Welcome to Barskoön Valley
By far the easiest way to get deep into the appealing alpine landscapes behind southern Issyk-Köl is driving up Barskoön Valley (Ущелье Барскоон) along the wide, well-maintained, unpaved truck road that leads all the way to the controversial Kumtor Gold Mine, turning south off the coast road at Km140/80. If you go too far you'll need permits and invitations, but an uncontroversial compromise is stopping after 21km for the Barskoön Waterfall, 2km beyond a curious truck-on-a-plinth monument. The smaller, more accessible waterfall is reached within 20 minutes' walk, above two busts of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. The upper falls are distantly visible through the pine trees nearby, but getting there takes a couple of hours' scramble.