVI century Suleiman mountain was called Bara-Kukh (“beautiful mountain”). “Takh-i-Suleiman” (“the throne of Suleiman or Solomon”) is the name given to the mountain when the Muslim prophet Suleiman-Sheikh was buried at the foot of it. Many centuries it was known as Mecca for Muslims and attracted thousands of pilgrims. Khan Babur built a small house on one of the tops of the mountain in the XVI century and admired a nice Panorama of Osh and mountains. In the caves of Suleiman mountain tourists usually visit the History Museum. The Osh bazaar remains on of the largest in Central Asia, such abundance of fruit, vegetables and oriental colors are hardly seen anywhere else.
Uzgen town, 60 km away from Osh, located on the right bank of the mountain river Kara-Darja, was founded in the VIII-IX centuries in the Turkic Kaganat (state) on the Great Silk Road from Maveranakhr to the Eastern Turkestan. It was a mighty fortress, the greatest blossom of which was in the X-XII centuries in the Karakhanid State. In the XIII century it was destroyed by Genghis Khan and only the Uzgen Tower (Minaret) and three mausoleums preserved.
The Uzgen Minaret of the X-XII centuries (Burana Tower XI c., Kalyan Tower XI c. in Bukhara), built near by the Muslim mosque, played an important role in the architectural composition of the medieval feudal city. Muedzin (clergymen) from the top of the minaret called people to pray and the cathedral mosque personified the unity of the members of the city society. Mazonry and carved ganch of the minaret has a perfect technique and is a graceful decoration.
Uzgen Mausoleums of the XI c., the Northern, Middle and Southern, were built in Shakhristan (the center) of the city in one axes tightly to each other. The square facades are decorated with carved plaster and carved polished bricks with wide belts of aphorisms in kufi language on the portals. The scientists called the architectural terracotta and carved plaster – the “Encyclopaedia of ornaments of the XI c.”.
The unique biosphere Nature Reserve Sary-Chelek is situated on the southern spurs of the Chatkal Range in a picturesque Arkit gorge, 70 km away from Tash-Kumur (on the Naryn river). It’s a geobotanical museum with a rare combination of unique ancient walnut and wild fruit-tree forests of the South (wild apple-tree, pistachio, Sogdiana plum – alycha, walnuts, brought from Central Asia to Greece by the warriors of Alexander the Macedonian) and the Nature of the North (Tien-Shan fir-trees, archa juniper, belonging to cypresses, Semionov firs of pikhta and honeysuckle).
The heart of the Nature Reserve, Lake Sary-Chelek, is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the country (1873 m, 7 km long and 1,5 km wide, 234 m deep) with the rocky slopes coming from the water. The blue lake in the necklace of the snowy mountains is the largest among the seven lakes of the Nature Reserve.
The Kyrgyz diet reflects the traditional nomadic life of the Kyrgyz people. Food emphasizes meat, mainly mutton, with comparatively little in vegetable and fruit. However, though centuries of contact, forced and otherwise, with other Asian cultures and though years of cohabitation with Russians, the Kyrgyz have substantially augmented their cuisine.
Most eating establishments offer lagman, shorpo, shashlik, manti as the core of its menu, with chai (tea) and lepyoshka. The selection can get monotonous but at list you know what to expect. Unless the menu states otherwise, the meat of choice is mutton.
Some food your stomach will commonly run into area:
Beshbarmak ('five fingers' in Kyrgyz) is mutton-on-the-bone stewed in broth. When ready to be eaten, noodles that have been boiled in the same broth are brought to the table/ground cloth. The mutton is then finely cut and shredded onto the noodles by the diners, who are also encouraged to eat some of the mutton as is. Broth is then ladled over the mixture. Beshbarmak is traditionally eaten with the right hand. Sometimes the cooked intestines of the sheep are laced around the beast's skull and brought to the table. The guest of honor is given the eye to eat. Beshbarmak is the choice food at a Kyrgyz feast. Restaurant versions of this dish pale in flavor and edibility to the yurt version.
Boorsok, a type of Kyrgyz bread, are small deep-fried triangular pieces of dough that are then scattered on the table- or ground cloth.
Chuchuk is sausage made from horsemeat and is considered a delicacy at a Kyrgyz table.
Lagman is noodles, mutton and assorted vegetables in broth.
Manti is steamed dumplings filled with meat. Manti filled with squash is a tastier version usually served only in homes.
Naan is Kyrgyz for round flat bread baked in a tandoor.
Shashlik is mutton kebab. Chiken and beef versions are available although technically they cannot be called shashlik.
Shorpo is lagman minus the noodles.
Samsa is a baked meat dumpling that comes in two versions: the fatter kind baked in a clay oven or the flatter kind wrapped in puff pastry and baked in a regular oven. The former is more common. Be careful of the juice and heat that escape from the inside of the samsa when you bite into it.
Airan (in Kyrgyz), also called kefir(in Russian), resembles yogurt.
Bozo is a Kyrgyz wheat and millet-fermented drink with a slight alcoholic punch.
Kymys is fermented mare's milk and is an acquired taste.
Maksym is a thick wheat-based drink that Kyrgyz like to drink in the summer. Shoro is a brand name of maksym.