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Issyk Kul - Warm Lake

Lake Issyk-Kul, a drainless lake in the northern Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, is one of the largest mountain lakes in the world, and is famous for its magnificent scenery and unique scientific interest. It spans an area of approx. 6300 km2, is roughly 750 m deep and its surface is at an elevation of about 1700 m. The lake's name (derived from a word for "hot lake") gives a hint on the fact that it does not freeze during the winter despite its elevation. Air temparatures in summer are about 16°C, while in winter they do not go below -3°C.

Lake terraces along the shores indicate a higher water level in the past. The presence of underwater ruins of buildings proves that in the Middle Ages the level of the lake was lower than it is now. In the 20th century the lake has dropped more than three meters. Seasonal fluctuations of the level, caused by summer floods in the approx. 50 rivers of the Issyk-Kul basin, range from 20 to 60 cm. Surface curents, which flow counterclockwise, have been recorded. The water of the Issyk-Kul is sky blue in colour, very clear (visibility up to 65 feet), and salty (0.6%).

The most precious jewel in the necklace of Kyrgzystan lakes is Issyk-Kul . It has water surface of 6,236 sq. km. and a maximum depth of 668 m.

Issyk-Kul means "warm lake" in Kyrgyz. It lies in a vast basin ringed on two sides, the south and north, by snow-capped mountains; it does not freeze in winter, and one can bathe in it till late autumn.

Kyrgyztan map

Issyk-Kul, which lies at 1,608 m. above sea level, is the world second largest mountain lake, the largest being Lake Titicaca in South America, and is first in terms of depth and volume of water.

Issyk-Kul is unique in that dozens of rivers fall into it but none flows out. The wooded mountain slopes around it are populated by wolves and bears, graceful gazelles and magnificent elks.

The lake's water is famous for its curative properties, and some of its springs contain mineral substances that have unique medicinal value. As a health resort Issyk-Kul ranks among such well-known health-building areas as the Crimea, the Caucasus and the Baltic region.

"A blue emerald set in a frame of silver mountains" is how the outstanding Russian scientist and traveler, Piotr Semyonov-Tienshansky, described Issyk-Kul. That was said more than a hundred years ago, and the "Kyrgyz Sea" has lost none of its beauty. Its waters remain unbelievably blue against the snowy peaks of the Ala-Too Mountains. Issyk-Kul remains to us one of nature's wonders, the "blue eye" of the Kyrgyz Mountains.

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