Issyk-Kul Lake is located in Kyrgyzstan and considered one of the most unique high mountain lakes. On the map it reminds a blue lens. The lake's southern shore is dominated by the ruggedly beautiful Teskey Ala-Too Range of the Tian Shan mountains. The Kungey Alatau of the Tian Shan runs parallel to the north shore.
Issyk-Kul Lake is 180 kilometres long, up to 60 kilometres wide. It is the second-largest mountain lake in the world behind Lake Titicaca in South America. It is at an altitude of 1,602 metres, and reaches 702 metres in depth that is the second rate after Lake Baikal. The mean water temperature varies from a winter minimum of −0°C to a summer maximum of 24°C. The lake water's salinity is approx.
From ancient times, in many cultures this lake is known by different names: Jehai – “Hot Lake”, Idyk-Kul – “Sacred Lake”, “Salt Lake”, IssykKul – “Hot Lake”. There are some scientific versions and many legends about how the Lake was formed.
A centuries-old history of the lake development is well known from Sako-Usun (1–2 BC) to the modern (Kyrgyz) period which is reflected in various historical monuments such as: the underwater ancient Chigu city (Red Valley town) known as the capital of nomadic usuns and the Tien Shan shopping center on the Great Silk Road, the legendary Christian monastery of Armenian brothers which holds the relics of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, etc.
The periods of prosperity and decline of the settlements in the Issyk-Kul area changed depending on historical and geographical factors. The Medieval heyday of trade points is connected with the Great Silk Road. The period of decline of land routes of the Silk Road and the discovery of the maritime trade route of China and Europe, the rising the level of lake’s water, the infestation of the hordes of Genghis Khan have led to the decline and complete oblivion of medieval cities and settlements.
The next turbulent period of the development of the coast lake is associated with the middle of the 19th century when The Kyrgyz tribes turned to Russia with a request for their entry into the protectorate of the Russian Empire. This period was marked by the world geographical discoveries of Russian geographers and travelers P.P. Semenov, Tian-Shansky and N.M. Przhivalskogo. A massive development of the territory by Russian immigrants began. The first Russian settlements in the Issyk-Kul area were military fortifications – Aksu and Karakol, founded in 1863–1873. They received their names from the nearby rivers Ak-Suu, Karakol. With the beginning of the settlements of peasantry, numerous villages began to be founded. One of the first Russian settlements was the village of Slivkino, named after the first settler – Slivkin. The peasant Slivkin founded his own farm in 1867 in Issyk-Kul (later the village of Slivkino – Pokrovka – now Kyzyl Suu).
On the maps of 1876, the villages of Teploklyuchenka (now Ak Suu), Preobrazhenskoye (now Tyup), Semenovka appeared. In 1888 a Russian immigrant M.Bachin built a hut in the KyzylTokoy tract, which gave rise to the village of Bachino. In 1909 this village in 15 houses was renamed Rybachino. In 1916 there were 24 houses and 96 residents. During the period of the Stolypin reforms the settlement of Russians in the region became widespread. In 1911 all regions were reopened for relocation. The number of Russian villages has increased. The resettlement villages received their names by the names of the first settlers: Semenovka, Grigorievka, Lipinskoe, Samsonovka (now Kochkorka); Koltsovka (now Bokonbaevo). In the late 20s – early 30s, the first Kyrgyz settlements (villages) appeared on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul.
The beginning of the Soviet period is characterized by the rapid development of the agrarian livestock and resortrecreational areas of the economy. In the post-war period, the mining industry began to develop. Special emphasis is placed on the activity of transport trade enterprise “Kitaitorg”, based in Rybachye. The ancient trade Great Silk Road was again in demand. It was used for the trade between the USSR and a resurgent communist China. In the administration centre of Issuk-Kul oblast – the city of Przhevalsk, the training centers began to open, and in Rybachye a shipping company was created. In the later stages of the Soviet period in 1970–1990, Issuk-Kul Lake became a popular all – Union health resort of the USSR. Millions of tourists from all the Union republics annually had a rest in resort, boarding houses and camp sites in the Issyk-Kul region.
Following the breakup of the USSR and the creation of independent states on the basis of the union republics, the economy of the Kyrgyz Republic collapsed. This greatly influenced the development of the region: the majority of resort and recreational facilities were closed and over time were destroyed. However the early 2000s coincided with the gradual and then rapid growth of the construction of new and reconstruction of old tourism and recreation facilities in the waters of the Issyk-Kul lake and in the adjacent territories. This is especially true for the northern coast of the lake where many private modern leisure and tourism facilities were built. Near the village of Tomchi an international airport was built. Unlike the northern coast, the southern one is not so widely developed although according to its natural and geographical characteristics, it is more interesting and promising for the organization of numerous modern resort and recreation centers.
The main positive factors include the purest water and numerous sandy beaches, due to the deeper structure of the bottom of the lake, proximity to the lake of the forest zone, which is a favorable condition for the development of winter recreation, the presence in the mountain gorges of a large number of thermal springs. The main touristic center of the southern coast is the village of Tamga where the airport was built in the Soviet time. Unfortunately, currently, it is completely abandoned. In this area it was planned to build a large international training center for the main summer and winter Olympic sports. But due to the well-known political events of 2010 and later on financial problems, this project will be resolved in the future.
The time takes its course. The Great Silk Road is being reborn. China and Kyrgyzstan are no longer connected by trails with difficult passes but by a modern highway which can take one day from Issyk-Kul to Chinese city – Kashgar. Cars of many foreign brands replaced caravans of camels and horses. Instead of merchants, dervishes and conquerors, numerous groups of tourists from different countries travel along the Great Silk Road.