Ala-Kul lake and snow-capped mountains in Kyrgyzstan.

©Evgeny Dubinchuk/Shutterstock


Top choice in Issyk-Köl Oblast

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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Issyk-Köl Oblast attractions

1. Jolgolot Viewpoint

9.68 MILES

Hike the hour or two up from the village of Jolgolot (a suburb of Karakol) to take in stunning views of the city and Issyk-Köl to the north and the…

2. Köl-Tör Lake

12.57 MILES

This small but pretty mountain lake is a great day trip up the Ak-Suu Valley. The hike climbs from 1760m off the highway to 3245m at the lake, so don't…

3. Victory Park

13.31 MILES

In addition to the standard monument of Victory on a plinth, memorialising the end of WWII, Karakol's Victory Park also includes an interesting monument…

4. Karakol River Park

13.61 MILES

Developed under the initiative of the Destination Karakol public association, this area of nicely maintained land alongside the Karakol River has benches,…

5. Merchant's Home

13.76 MILES

This two-storey home with an ornate balcony is one of the most attractive historic structures in town, but sadly isn't open to the public.

6. Radio & TV Office

13.76 MILES

This historic building still serves as the office of the local Radio and TV company, which is not open to the public.

7. Holy Trinity Cathedral

13.92 MILES

Set peacefully amid trees, this hefty wooden structure is topped with green-roofed towers and almost-golden onion domes. The 1872 stone original was…

8. Lenin Statue

13.93 MILES

Keep an eye out for the small statue of Lenin along Gebze, overlooking the university.