Issyk-Kul region

Issyk-Kul region


Issyk-Kul Open Air museum In Cholpon-Ata is the most accessible and visitable part of North Issyk-Kul accumulation of the petroglyphs.

The petroglyphs were carved and painted onto the surface of some-granite and granitoid boulders that have been burnt black or brown by strong sunlight over thousands of years. The drawings were carved using metal or stone tools. The sizes of stones vary from 0,3m to 3,0m.

The first information about the petroglyphs of the Cholpon-Ata site was published in historical iterature at the end of the XIX century (Bartold V.V. and others).

That site was gigantic temple under open sky, which occupied western part of modern Cholpon-Ata town, and where ancient people worshipped to celestial bodies and did sacraments and mysteries. The rock paintings took an important sacramental role in realizing rituals. They were some kind of virtual sacrifice and prayer, printed on the stone. Alongside with the petroglyphs, there are stone circles, perhaps an ancient kin sacred sites with an interesting natural phenomena – geomagnetic propitious fields. There are some grounds for suppositions, that big stone circles (some tens meters in diameter) used as astronomy observatories.

Issyk-Kul petroglyphs are unique in many aspects. First, because of artistic realism of the images, many rock drawings belong to masterpieces of Saka-Scythian animal style art. Secondly, the sizes of some petroglyphs are more than one meter which is really rare. At third, many scenes and subjects are original, typical only for North Issyk-Kul petroglyphs. At forth, a technique of making some paintings, for example a relief image of deer, fulfilled with the usage as natural prominences of the stone. The central petroglyph in low part of the museum is an embodiment of all unique features. There is a flock of rock goats (teke or ibex). The figures of ibexes, perhaps the biggest in Central Asia presented with unusual expression that allows attributing this petroglyph to outstanding masterpiece Saka-Scythian animal style of art. The figures of hunters and tame-breeding bars (snow leopards) during penned hunt are one the background of the rock painting. This kind of driving off hunt existed in Ancient Egypt, where hunters used cheetah in hunting of antelope. By tie way, there is a petroglyph with images of hunting dynamically leopards in the museum. This petroglyph has not analogies in Central Asia.

Single and double images of deer, which embody mythical image mother-deer, so much widespread in Altai, Semirechie, and South Siberia, are very interesting. One of kyrgyz tribes was called Bugu ( in direct translation -red deer). Yet one century ago Bugu tribe honored mother-deer as their totem and ancestor.

Numerous images of Bactrian camel with riders and cameleers prove an existence north way of Great Silk Road yet in Saka- Usun epoch (VIII century B.C. – V century A.D.). The archaeological finds of coins from different states also confirms that the Great Silk Road passed through Issyk-Kul. A succession of art and painting traditions remains in Coins (shell) modern Kyrgyz folklore art. For example, many patterns inside animals with sacramental meanings are used in modern Kyrgyz wool carpets. North Issyk-Kul rock paintings are both important source about Kyrgyzstan’s history and culture, and world heritage – an evidence art capability our ancestors.

The Dungan wooden MosqueTHE DUNGAN WOODEN MOSQUE

The Dungan wooden Mosque, in Karakol town was built by a Chinese architect and 20 artisans between 1907 and 1910. It was built entirely of wood, without a single nail in the style of a Buddhist pagoda.

The Dungans first arrived in Karakol as refugees in 1877 and created a small community. The Bolsheviks closed the mosque from 1933 until 1943, but it was then reopened and has operated as a place of worship since then.

The Mosque is set into its own territory and the distinctive decoration (it is painted in bright colours – red, green and yellow – and bears reliefs depicting various types of flora and mythical animals such as dragons and the phoenix) gives it an original character. There is a veranda by the entrance to the large central space.


The Holy Trinity Cathedral is a fine example of a Russian Orthodox Church which served as a dance hall under the Soviets, and a school during the Second World War. Built on the site of an earlier church, in 1876, the current building was constructed between 1890-5.

During the construction a yurt served as a church for local population. The building consists of wooden walls on a stone foundation, and it is highly decorative. The five onion domes, which used to adorn it, were destroyed in the Soviet period.

Inside there is a number of icons – including some saved from Svetly Myz, and a copy of one of Saint Troitzy by Andrei Rublev (who lived in the 13th century). It has now been returned to active service as a church and some reconstruction was begun in 1961. It is now being renovated anew.


“Seven Bulls” gorge mentioned is located 30 km west of Karakol, and known for its “Seven red sandstone bulls” and “broken heart” of some beauty. Some km up the valley there is a huge flowers meadow with thousands of different colors and “Oguz bashee” peak rising up at the end of the gorge. The area is known for alternative trekking, hiking and mountaineering possibilities.