Ala-Kul, climbing to high-mountain lake

Ala-Kul lake (Kyrgyz: Алакөл) is located in Kyrgyzstan, Issyk-Kul region, near Karakol city on 3,560m above sea level. In the Kyrgyz language, it translates as the variegated lake. This post describes an experience of climbing there.


Karakol is a capital of Issyk-Kul region. To The north of the city there is a museum of famous Russian traveler and geographer, Nikolay Przhevalsky. In 1888 he was traveling in that region and after drinking water from a river, caught incurable illness. After several days he died in Karakol, where he was later buried. The guide can tell you the story of his trips. The most interested one is about Przhevalsky's struggle to get permission to get into Lhasa. He had never get the permission.

Przhevalsky's monument

Getting to start of Ala-kul trail

But lets get back to Ala-kul. There is no public transport to get to start of the climb. So if you are traveling on a car just drive there or take a taxi. But beware that road quality is fine only for jeeps. It Is very easy to find the way. It is located just south of Karakol. There is also ski base just near it.

Place to park a car

Horse ride

Road ends at local farm house. It is possible to hire a horses there. We visited the farm in a day before and arrange the horses. But the road is not that far (10km) and can be done by foot. It took us about 2-3 hours on horses to get to the start of the track. Horses were not that strong, I think people are not used them often to ride in this mountain area.

It is easy to spot it by small bridge to the other side of the river. We crossed the bridge and start it our way to the top. While we were climbing there was beautiful view on other side of the valley. The way up starts on 2500 meters above see levels.

First, we went through a forest part and then saw a small house.

Bridge to the trail

Stay house

There is a small wooden house on the way up. It is perfect if you felt tired considering trip. I ve heard some people who go up in 2 days stays here for a night sleep.

One of members started to feel sick and decided to stay here, while we continued our journey. On the way back we mat and together went back successfully.

Stay house

Stay house

Meeting gringos

Almost before reaching the top, we meet an American couple with a local guide. The gringo worked there in an university as an English teacher. He spoke both Russian and Kyrgyz languages, while his girlfriend doesn’t. After hearing his story, we got impression that he is kind of spy and maybe recruit people while working in university for US. It makes sense consider gold mines in this region.

Stay house

Almost there

The lake

Finally we reached the lake. It is beautiful. I don’t remember how much time to took us to climb it, but it was not very hard considering my experience in it. When you reach the final point, all other thing doesn't matter anymore :)

It was May , so snow was still there. In summer it is possible to go through the valley to other side and climb back using another route. Or at least stay for a night in a tent, it is very rare to make 1 day hike for it.

the lake

The lake

Way back

After spending 20 minutes on top of the lake for taking photo we started our way done. We rich the building and get the guy who wait for us on a way back and headed down. After we cross the bridge to enter to trail , it is started to get dark. Fortunately, we had a flashlight with us. So we success


If you are in the Issyk kul area, the hike should be on your to-do list. But it is not good idea to do it in one day, unless you are fit. Kyrgyz part of Tyan Shan are very beautiful, I recommend to visit it.

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