Kel Suu

Kel Suu Lake

Lake Kol Tetiri, which is more widely known as Köl Suu or Kel Suu, is an isolated alpine lake with the length of about 10 km, located at At-Bashi district in the Naryn region, next to the Chinese border and it is considered one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Kyrgyzstan. The altitude of the lake is  3514 m above the sea level and it is more precisely located in the Kokshaal-Too ridge of the Tian-Shan range in the Kok Kiya valley area. 

This remote lake is surrounded by sheer cliffs with the heights of hundreds of meters that rise abruptly above its blue-green water and it has lately become a very popular destination among local and foreign tourists. It is very hard to comprehend the scale of the views in Kel Suu before visiting it yourself! Kel Suu is best enjoyed as a part of our Kyrgyzstan tours.

Play Video about Horses riding near Kel Suu

Kel Suu was created by an earthquake and the landslide caused by it in the 1980s, that formed a natural dam over the Kurumduk River which is about 17 km long and changes in width from 800 m to as narrow of just few meters. (You need to cross this river to reach Kel Suu.) The river from Kel Suu orginates from an underground passage, meaning that the water sprouts out from a cave or smaller openings between the rocks on the lower side of the natural dam. 

Kel Suu lake is also similar to the Merzbacher lake, meaning it can sometimes lose all its water as happened last time in the spring of 2019. By the autumn of the same year the lake was almost full again and it has not gotten dry since. The lake is not very deep and the depth varies from 5 to 10 meters depending on the season.

Kurumduk river starting from underground near Kel Suu dam
Dry Kel Suu lake

Thanks for the dry lake pic al.iv.og

As quite often with alpine lakes the color of the lake can change drasticly according to the light that is reflecting from the surface of the lake. The light in Lake Tetiri is still something different as the high mountains around it often block the direct sunlight creating peculiar shades of lights and colors.

Wildlife in Kel Suu

When hiking or traveling horseback in Kel-Suu area it is possible to see several species of birds and at least marmots running around to their underground holes. Locals also tell of wolves in the area but they are rarely seen. Maybe not fully wild, but there are the tangled haired yaks grazing in the Kel Suu area as well.

What to do in Kel Suu

Kel Suu area and the Kok Kiya Valley are ideal for horseback riding, hiking and photo tours. The dam at the north end of Kel Suu offers a fantastic view of the lake with its steep cliffs, waterfalls gushing from the heights, rocky islands, hidden bays and several caves and grottoes. The high peaks around the lake reach to more than 4400 meters from the sea level and are covered by snow even in the hottest summer. The view down to the Kurumduk river valley is also worth a moment to admire to.

About two kilometers away, between the steep walls of the canyon, you can see a 50-meter high rocky island dotted with grottoes, caves and indentations. In order to see this island and the lake completely, you need to hire a boat which also gives you the possibility to visit the Kel Suu lake’s many caves. If you venture further south along the lake by a boat, the mountains get less steep and you can find unspoilt green meadows with abundant amounts of mountain flowers and you can also walk by the beaches of Kel Suu, which is not possible in the northern end due to the steep cliffs starting straight from the lake.

Kel Suu horseback riding
Kel Suu riding

As said there are several caves in Kel Suu area. The easiest one to reach is just right after reaching the dam. It has a narrow entrance but gets bigger inside and you will find yourself in a vast hall with an “altar”. Afterwards the cave descends and gets divided into two narrow passages. There are no stalactites but the walls of the lower corridors are covered with an interesting coral reminding texture.

Kel Suu Tours

In case you want to have a custom tour to Kel Suu for example from Bishkek or Naryn, please contact us to organize it.

Travel to Kel-Suu

Kel Suu is located in Kakshaal Too mountains and accessed through the Ak-Sai valley, Naryn region next to the Chinese border. Due to the location by the border, you need a special border permit which you need to acquire well before your arrival in order to get through the border zone checkpoints on the road. Don’t forget to bring your passports as well for the border guard checks! The border zone passport can be acquired fastest from Naryn, just in 3 days. From Bishkek it takes about 2 working weeks. You can contact us for the border zone pass as well. There are two separate ways to get to the lake which both originate from Naryn. Please note that there is no cell phone signal in the Kel Suu area. 

