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Introducing Lake Song-Köl

Alpine lake Song-Köl (Son-Kul), at 3016m, is one of the loveliest spots in central Kyrgyzstan. All around it are lush pastures favoured by herders from the Kochkor Valley and beyond, who spend June to August here with their animals. Visitors are welcome, and this is a sublime place to camp and watch the sun come up. The cold, crystal-clear air, far away from light pollution and smog, guarantees a starry night sky so grand it is able to dwarf even this open landscape. You can make any number of day hikes into the surrounding hills for excellent views. The lake is jumping with fish, and you might be able to trade tea, salt, sugar, cigarettes or vodka with the herders for milk, kurut (dried yogurt balls) or full-bodied kymys. In any case bring plenty of food and water.

Naryn and Kochkor CBT and Shepherd’s Life projects offer more than a dozen yurtstays (per person full board 450som) around the lake, where you can also ride horses. There is no real need to arrange horses prior to arrival unless you are planning an extensive excursion as horses are easily rented directly from the locals. Bishkek-based travel companies such as NoviNomad (north shore) and ITMC Tien-Shan (south shore) operate tourist yurt camps in summer, where you can stay if there are no groups.

The lake and shore are part of the Song-Köl Zoological Reserve. Among animals under its protection are a diminishing number of wolves and lots of waterfowl, including the Indian mountain goose. The weather is unpredictable and snow can fall at any time so dress and plan accordingly. July to mid-September is the best season. Tourist organisations arrange horse games at the lake on the last Saturday in July and August (check with CBT in Kochkor). The lake is frozen from November to May.

It is possible to trek to Ak-Tal, a tiny village south of Song-Köl on the NarynKazarman road.