Our Story, Past and Present
All the reasons you'll fall in love with South Shore culture, traditions, and nature.
Kyrgyzstan is a land of storytellers and traditions, where ancient history, myths, and legends are woven throughout the fabric of modern Kyrgyz culture. It’s a country with one of the longest epic poems in the world, the Epic of Manas, and a destination whose nomadic traditions have been passed down through the generations and survive today as living history.
Nowhere is this living nomadic culture more evident than along the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, a region which defies expectations as it draws for the visitor a fascinating portrait of continuity, of ancient and modern nomadic culture told through stories and lived through tradition and practice.
Traditional musicians play inside a yurt.
Dancers at a South Shore festival.
South Shore, however, was not always the cultural darling of Kyrgyzstan. The Soviet Union favored the north shore of the lake, industrializing some areas, creating sprawling city-centers in others, all while building resorts and fisheries along the waterline. While this delivered economic benefit for locals along the north shore, the Soviet Union at the same time discouraged practice of traditional Kyrgyz culture. As a result, residents along the opposing southern shore of the lake were considered rural and backwards, particularly since the region featured very little urbanization.
Sweeping societal changes followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The lake’s southern shore was suddenly praised for having held onto its nomadic cultural heritage during the decades of Soviet influence.
Young Kyrgyz boy at Jaichy jailoo.
Making traditional grain tea at Kyzyl-Tuu village.
What was once considered a weakness for the South Shore is now one of the most compelling reasons to visit this engaging destination spread along a relatively unspoiled 226km of shoreline. South Shore offers a vibrant, living nomadic history set against sparkling blue waters, unspoiled canyons, and the soaring Teskey Ala-Too range of the Tian Shan Mountains.
Map of the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul
The map above is intended to give you an idea of the geographic spread of the South Shore Lake Issyk-Kul region. It's important to note that the area and destination identity as "South Shore" is a recent evolution. Note also that the knowledge and availability of all the various points of interest, sights, villages and offerings dotted across its landscape -- has also recently evolved a great deal, too. That is part of the charm of the region.
Today, engaging hiking opportunities are accessible from many of the yurt camps and guest houses located throughout the region. Treks through the mountains are one key part of South Shore’s outdoor appeal, but unique geological formations and natural attractions are another. The sandstone towers in Jeti-Oguz Canyon compete for beauty with the contours of Skazka "Fairy Tale" Canyon and the lush, green Barskoon Waterfalls — incomparable in every way, but all undoubtedly worth a look.
Yurt stays on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.
Horseback riding into the mountains.
Alongside this beauty, nomadic culture pulses through village life all along Lake Issyk-Kul’s southern shore. Master yurt builders dwell in lakeside villages. World-renowned felt crafters offer workshops and keep the old techniques alive. And the once forgotten practice of Salbuurun — a nomadic hunting tradition involving eagle, horse, and hound — carries on as modern day warriors showcase their skills.
We offer you the warmest of Kyrgyz welcomes and invite you to discover why South Shore is more than a destination — it’s an immersive experience in Kyrgyzstan’s most fascinating nomadic traditions.