Central Asia: Kyrgyzstan - Yurt stay at Song Kul

By Cubie - November 15, 2015

Song Kul in late August
Song Kul is an alpine lake in Kyrgyzstan, located in the northern Naryn Province. It is the second largest lake after Issyk Kul and the largest fresh water lake. It lies at the altitude of 3016 m, about 3 hours by car from Kochkor. Given the altitude, we expected it to be cool but didn't expect the snowy mountain top especially since it was hot in Bishkek. Temperature in Bishkek at the time of our visit was close to 30°C but it was sub zero at Song Kul.

Yurt #2 - our "room" for two nights
The inside of the yurt we stayed
The source of light during daytime (aside from the door)
Given the extreme weather, it is only possible to stay in Song Kul during the summer months, probably sometime from late May/early June to early September. Our host family told us that they were packing to go back to Kochkor by 12th Sept when we were there. To make the most of it, there are varieties of option to get to Song Kul including a horse ride and if you are fit, you could trek uphill. We have seen people cycling downhill. Sis and I have no faith in our ability to trek up, cycle or ride a horse (for that far and long) which is a very fair call as our stamina level is pretty much non existence, so we organised a hired car to get there. No public transport available.

Yurt stay in Song Kul is as close to how locals would live in Song Kul as could be. The shepherds build their yurt by the lake during the summer months and their animals were left to roam about and grazed the grass.

Ok - this one doesn't graze the grass :P
We didn't know how it would be at that time and even packed along phone and camera charger (LOL!) but the only electricity available in the yurt is a small light bulb, powered by generator. Nothing else. The yurt was heated up by dried cow dung. Rest assured, there were no foul smell and you would really appreciate this cow-dung-powered-heat.

As you can see on the photo below, there is no fancy floor. The yurt is build on grass, a rug was laid on top of the grass before putting a couple of single bed size mattress and duvets/doonas (whatever term you fancy). There were 4 mattresses in our yurt. We picked the two closest to the heat source but grabbed the extra duvets to use.

The one light bulb
Cow dung in action, got to sleep before it ran out! :P
There is no running water but there is a toilet (I use the term loosely) as it is essentially a couple of plank nailed together and a hole in the middle. Though there is a door for this toilet. Sometimes there were toilet papers but other times not refilled.

There is also a "sink" with water usually earlier in the morning. The host family would fill the water in the morning (there's a lid at the top). To access the water, just push the "dial" up and the water will start flowing. In the gist, if the water in the container runs dry, no water will flow out. If you are making a list of things to bring, 3 top things to bring include hand sanitiser, wet wipes and a torch light.

It gets really dark at night, a torch light won't help much if you are walking about or even walking to the toilet. The light from the moon is quite sufficient in assisting in getting to the toilet though it was a little hard to tell what you stepped on. The torch light helps to avoid the feet stepping in the toilet hole and you probably don't want to carry your phone in case you drop it.

That blue "cottage" is a toilet...

We left our big, fat backpack at the hostel in Bishkek and brought what we thought we would need. Make sure to stock up on water and snack as there are no shops though we later found that our host family had some bottled water for sale if need be.

We also paid for meals to be provided which technically isn't really an option not to as there really isn't anywhere you could get food, unless you carry loads of dried foodstuff. The meals are simple but always accompanied with free flow of tea and bread with jam. The French couple we met must've really love the jam as we realised they polished off the jam in all the meals we had together. We have no idea what the sugar is for (possibly for tea?) but we have never used it.

Our host family don't really speak English and we can't speak Russian or Kyrgyz language to save ourselves but we could converse a little with the host mother with the help of "sign language". Also, numbers are the same all over the world so we know what time she was serving the meals. ;)

Dinner on night 1
Breakfast on day 2
Lunch on day 2
Dinner on night 2
Breakfast on day 3, just before we departed for Kochkor

Side note: My 4 year old niece taught me a song on countries in South America and so I can now memorize country names in South America! ^^

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  1. Wonderful and detailed account of Kyrgyz lifestyle! After reading your article I know I won't be taking my wife to experience yurts ... :(

    1. ah well, the facilities are a little on the low side. No shower isn't everybody's cup of tea, the only saving grace is the weather was cold!