Exploring the Area
Lake Kel-Suu is considered one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in Kyrgyzstan. It was not well known only a few years ago, but it now attracts tourists from all over the world.
The lake is located in the Naryn region, in the Ak-Sai Valley on the Chinese border. It sits on the headwaters of the Kurumduk River at an altitude of about 3600 meters above sea level. Acclimatizing to this altitude is important before embarking on a strenuous trekking adventure. The lake was formed by a strong earthquake, and to see all of it, you need to sail on a boat.
The water in Kel-Suu is fresh and has a shade of greenish color. The length of the lake is 9 kilometers, and its width varies from 500 meters to 2 kilometers at its widest point; the entire northern part is completely surrounded by high cliffs, limiting walking opportunities.
Climatic conditions: Lake Kel-Suu sits on a cold mountain. The air temperature in the summer (mid-July to mid-August) is between 14-16 degrees Celsius in the daytime and sometimes below zero at night. Even in summer, snow sometimes falls.
Where to Stay
There are three main options for accommodations at Lake Kel-Suu. The easiest is to stay with the shepherds at yurt camps, which are organized by local businesspersons for tourists. You can also rent horses from the shepherds.
The second option is to book with an organized tour company and sleep in tent camps. Tour packages will vary and come in a range of costs.
The third, and perhaps most difficult option, is to bring your own tents and camp by the lake. This can be risky since changing water levels can flood roads and make areas around the lake marshy. If you get stuck, you may have to turn to tour companies for help.
Eating and Drinking
All yurt camps and campgrounds offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you have any food preferences, it’s best to bring your food and drinks.
What to See and Do
Lake Kel-Suu is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes of Kyrgyzstan. Meaning “incoming water” in Kyrgyz, Kel-Suu has the unusual feature of sometimes disappearing into underground caves and grottoes. Before going there, be sure to research its current water levels.
No matter the state of the lake, the terrain is ideal for horseback riding, short hikes, and photo tours. The dam offers a beautiful view of the lake with its fantastic scenery—steep cliffs hundreds of meters high, waterfalls, rocky islands, bays, caves, and grottoes. The turquoise bowl of water is surrounded by sheer peaks, the tops of which are covered with snow even in the hottest summer.
About two kilometers away, between the steep walls of the canyon, you can see a 50-meter-high rock-island dotted with grottoes, caves, and indentations. But to see the lake completely, you need to sail it to visit its many caves.
The main cave has a narrow entrance and lurks in the rocks on the right side of the dam. First, you find yourself in a vast, high hall with an “altar,” and then the cave descends and divides into two narrow passages. There are no stalactites, although the walls of the lower corridors are covered with an interesting texture, similar to coral.
How to Get Around
The lake is very difficult to access. It is located on the remote Kokshaal-Too ridge, and getting there requires passing through the vast and swampy Ak-Sai valley. Such a journey requires fording rivers, which only specialized vehicles and experienced drivers can handle.
The route: Bishkek – Naryn – Ak-Muz – Bosogo – Kynda – Ak-Sai – Kok-Kyya
The road from Bishkek to the Kok-Kiya valley will take an average of 13-14 hours of driving. You can get there by passenger cars, but preferably on off-road vehicles, as the second part of the route is completely unpaved requires fording rivers. It’s best to travel with a group of 2-3 cars.
Getting to the Ak-Sai Valley from the east through Kunda Pass is only possible 6 months of the year, as the pass is closed in winter due to snow and frost.
The responsibility zone of the Kynda frontier post begins in the Kunda Pass. You will be twice stopped by border guards to check documents and permits (they must be received in advance—at least two weeks prior to visiting). You’ll need a photo, a copy of your passport, and an application obtained from the Border Guard Service in Bishkek.