Sary-Chelek NATURE RESERVE
The Sary-Chelek national park is located up in the Tien-Shan mountains in the Chatkal Range in the Northwest part of Kyrgyzstan and is registered as World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The reserve is named by the Sary-Chelek lake which is 550 km from Bishkek and 210 km from Jalalabad at an altitude of 1878 m above sea level. Its length is 6,2 km and the maximum width 2,6 km. The word Sary Chelek translates from the Kyrgyz language as Yellow Bucket. The Lake is relatively small but yet the largest in the biosphere and is located tightly between conifer, relic fruit and nut forests.
Sary-Chelek is one of the most known and also most magnificent lakes in Kyrgyzstan. The water in the lake often has a greenish shade of blue and creates unique opportunities for photographs according to the light from the atmosphere. There are only two possible entrances to Sary Chelek, one from North and one from South. The Northern route is only for trekking people through the mountains from Talas side, that meets high mountain passes and deep canyons on the way. For more comfort seeking people there is the Southern road where you can reach the lakeside by car from the village of Arkit. Sary-Chelek lake is the major Lake in the area but there are also seven smaller lakes to be explored to the Southeast like Kyla-Kol, Iyri-Kol, Aram-Kol, Cherek-Kol, and Bakay-Kol. You can reach the lakes by walking for about 1 km South-East from the Southern end of Sary chelek.
Kara-Kymysh also is known as Kara-Suu lake and it is located about 4 km East from the Sary-Chelek lake. The Kara Kymysh lake was formed as a result of the major collapse that dammed the Kara-Suu river. The length of the Kara- Kamysh is about 1,5 km and the width is 500 m and the average depth is about 90 m. In summer, the water warms up to 17-19 degrees. You can swim in the lake and observe the rock walls and fish like Marinka under the water.
The shores of Kara Kamysh are overgrown with Tien Shan spruce, juniper, mountain ash, barberry and other shrubs. There are stunning views Southeast from the shore of the Kara-Kymysh to the mountain of Min-Teke and at the Western side of the lake the mountain the ridge separates the small lakes next to Sary Chelek from the Kara Kamysh lake.
How to get Sary-Chelek?
You can get to Sary-Chelek from Bishkek by first getting a taxi to Tashkömür town by taxi which will be 800 som per person. The road goes through the picturesque way passing through the Too-Ashuu tunnel (largest in Kyrgyzstan), vast Suusamyr Valley, gorgeous Chychkan gorge, calm Toktogul reservoir and the deep gorge of the Naryn River, the river that will join with Kara-Darya, forming the famous Syr Darya further in Uzbekistan. From Tash-Kömür you can catch another taxi to Arkit village 80 km Northwest. At the very beginning of the park, at the entrance gate, you can stop in Arkit village where you can rent a room in the hotel. There is still 15 km to go to Sary Chelek from Arkit. You may walk or hitch hike to the shore or take a taxi, however it might be a bit pricey, especially for foreign tourists. Since during the high season a lot of locals visit Sary-Chelek for the picnics and there is a good chance you could jump on one of their cars or at least ride with a lesser payment compared to taxis. Get some snacks or lunch with you if you are going to spend some time on the shoreline. There are a couple of chaikhonas (tea room) and shops in Arkit.
You have to pay to enter the Sary-Chelek area, the cost being 400 som per person and there is an extra payment if you want to install a tent. Inside the area you will find public toilet, some garbage bins and covered picnic areas. There are also few places to set up tents near the shoreline. If you want to go further you can rent a motorboat and see the far Northern part of the lake (at least this used to be the case but there have been some reports of this not being possible anymore. Also information about swimming possibility is controversial). The best time to go to Sary-Chelek is in July and August, however at nights it’s always cold. You can visit a little museum and arboretum while your stay, where you can get more information about some of the plants growing in the biosphere area.
Sights near Sary-Chelek
Page updated 28.9.2020