Tuz-Kol, Dead Lake of Issyk-Kul

Tuz-Kol, Dead Sea Kyrgyzstan

Today I would like to share with you a fascinating story  about most interesting lakes of Kyrgyzstan. I’m quite sure that you heard before about Issyk-Kul, but Kyrgyzstan has a lot to offer, it has more than two thousand mountain lakes! Among them there is one, the most unusual, Central Asian very own Dead Salt Lake, just like the one at Israel and Big Salt Lake in North America!

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Dead lake of Kyrgyzstan

Major share of the road would not cause you any problem, but final part of the road is covered with stones and sand and gets shaky often.

Road to lake

It is fascinating that two lakes, Tuz-Kol and Issyk-Kul are so close to each other but don’t connect. But actually Issyk-Kul is a source of water supply for its elder brother that lies just 500 meters away. Tuz-Kol hides from curious eyes behind high hills and only at the top of them you’ll see the spherical lake with thousand meters long and half of it wide. This is the Dead Lake.

It doesn’t seem ‘dead’, it looks actually very attractive

Road to lake

Our journey began in the evening, when we just left the city Balykchi. We weren’t quite good with our timing and we had to nail 70 km on the road and 15 deep into barrens when it became dark and windy. Our car lights wasn’t strong enough to reveal something beneath several meters in front of a car. It was so dark that every hill and bush turned for us into a big, hideous figure, moving slowly on the edge of our eyes. But when we looked high into the sky, we felt much better, because stars were shining like they were cleaned up by the sky cleaner earlier this day and placed back.

At the daylight they look much safer than at night!

When we were returning back by the same road we couldn’t recognize anything from it, it was different and surely no mythical and hideous silhouettes there! All we noticed a presence of an Issyk-Kul, silently watching us, travelers…

Yurts on the shore of Issyk-Kul

But now we were still lost and worried in the dark. We followed road but it seems that it was stretching much further that yurt camp by the dead lake and eventually we turned back, slowly seeking the right turn.

– Oh, here it is! – we shouted in awe when finally found the lights of a yurt camp with open doors, inviting us to rush in.

Yurts on the shore of a dead lake

I still don’t know how exactly we managed to get lost, but we surely got our portion of adventures! When we tried to find a field, where we took our hard turn, we don’t found the trails of our tires! Probably it was some sort of local mystery, huh?

Sunset on the lake

In early morning everyone was prepared to meet sunset. Nobody wanted to miss such opportunity, because it is different, when you meet a sunset in the city and in nature, when sun slowly rises behind mountains and reflects in the calm waters of lake.

Terskei Ala-Too is waking up

Couple of minutes later pink-coloured mountains turned orange, which also turned into bright red and then mountain got covered in cloud blanket.

From south Issyk-Kul basin is locked by Terskei Ala-Too (4500 average height), which rises up to 5000 meters at a maximum point

And now, finally it’s a time when lake starts to wake up, and still lake waters slowly starting to create waves that head towards the shore.

Tuz-Kol of Issyk-Kul in early hours

Grey landscape slowly shows life signs and accumulates the colors of a new day and slowly shines with yellow colors.

Lights and shadows of a dead lake

Yellow hills above the lake

At such hours colors of the nature are changing like in a kaleidoscope. Here is the lake and it’s surrounding hills:

Sunrise hours

And several minutes later landscape changes dramatically:

Sun is slowly climbing high at the sky and water gets more transparent and blue, accumulating the sky in itself.

Lake places of interest

Our attention was grabbed by bushes with the height of an adult man with fascinating red flowers with small petals.


Ephedra is a derelict plant that dates back to pre-ice age period, which was actively used in ancient china for relieving blood pressure.

In 19th century Russia this plant was used against many diseases and carried name of a man, who started using it – kuzmichev’s grass.

Also we found another interesting plant with black berries, but we could properly identify it’s origins. 

Behind Tuz-Kol we found another tiny lake that appeared recently. It seems that this region can give birth to many lakes…

When we found the second lake, we started take the question of their origin seriously. It seems that the source of that lakes is Issyk-Kul, who supplied them initially after a high tide and now is still connected with them via underground waters. This is one of the theories how Dead Lake of Issyk-Kul appeared here in 2001.

Another name of the lake is Salt Lake, which is viable as well, because salt level reaches here incredible 70%.

Salt mud

Now fish can't survive in such conditions, but little organisms and bacteria can. Those who enjoys swimming and those who can will both enjoy the place, because you can’t drown in such lake, pressure of the water will pop you up like a ping pong ball.

People come here specifically to enjoy this mud

Lake has a final, third name, Black lake, which resembles a large deposits of mud with similar to clay structure enriched with variety of minerals. You can also meet here green and even blue mud. It is believed that it carries unique healing properties and people scavenge this area in summer and try to carry away with them as much mud as it is possible.

Entry fee is 50 sum, regardless whether you want to swim, get mud or just enjoy the sights.

First mud enthusiasts are already on their way to enjoy the ‘swimming’.

In order to receive that properties from mud it needs to dry on the body

And then you can enjoy some tea.

Summer time here is very crowded, but now at September it is much more comfortable.

400 meters and there is an Issyk-Kul, right behind a hill! It is also a small secret for those who wishes to take natural bath without paying.

Tuz-Kol lake and issyk-kul lake

Now we had to go back to our wonderful Tuz-Kol and return back to the city. Couple of turns and it’s gone like it wasn’t there at all.

Goodbye, Tuz-Kol!

Author: Olga Varejkina


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