Once upon a time there was a traveller called Martin. He spent his summer travelling around Central Asia. At the end of a long trip, he decided to spend his final days in Central Asia around Kyrgyzstan’s Issyk Kul. Issyk Kul is a beautiful Alpine lake in Kyrgyzstan, surrounded by green mountain tops at an altitude of 1600 meter. Apart from chilling out at the countless cafes and the beach in Cholpon-Ata, he wanted to see some more. Therefore he went on a daytrip to the south shore to see the Fairytale Canyon. And more.
Issyk Kul is a popular destination by Russians and Kazakhs to spend their summer holiday. The touristic centre is concentrated in Cholpon-Ata, a town on Issyk Kul’s north shore. Souvenir stalls and tourists in few clothes are filling the streets in summer, when temperature up to 40 degrees celcius are not unheard. I loved chilling out at Cholpon-Ata’s beach and boulevard for a few days, but knew I’d regret if I didn’t explore any other places around the lake. I went on a daytrip to Issyk Kul’s south shore to see a bit more of the Issyk Kul region.
You can either book a tour around the lake for 15 euro, or use public transport and see the region by yourself. In the town of Cholpon-Ata, there’s plenty of offers to book one of those tours. I wasn’t interested in a tour and used the city of Karakol as a base. Upon arrival, the owner of the hostel I stayed at started talking enthusiastic about the hot springs and other natural gems near Karakol immediately. Unfortunately my time was limited and I set my priority on visiting the Fairytale Canyon.
After 2 hours the driver told me to get off the marshrutka and pointed in the direction of the canyon. The canyon is located 2 kilometers from the main road and while walking down the dusty road, I noticed the grey and green mountains turned more reddish.
I spent almost 1.5 hours exploring the canyon and used the one place that offered some shade as picnic spot. The canyon is incredibly beautiful and I enjoyed soaking in the view for a while. The reddish colour and the unusual shape of the rocks, caused by the wind, do justice to the name Fairytale Canyon.
The people in Central Asia are incredibly friendly. I decided to hitch the next ride, but before I even made a first attempt, I was waved into a car by a Kyrgyz family. The family consisted of 1 man, his wife, another family member and 3 kids. They were from Osh and spent their vacation around Issyk Kul. They all squeezed a bit and fit me into their spacious car.
We hadn’t covered a big distance before we turned away from the main road. It sounds like the beginning of a horror movie, but they were kind enough to ask me if it was fine with me or if I wanted to get off the vehicle. As we experienced a big language barrier, they explained me with hand gestures that we were going to see a waterfall.
The surroundings became greener the closer we got to the Barskoon waterfall. The waterfall was beautifully located, high in the mountains. But I was more impressed by the postcard scenery around. There were a few yurts and a young guy, who looked no older than 8, was riding a donkey.
Soon the family unpacked the car and prepared for a picnic. Lots of watermelon, bread and some rice dish were spread out on the blanket.
I think I have never disappointed anyone more than the father then. I had lunch in the Fairytale Canyon, shortly before I was picked up by the family, so I was barely hungry and couldn’t eat much. When he also found out that I wasn’t married and didn’t even have a girlfriend, he hadn’t much to say anymore.
Only one of the girls spoke a few words of English, but still the whole family tried to communicate and find out more about my life and the lives of the rest of my family.
We drove back in the direction of Karakul by the end of the afternoon. We were unfortunate to have a flat tire the way. TWICE. The first time the driver could easily change the tire. The second time was more of a problem, since we obviously used the spare tire already. I spent a while with the family, while the driver was going to the town to get a new tire, before I decided to hail down a marshrutka to cover the last 8 kilometer to the hostel.
Fortunately, the Fairytale Canyon and the rest of Issyk Kul’s south shore is much nice than the fairytale I started this article with. 😉 The south shore looked beautiful and has quite a few places worth visiting. I wish I could have seen more places, but unfortunately my time was up. I liked Issyk Kul much better than expected.