Global Nature Fund - Lake Issyk-Kul (Kyrgyzstan)

Lake Issyk-Kul – Kyrgyzstan


Background Lake Issyk-Kul

Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan’s largest lake, lies at an altitude of 1,600 m in the high mountain range of Tien-Shan (Heaven’s mountains) in the north of Kyrgyzstan. It is after Lake Titicaca in South America world’s second largest high mountain lake covering a surface of 6,236 sq. km. Its length is 180 km and its width 60 km.

The lake has an average depth of 270 m (maximum depth 668 m). As the salt content of the lake water is low (approx. 58 mg/l) and because of the numerous warm springs at the bottom of the lake it does not freeze despite the low temperatures. In Kyrgyz Issyk-Kul means hot lake. The richness in fish – over 20 species live in the lake – make the lake not only one of the most important source of food of the region but also an important resting place. 

The extraordinary diversity of landscape types around Lake Issyk-Kul offers ideal living conditions for a great number of plant and animal species. In the arid lower regions around Lake Issyk-Kul deserts and semi-deserts are found. At the southern shore there is the Tien-Shan mountain range with high peaks of over 7,000 m and the longest glaciers of the world outside of the polar region. Characteristic are the high mountain valleys, the so called syrts, high mountain mats with rich flower-bloom and the vast high plateaus with traditional pasture.

So in the Tien-Shan mountains about 4,000 different plant species are native, 1,400 of them endemic. Ancient wild orchard species as well as spruce forests which grow on permafrost soil are of great importance.

In these spruce forests of the north slopes live Brown Bear, Siberian Roe Deer and Lynx. In the high mountain steppes Steppe Sheep, the rare Marco-Polo-Sheep (Ovis ammon polii), Tien-Shan Squirrel (Marmota minor) and Pika (Ochotona pusilla) are native. Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia), Markhor (Capra falconeri) and Ibex (Capra ibex) prefer higher frosty regions. Birdlife is very rich, Bearded Vulture, Steppe Eagle, Mountain Goose, Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug), Greater Scoup Duck, Himalayan Snowcock (Tetraogallus himalayensis) and Black Ferruginous Duck are found.


Among the migrant birds are Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus), Great White Egret (Egretta alba) and Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea). Lake Issyk-Kul is a resting place for rare ducks: Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), Gardaney Duck (Anas querquedula), Golden Eye Duck (Bucephala clangula) as well as Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) and Goosander (Mergus merganser).

 Mountain range near Lake Issyk-Kul
 Bowlder shore line
 Landscape around Lake Issyk-Kul


Partner Organisation Lake Issyk-Kul



NABU Kyrgyzstan

Vitalij Kovalev, Policy Officer for International Nature Conservation

Invalidenstraße 112

10115 Berlin, Germany

Phone: +49 (0) 30 - 284 984 - 44

Fax: +49 (0) 30 - 284 984 - 84