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carlagama Issyk Kul - A travel report by Carla
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Issyk Kul,  Kyrgyzstan - flag Kyrgyzstan -  Issyk-Kul'skaya Oblast'
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carlagama's travel reports

Around Issyk-Kul (Cholpon Ata and Grigorievka)

  19 votes
According to the Lonely Planet, 94% of Kyrgyzstan is mountainous, 40% over 3000m high. So, the best to do in this country is to explore the mountains and to try to be in touch with the people. There are some ecotourism projects, which seem to be great.

the Chong Ak-Suu Valley, near Grigorievka
the Chong Ak-Suu Valley, near Grigorievka
Although I wrote that, I visited the country in a different way. I did an internship in Kazakhstan (KZ), and its coordinator of KZ organized a trip to Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately, she booked in advance a week in Ala-Too Rest House (near Cholpon-Ata), on the side of Issyk Kul Lake. This is the second largest alpine lake in the world. Some parts of the lake are too crowded in the summer, but on the other hand in others you are completely alone, just you and the big lake and the beautiful mountain scenery around. In Cholpon-Ata, the best to do is stay in the lake or go to the bazaars around. The one of Bosteri was the one I liked more. It was my first time in Central Asia, so all that massy bazaars where amazing me. Also, the very old cars and trucks, the caws on the road all the time, the many many horses, or just having everything written with a different alphabet were making me feel I was in another world (a great world). I visited also Bishkek and Grigorievka. About the Bishkek journey, the best was the trip itself, we went 18 people in a minibus for 12, more the driver and two friends of him that were lying down in the van, and in the end it was very funny. In Grigorievka, we walked trough the Chong Ak-Suu Valley (from here, a trekking route goes through Central Tian Shan to Almaty, in KZ). This is a very beautiful valley that has some lakes (but I didn't arrrive there!).

Favourite spots:
helping a broken car
helping a broken car
To move around, you just need to stay close to the road, and some driver will stop as a taxi. It’s easier if you speak some russian words and you should always try to lower the price they ask you to pay. If you are not sure you can negotiate properly, just take a minibus (the price is fair, but they don’t have a timetable, they leave whenever they are full!). All the cars are old and it's not that uncommon to find broken cars on the road. When that happen, someone will stop and help the driver!

What's really great:
our friends, having a tea
our friends, having a tea
The trip to the valley around Grigorievka was really the best. We lucky met an English speaking girl there, and she showed us the real Kyrgyz daily life. Having lunch in her yurt (finally I tasted the 'ochen vkusna' Kyrgyz food), have met a magician man that appeared and did, for free, some magic stuff inside the yurt, or have tried kumis (fermented mare’s milk), was really special. The girl we met was an English teacher in Bishkek, but during the summer holidays she and her family follow the Kyrgyz nomadic traditions moving to the mountains, living in a yurt. The summer job of this couple was to buy vegetables in Cholpon-Ata market and then sell them trough the valley to the families that were living in the yurtas and didn’t have a car to go to the market. So, in the end of the day they took us in their car back to Cholpon Ata. It was so nice to go in a very old car (like every car in this country) all the way stopping to sell stuff, until all the vegetables where sold.

the beach of Ala-Too Rest House
the beach of Ala-Too Rest House
My only recommendation about accommodation is: don't stay in Ala-Too Rest House! This place was crowded, the food was the worst I tried in my life (we booked in advance one week there with 3 meals per day included...), and one room from our group was stolen (believe me, the Kyrgyz police is the kind of institution with no one need to be involved with!).

Hummm... maybe it is a nice place to stay in other months than Jul and Aug, (and not to eat in their canteen), cause the location itself is ok.

You should try to eat in a real yurt. Maybe the ecotourism projects are the best options to find this places, lost in the middle of the mountains.

Published on Tuesday January 16th, 2007

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Tue, Feb 12 2008 - 09:57 AM rating by krisek

Carla, this is a lovely report. I will be hopefully going there in August 2008. I will take your report with me. Thanks.

Tue, Oct 30 2007 - 01:34 PM rating by joaoleitao

Wow, muito fixe esta reportagem num sitio muito porreiro como este! Great insight on a great place! Congratulations and thank you for report!

Tue, Feb 27 2007 - 12:17 PM rating by travler

I learned a great deal from this report. Thank you for the nice pictures.

Sat, Jan 27 2007 - 11:02 AM rating by marianne

Very informative report. Your internship must have been very interesting. What kind of work did you do?

Thu, Jan 18 2007 - 12:00 AM rating by downundergal

Good report on a not so visited destination.
Well done.

Wed, Jan 17 2007 - 04:17 PM rating by st.vincent

Fascinating report Carla, a friend of mine recently went on an overland truck trip taking in Kyrgyzstan and stayed in a Yurt for a couple of nights.

Tue, Jan 16 2007 - 06:06 PM rating by mrscanada

Your review was great... but when I got to 'eat real yurt' I remembered the movie about this country and started laughing.

Tue, Jan 16 2007 - 01:24 PM rating by davidx

Anything on this area is bound to be informative but this is VERY informative. Thank you.

Tue, Jan 16 2007 - 12:10 PM rating by mistybleu

Thanks for sharing your experiences, this is a country that I know little of.

A very nice report


Tue, Jan 16 2007 - 09:53 AM rating by rangutan

A top class report at the first try! I hope we will be seeng more of your exiting travelling. [4.6]

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