It is more convenient to go to the lake through Bishkek. The city has a railway station, and Manas International Airport is 20 km away.
Cheaper and faster travel by plane. Bishkek Airport receives flights from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and a number of other cities. Several dozen planes depart from the capital’s airports every day: Ural Airlines, Aeroflot, Es Seven, Turkish Airlines and others fly. There are many direct flights in the schedule, the flight takes 4-4.5 hours.
Tickets for flights with connections in Novosibirsk or Istanbul will cost more.
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Residents of St. Petersburg will have to fly with a transfer in Moscow. There are few flights, only Aeroflot operates them, the journey takes from 6.5 to 26 hours.
Muscovites have another option – a direct train to Bishkek. Departs 2 times a week from Kazansky railway station. You will have to listen to the sound of wheels for at least 3 days. There is no direct bus connection with Bishkek, and getting there with transfers is long, expensive and irrational.
How to get from the airport to the lake
Buses (No. 153) and fixed-route taxis run from the airport to the Bishkek Western Bus Station. The fare is 42 KGS, the journey takes 30-40 minutes. At night, you will have to use a taxi service, a fixed rate is 620 KGS (you can order a car at the Taxi Manas office on the 1st floor of the airport terminal (west wing)). Next, you need to transfer to a bus or minibus to one of the settlements on the shore of Issyk-Kul. It is better to find out the exact bus schedule at the box office, minibuses run from 7:30 and depart as they fill up. The prices on the page are for September 2021.
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The main resorts of Issyk-Kul
A dozen resort towns and villages are scattered along the northern and southern coasts of Issyk-Kul. Balykchy, which is located on the western shore, is the first to meet vacationers on the way from Bishkek airport to the lake. That is why the people called it the western gate of Issyk-Kul. This is far from the most popular resort of the “Kyrgyz Baikal”, but many choose it because of its good transport accessibility. There are many hotels and family pensions in the city and its environs. Beach holidays are common, and of the sights – only the ancient settlement in the neighboring Toru-Aigyr.
Most of the region’s hotels and guest houses are concentrated on the north coast. The price range is decent – from 1100 KGS for a double room to 40,000 KGS for a cottage for 10 people.
One of the most popular resorts in Issyk-Kul is the city of Cholpon-Ata. It is located on the northern coast, 80 km from Balykchy. The recreational opportunities of this place can satisfy the most demanding tourist – healing mountain air and mineral springs for those who want to improve their health, water sports, mountaineering, diving, snorkeling, trekking, horseback riding and much more. For those who prefer to relax on vacation, there are clean beaches and 5 lifts to comfortably climb to the top and admire the mountain lake from there.
The popular ski resort of Karakol is located in the southeast of Issyk-Kul. Skiers come here from all over Kyrgyzstan and the CIS countries. There is a full-fledged sports base with everything necessary for active recreation.
Bosteri, a small resort village, is located 5 km from Cholpon-Ata. This is a great place to relax with children – a wide sandy beach, extreme rides and a water park. In addition, tourists are attracted by the largest selection of water activities in Issyk-Kul – boats, motorcycles, bananas, paragliders and parachutes. Here is one of the largest hospitals.
Tamchi is a small village on the northern coast, 45 km from Balykchy. Hotels and boarding houses are located almost in the coastal zone. In the immediate vicinity there are many mineral springs with warm and soft water, and in the village itself there are sanatoriums and clinics. The main attraction is the Tamchi Petroglyphs, which date back to 1,000 BC. e.
The village of Chok-Tal, just 7 km from Tamchi, also has its own thermal well and several boarding houses specializing in mineral water treatment. For lovers of outdoor activities – windsurfing, sailing yachts and boats. Not far from the shore, the remains of a sunken settlement are visible in the water. And after swimming enough, you can go on an excursion to the ancient burial mounds.
Hotels in Issyk-Kul
Hotels, hotels and other accommodation options are scattered along the entire coast of Issyk-Kul, but most of them are concentrated on the northern coast. Since health tourism is widespread in the region, it is worth highlighting the sanatoriums, which, in addition to accommodation and meals, offer their guests medical procedures. The range of prices per night in a double room is large – from 3,000 to 10,000 KGS.
For those who come just to relax, there are hotels, apartments and guest houses of different price categories in Issyk-Kul. Prices for a room in Cholpon-Ata mini-hotels start from 1000 KGS. Many of them include breakfast in the price.
There are a couple of 2 and 3* hotels in Bosteri and Cholpon-Ata. A night in a double room will cost 4000-5000 KGS. In addition, there is an option to rent a holiday house or apartment for 4-10 people. In some cases, this is more profitable than taking several double rooms in a hotel, and for a fun company or a large family, this is an ideal option. The price of the issue is from 6500 KGS (for 4 people) to 40,000 KGS (for 10 guests).
The main transport of Issyk-Kul is buses. True, they rarely go, some – 2-3 times a day. Their main task is to connect Bishkek with the resorts of Karakol, Bosteri, Cholpon-Ata, Jeti-Oguz, Balykchi and others, but you can also get from one settlement to another. Shuttle taxis run a little more often, they usually leave as they fill up. The fare depends on the distance, the minibus will cost a little more (270-370 KGS), but the journey will take less time.
Railway communication is poorly developed. The final stop of the only branch is located in the city of Balykchy (Rybachye) closest to the capital. The road to the lake takes about 5 hours, the fare is 69 KGS for adults and 34 KGS for children from 5 to 10 years old. This train runs only during the summer season.
Boats, yachts and even motor ships go on the lake. The main piers are located in Balykchy, Karakol and Pokrovka. There is no flight connection between cities and towns, the only option for boat trips is to rent transport from local shipowners.
The most interesting tourist routes of Issyk-Kul lie where even the most versatile off-road vehicle cannot pass. Hiking trails are laid in the mountains, but it is faster to move on horseback, especially since horse tourism is well developed in the region. Many boarding houses offer their guests to go on an excursion to the mountains on horseback.
Rent a Car
The highway encircles the entire lake in a circle and passes through the main resort towns and villages. If you plan to visit several settlements, then a car is the best way to travel around Issyk-Kul. It is worth taking care of this in advance, since you can take a car only in Bishkek and large cities.
The roads are very broken in places, so it is better to choose a reliable car with good cross-country ability. In addition, it is easier to get to the sites of the ancient man and other historical and natural attractions in an off-road vehicle than in a small passenger car. In some areas, the latter will be completely useless.
There are few rental companies in the capital, there are local ones (Bishkek car rental, Russian Troika, Avtotour) and international ones (Advantour). The rental price is relatively small – from 1500 KGS per day. The price usually includes insurance, and for an additional fee, you can take child car seats.