Two roads to Kel Suu

First and shorter route is through the east side of the line of mountains between At-Bashi and the Chatyr Kul area and turns South towards the Aksay river at the end of the mountain range, next to a beautiful river valley. It takes about 5-6 hours in total to drive along the dirt road to the Lake Tetiri (Kel-Suu)

The second, western route is a longer road passing Tash-Rabat and the Torugart village and border to China in the south side of the Chatyr-Kul lake. This road is considerably longer both in distance and duration and it should be kept in mind that there are not many possibilities for refueling, so make sure that you have enough fuel for this road (better to fill an extra fuel can for this route). During both routes, rivers with suspicious bridges need to be crossed and therefore the trip requires an experienced driver together with suitable car also due to the condition of the remote Kyrgyz dirt and mountain roads. On the way you will also pass the beautiful Ak Sai valley with the amazingly meandering river everchanging its path on its way to China and the Taklamakan desert.

The final, about 8-9 km part of the route needs to be usually hiked or ridden with horses but some adventurous groups have also reached the lake with rugged 4WD cars but crossing the Kurumduk river is not always possible with four wheels or the moist soils in the area. During spring time (until early June) it is not possible to cross the river coming from Kel Suu by a car so hiking or horseback are the only options during this high water season. During high water season and without a horse, it might require small climbing next to the river as well to reach Kel Suu.

Acclimatizing before going to Kel Suu is also not a bad idea as it can be quite heavy to hike in the height of 3500 meters. It is recommended to stay in higher altitude at least a couple of days before coming to Kel Suu. For this purpose, visiting sights for example around Naryn or taking your time visiting the other sights on the way is a good option. 

Bridge over a canyon on the way to Kel Suu
Hike to Kel Suu in May

Where to stay in Kel Suu

The easiest way of accommodation is to stay in the yurt camps by the end of the Kel Suu road by the river Kurumduk. You can also rent horses from the shepherds here. The second option is to book with an organized tour company and sleep in tent camps or with the pre booked yurt village stays. Kel Suu can be visited with a day trip from Naryn but it really takes a whole day and does not leave time to explore the area completely. If you are feeling more adventurous, it is perfectly ok to also camp in your own tent in the area. 

What clothes to pack for Kel Suu

As for all Kyrgyzstan, the difference in temperatures between the lowlands and the high mountain areas can be tens of degrees. While it is +40C in Bishkek, it is not rare to snow in Kel Suu, in August. Therefore, be sure to pack warm clothes too. Gloves, long underpants/thermals and rain proof clothing might all be needed. On the other hand, you might be enjoying +20C and sunshine so make sure to bring your cap and sun screen with you as well. If you plan on hiking to the lake, it is better to bring waterproof hiking boots as the soil is partly swampy and wet. Large plastic bags can also be very helpful for sitting down in the wet areas and also for extra rain protection.

Eating and drinking in Kel Suu

All yurt camps and camping places near Kel Suu offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you have any food preferences, it’s best to bring your food and drinks as there might not be that much choices with food in the Kyrgyz rural areas. 

Water is also available from the yurt camps but it is good to bring your own as well, just in case. There are also some natural springs with very clear fresh water near Kel Suu but one can never be totally sure about them.

Spring with fresh water near Kel Suu

Best time to visit Kel Suu

Kel Suu can be visited from latter part of May till the end of September. In May it can still be quite cold though and the water level in the Kurumduk river is higher so it is harder to reach Kel Suu. Sometimes there is still some snow and ice next to the river in May and beginning of June. It might be also that the yurt villages and therefore the horses are not yet readily in place in May so you might not have other option than to hike to the lake. 

The best time to visit is from July to August when the temperatures are nice and everything is green and blooming, especially in July. It is not uncommon though to have some snow falling even during July – August due to the very high elevation.

It is also possible to visit Kel Suu in the winter time but it is a gamble as one can never be sure if the roads are open or not. If the roads are acceptable, beautiful icy lake will be waiting for you. Please do not attempt this by yourself and consult local drivers who know the region or even better, hire them to do the driving for you.

Destinations and sights near Kel Suu

Page updated 26.2.2024

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