Issyk-Kul

"Have you seen our lake?" is one of the most common questions that English-speaking Kyrgyzstani natives ask visitors. There's good reason for this. Issyk-Kul is one of the largest (40 x 100 miles) and deepest (700 meters) alpine lakes in the world, and it is also entirely ringed by 4,000meter+ mountains. The visual effect of standing on the shore of the lake is that of an inland sea; snow-capped mountains stretch from horizon to horizon as you stare out to the opposite shore, with seagulls making an occasional appearance.

Known as the "land of milk and honey," Chui oblast which contains Issyk Kul lake is the most prosperous and productive of Kyrgyz regions. Already substantial, tourism in this region promises to be far stronger once Kazakhstan completes a highway linking the lake to Almaty.

Apart from the myriad hiking options, nearby attractions include various hotsprings nestled in the mountains, sandy beaches, a Dungan mosque built entirely without nails, a historical museum exclusively devoted to the 'Great Game' spy/explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky, native eagle-hunters and petroglyphs said to date from 500 BC.