Top choice in Issyk-Köl Oblast

Mountain turquoise lake in Kyrgyzstan; Shutterstock ID 164143238; Your name (First / Last): Megan Eaves; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial; Full Product or Project name including edition: Destination page image: Kyrgyzstan (BiT)

Shutterstock / Evgeny Dubinchuk

The two-day trek to stunning Ala-Köl is for many visitors a highlight of the entire Kyrgyzstan experience. Though less than 1.5 km², the range of massive peaks that backs the long curve of the the lake makes the view from the pass down to Altyn Arashan one of the finest and most accessible anywhere in the north of the country.

The standard two-day route runs up the Karakol Valley to the Sirota hut campsite, though this can get crowded with tour groups in summer. Continuing up to the lake the next day, follow the rocky trail around the north side of the Ala-Köl as it climbs to an obvious pass and descends steeply towards Altyn-Arashan, making sure to cross the river before reaching the forested lower section of the valley. Upon reaching the Arashan river, head north around 3km to the springs or continue another few hours to the trailhead near Ak-Suu village for a return to Karakol.