Welcome to Central Asia, where stunning lakes puncture the landscape and offer guests a chance to soak up the region's stunning natural beauty. From Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan, there is no shortage of options for those who want to lace up their hiking boots, ski, swim, or just get inspired. Here are some of the top ones to visit in no particular order!
1. Issyk-Kul–The Local Vacation Spot
Starting off in Kyrgyzstan, there's Issyk-Kul, which is the largest lake in the country and the second-largest saline lake in the world. Its name means "warm lake," and you'll feel why as soon as you dive in. The water temperature stays around 20°C (68°F) in summer and never freezes over in winter, making it a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. With its stunning mountainous backdrop and clear blue water, Issyk-Kul is perfect for any traveller.
2. Son-Kul–Want to Visit a Frozen Lake Amongst The Clouds?
Son-Kul is about 3000m above sea level and is a short drive away from Biskek–the capital, shepherds herd cattle during the summer, but year-round the lake is a picturesque scene where you can sleep in a yurt and retreat from the world. In the winter it freezes over which makes it feel like an ice rink in the sky!
3. Aydarkul–a Desert Oasis
Westward in Uzbekistan, there's Aydarkul, which is a popular destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Located in the Kyzylkum Desert, Aydarkul's blue-green water is a stark contrast to the surrounding sand dunes. Visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, and camping in the desert, and the lake is also teeming with birdlife, making it a great spot for bird-watching.
4. Lake Iskanderkul–a Place to Switch Off
In Tajikistan, there's Lake Iskanderkul found in the heart of the Fann Mountains. Named after the legendary warrior Iskander, this lake's emerald-green water is fed by the surrounding glaciers which has a calming effect on its visitors. Surrounded by lush hills and towering peaks, Iskanderkul is a great place to unwind and immerse yourself in nature.
5. Sary-Chelek- Beautiful & Biodiverse
Next is Lake Sary-Chelek, which is nestled in the western Tien Shan Mountains. This lake is famous for its crystal-clear water and spectacular mountain views. Sary-Chelek offers visitors a variety of activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and kayaking. The surrounding biosphere reserve is also home to over 1,000 species of plants and animals, making it a popular destination for nature lovers.
6. Lake Balkhash–One of the Largest Lakes in Asia
Last but not least, there's Lake Balkhash, found in southeastern Kazakhstan. Known as the "blue heart of the desert," this lake is a popular spot for fishing and water sports. It's also a major stopover point for migratory birds, with over 160 species passing through each year. The lake's surrounding landscape is also home to many archaeological sites, giving visitors a glimpse into the region's rich history.
And there you have it, some of the best lakes in Central Asia. Whether you're looking for adventure, or simply want to relax and take in the scenery, Central Asia's lakes have something for every traveller. And there's more than the 6 on this list too! So, what are you waiting for? Find your off-the-beaten-path adventure amongst Central Asia's natural beauty!