Natural Attractions in South Shore
Enjoy stunning and diverse natural landscapes.
Landscape diversity, dense in pockets, is one of the most compelling reasons to visit the South Shore. From the waters of Lake Issyk-Kul to the Teskey Ala-Too sub-range of the Tian Shan Mountains, you’ll find an array of contours and colors. In South Shore, you can easily trek or horse trek along a number of trails that venture into little-explored glaciers, peaks, pastures, and valleys. That’s just the beginning of South Shore’s beauty and outdoor appeal, however.
Unique geological formations and natural attractions also await. The inclines of Skazka "Fairytale" Canyon compete with the slots and sandstone towers in Jeti-Oguz Canyon and vie for beauty with summer pasture jailoos and the lush, green Barskoon Waterfalls. All are vastly different in atmosphere, yet all undoubtedly worth a look depending on the experience you seek.
Head into South Shore’s nature and you’ll have the opportunity to float on the surface of a salt-water lakes, gaze at vibrant red rock formations, wander through canyons carved and painted by time and nature, and swim at the base of a tumbling waterfall. These natural attractions are ideal for anything from half-day adventures to multi-day excursions. And no matter your choice, you’ll want to book an evening or two at a yurt camp so you can enjoy nomadic hospitality, food, and cultural traditions as you explore our beautiful nature.
Note: To help you plan your visit we have provided a Google Map below with all natural attractions highlighted plus an estimate of taxi and marshrutka information to and from Bokonbaevo. Your costs will vary when booking transportation from a yurt camp, guesthouse, or a village other than Bokonbaevo. Use our maps to locate these natural attractions along the South Shore.
Among the most popular, beautiful, and accessible hiking experiences in South Shore, Skazka ("fairytale") Canyon easily illustrates how it got its name. Red sandstone formations jut from the landscape in an ever-changing array of paths, slopes, and trails. And no day is the same at Skazka, where colors in the sand change by the hour, particularly after rainfall. Keep a keen eye about you — locals say some rocks resemble snakes, sleeping giants, hippopotamus, dragons, and more. Rivaling stunning painted desert landscapes elsewhere in the world, Skazka delivers an accessible experience featuring the play of light in natural and otherworldly beauty.
Visit Skazka Canyon: Open from May to September. Hire a private taxi from Bokonbaevo for 1500 som round trip; your driver will wait while you hike and explore. Or, request a marshrutka stop on the the road from Bokonbaevo to Karakol (100 som). Entrance fee: 50 som. Exact location here.
As the second largest alpine and saline lake in the world, Lake Issyk-Kul features vast beauty amidst impressive scale. Although rivers and snow melt feed the lake, the hot springs and lakebed geothermal activity create a unique microclimate that ensures the lake never freezes, even in the coldest Central Asian winters. Throughout the warm summer months, sunshine is plentiful and the clear blue water is an ideal temperature to soak away your worries. The southern coast is rich not only in wild beaches, but also hot springs, lakeside saunas, and attractive locally run guesthouses and yurt camps — everything you need to discover the unique beauty that is Lake Issyk-Kul.
Visit the shore: It’s not difficult to find a beautiful piece of shoreline to enjoy, it’s only a question of the experience you seek. There are a number of fantastic swimming beaches bustling with services, shops, and restaurants. Or book into a yurt camp along the lake for a quieter experience and ample access to the water morning, noon, and night.
Featuring impressive views of nearby mountains, Barskoon Waterfall makes for a great day trip for easy access to the lower falls, or a more adventurous climb to the upper part of the falls (sturdy shoes required). With its impressive height (24m), Barskoon Falls and the surrounding geologically protected area makes for an ideal location to relax to the sound of rushing water. Moreover, a number of smaller waterfalls (with fanciful names like Tears of a Snow Leopard, Splashes of Champagne, and Cup of Manas) and water pools ensure you can escape the crowds and find the perfect spot for an enjoyable afternoon.
Visit Barskoon waterfall: Book a guided experience through Destination South Shore or CBT. A taxi to the waterfall from Bokonbaevo takes 1.5 hours and costs 2,500 som directly to the waterfall. Alternatively, take a marshrutka from Bokonbaevo to Barskoon village for 100 som, then walk 10 km to the waterfall. Exact location here.
The most notable feature of the valley is the Jeti Oguz (“Seven Bulls”) landmark which gives the valley its name. Jeti-Oguz also includes an impressive 35km wall of ochre-colored sandstone cliffs. View the formations from afar and you can’t help but marvel at how closely the cliffs resemble the seven bulls for which they are named. Enjoy panoramic views of thick green pine forests and bright red rock, wade through the river, book a night at the nearby resort, or spend an afternoon soaking in the medicinal hot springs. With Dragon Gorge nearby, the Valley of Flowers, Broken Heart Rock, and a number of accessible paths for casual yet rewarding hikes, you can easily enjoy an entire day in Jeti-Oguz Valley.
