Issyk-Kul - «Pearl of the Tian-Shan». The lake's name, which derives from a word for "hot lake", alludes to the fact that it does not freeze over during the winter, even though the lake is situated at an altitude of 5,278 feet. Mountains ring the lake. To the North are the Kungei («Sunny») Ala-Too mountains and while to the South lie the Terksei («Shady») Ala-Too mountains. These mountain ranges protect the Issyk-Kul hollow from winds bringing either extreme cold - or extreme hot - winds.
In Kyrgyz the words mean «warm lake» - that is not because the waters are warm, although are a number of local hot springs in the area, but because the lake never freezes over.
It is Kyrgyzstan "largest Lake and at about 178 km long by 70 km wide and 668 meters deep at the deepest point. The Issyk - Kul Lake is the largest in the Tien - Shan Mountains (6,236 sq km). Total length of the shoreline is about 370 miles. Next to lake Titicaca in Peru, it is the world's second largest mountain lake.
Summer temperatures are usually average 76° or 82° F (25° or 28° C) degrees, but as the lake lies at an altitude of some 1606 m, it can get quite chilly, especially at night. While in January , on the western edge of the basin, the temperatures average 28° or 27° F (-2° or -3° C). The water temperature in July on the surface is 68° to 73° F (20° to 23° C), and in January it is 39° to 41° F (4° to 5° C). Ice forms only in the shallow coves.
The water of the Issyk-Kul is sky blue in colour, very clear (visibility up to 65 feet. Tian Shansky wrote of Issyk-Kul may have been the first to make the comparison - he wrote about lake Issyk-Kul: «The dark, blue surface of Issyk-Kul is as blue as the surface of Geneva Lake, but the large size of Issyk-Kul makes it grandiose, which can not be said of Geneva Lake. The Issyk-Kul water beautifully reflects snow-covered Tien Shan peaks against the background of the dark blue, bright, cloudless Central Asian sky».
Apart from the large volume of water, this is because although 72 streams and rivers flow into the lake, none flow out - and every year about 80 centimeters of water evaporates from the lake surface (6 %), so the water is slightly salty and this lowers the freezing point where water turns to ice.
The evidence suggests that Issyk-Kul has existed at least since the Neocene (beginning 7,000,000 years ago) and that it has periodically drained.
Lake terraces stretch alnong the shores, indicating a higher water level in the past, and the presence of underwater ruins of buildings at depths of up to 23 feet testifies to the past that in the Middle Ages the level of the lake was lower that it now is. In the 20th century the lake has dropped more than three meters.
Unsuitable for drinking and irrigation because of its high mineral content, it is used at times without freshening for watering cattle.
More than 20 kinds of fish live in Lake Issyk-Kul. The basic commercial fish are the naked osman, the chebak, the little chebak, the common carp and the marinka.
The western and eastern shores of the lake serve as a wintering place for waterfowl, which gather anually in flocks of from 20 to 50,000.
Pochards, mallards, bald coots, and teals are the main varieties.
A number of the sanatoria, hotels, guesthouses and home stays around the lake operate all year round - although some are open only during the summer season. The northern shore is the main health resort area with center in town of Cholpon-Ata. Some of the sanatoria have hydrothermal springs and offer mud baths.
Cosmonauts, after they returned to earth were brought to the lake to rest and recuperate and Brezhnev had a Dacha on the shores of the lake. In 1999 there was a an accident where a lorry carrying cyanide fell off a bridge and poisoned the river water and this led to a dramatic decline in the number of tourists to the region, although numbers are beginning to rise again.
The tourist season usually runs from June until September - but the peak season is from about 25th July until 25th August - and it may be difficult to find places and prices are at a premium.
During the Soviet period the lake was used by the Navy to test torpedoes built in Tashkent.

Ancient cities and settlements in Issyk-Kul region. With the second half of VII century, active settlement construction began along the route of the Silk Road in the Issyk-Kul region. Arab traveler, Temin Ibn Bahr, who visited the region in the VIII century, noted the human existence on the coast of 4 large and 4 small towns. The most complete information about the cities of Issyk-Kul region resulted in the XI century by the Persian historian Gardizi. He first reported on the population of Barskhan (more than 30 thousand inhabitants) and the city of Yar (about 15,000). For comparison, Samarkand, the largest city in Central Asia of X-XII centuries had about 100,000 inhabitants.
Until the arrival of the hordes of Chenghis Khan in Central Asia (in the beginning of the XIII century) the cities of Issyk-Kul region were growing and getting rich. The appearance of troops-invaders on the coast forced wealthy residents to hide their accumulated wealth under the ground or under water. Thus, there were treasures. After the devastating raids of the Mongols, the city
along the route of the Silk Road degraded, and this process was irreversible. Chroniclers of Timur's campaigns (in late XIV century) no longer mentioned the existence of large cities in the Issyk-Kul. The lake has completed the final destruction of the medieval settlements on the shores. By XVI century, the lake has completely flooded all the cities. Hydrophysical and archaeological studies have shown that in the XI-XIV centuries, the water level in the lake was below the current 6 - 6,5 meters.
To date, archaeologists have identified more than a dozen Kyrgyz ancient and medieval villages under water. They found many historical and cultural values of the Saka-Usun period (1 millennium BC) such as ceramics, clay pots and bronze pots, and various metal products; but also hums, pots, dishes of Mongol-Timurid times, blue pottery and coins of the early Middle Ages. Snorkellers and Archaeologists from around the world are invited to the Issyk-Kul, here they can have fun as well as relaxing time.
Issyk-Kul lake is a unique lake, it anciently possessed supernatural characteristics in the eys of the local population. At the end of XIX century, before the appearance of Russian immigrants here, almost no one was swimming or fishing in the lake.
In addition to the traditional legendary motif of dragons for the lost ponds in the mountains, there were another two motifs traced here- this was the motif of sunken cities and the motif of gold. Therefore, Issyk-Kul lake is a very attractive place for the romantics and treasure hunters to visit. According to the historical scholarship in the region of the lake there can be up to 200 large and small treasures found.
Kyrgyzstan travel