Visit Jeti-Oguz: Located 122km from Bokonbaevo and close to Karakol, it’s easiest to either rent a car for a self-guided adventure, or book a complete experience through CBT Bokonbaevo. Alternatively, you could book a private taxi to a yurt camp (1,500 som) and explore from there. To really make this experience work, consider visiting as a bookend to your time in the South Shore, either before or after you’ve discovered the culinary and cultural delights in nearby Karakol.
Experience nomadic culture in a pleasant mountain pasture (jailoo) just 20km from Bokonbaevo. Boz Salkyn is one of the region’s preferred summer pasturing areas for Kyrgyz nomads and shepherds, and it’s also a great spot for travelers hoping to experience Kyrgyzstan's cultural heritage in a beautiful setting that affords plenty of outdoor adventure nearby. Book a stay at the Boz-Salkyn yurt camp, trek to Barskoon Waterfall, or join a horseback riding tour for a truly unique vantage point on the Tian Shan Mountains.
Visit Boz Salkyn jailoo: Taxi from Bokonbaevo costs 1,000 som; local yurt camps charge various prices. Alternately, book a complete tour experience through the CBT, which includes transportation, accommodations, and food. Exact location here.
Legend has it that Mykaachy Mountain (literally, "Bloodthristy Mountain") was once the old stomping grounds of a famous thief hundreds of years ago. Located just 90km from Bokonbaevo, the nearby village of Kök-Moynok lay on a thoroughfare spur from the Silk Road. As the story goes, the thief hid in a cave and robbed the passing caravans, killing the owners. Local hunters searched for the thief day and night until he was stopped. This legend lends the mountain an air of mystery. Casual tourists and historians can enjoy trekking or horseback riding through the photogenic mountain passes, which are now completely free of the concerns of legends past.
Visit the gorge: Near the village of Kök-Moynok, there is no entrance fee and trekkers should allot at least three hours to properly explore. Horse rentals cost 800 som per person and 1,400 som for a guide — contact Destination South Shore if you’d like to explore Mykaachy Mountain on horseback!
Discovered only in 2001, the Tuz-Kol (literally "Salt Lake") offers a fun and fascinating experience for locals and tourists alike. Noting its astonishingly high salt content (132 grams per liter of water), take a dip in the lake and you’ll be amazed that you're bouyant enough to easily float on the surface while flipping the pages of a newspaper. Add a medicinal quality to your soak with the therapeutic muds naturally deposited along the shoreline. Apply the mud whose micro-elements and minerals rejuvenate your skin, then dip into Lake Issyk-Kul -- just next to Salt Lake -- for a refreshing way to clean and cool off.
Visit the lake: Private transport from Bokonbaevo costs 1,500 som each way (your driver will wait upon request). You can also book a horse trek or mountain bike ride that visits the lake by contacting Destination South Shore. Exact location here.
Cost: The entrance fee is 500 som per car; 100 som per person.
Numerous hot springs along the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul ensure that you’re never far from a relaxing soak in therapeutic mineral waters. The Jyluu-Suu hot springs are located near the Salt Lake and were once a stop on the Silk Road caravan routes. You can also enjoy hot springs near Kajy-Say beach. The Juuku hot springs run through the Jeti-Oguz Valley while Bar-Bulak hot springs flow with mineral rich water just 2.5 km north-east of the village of Bar-Bulak, where you find can health centers and guesthouses, too.
Visit the hot springs:
Kaji-Say hot springs: Shared taxi costs 100 som per person (5 people per car); marshrutka costs 50 som; private taxi costs 1000 som round trip (driver will wait).
Juuku hot springs: Shared taxi costs 4500 som from Bokonbaevo.
Bar-Bulak hot springs: Shared taxi costs 1500 som from Bokonbaevo.
Jyluu-Suu hot springs: Located in Syrt near Teshik-Kol Lake, private taxi costs 8,000 som from Bokonbaevo, or can be enjoyed on the multi-day Teshik- Köl trek.
Chokmor Ata Mountain
Chokmor Ata is a sacred mountain site for local residents, many of whom report that they still see the apparition of the Great Manaschi, a national hero pivotal in uniting the Kyrgyz tribes during their struggle for independence. Legend has it that a man named Duncan saw the Great Manaschi on the mountain (Chokmor Ata-manaschi), after which he proceeded to narrate the Epic of Manas, the legendary 500,000-line Kyrgyz national poem.
Visit the mountain: With no entrance fee and pretty views, this makes for an unusual half-day hike for independent travelers keen on self-guided exploration.