Toktogul, named after its most famous son, Kyrgyzstan’s national akyn Toktogul Satylganov, is an unassuming, pleasant place to wander. It’s a good place to break the journey between Osh and Bishkek, with a pretty location between lake and mountains.
What to do
Toktogul lake is warm in summer and good for swimming. It is a long, unshaded walk to get to the shore from town, though. A taxi is not a bad idea.
The reservoir started to fill up in the 1970s after a hydropower dam was constructed across the Naryn river. 26 communities were flooded, with archaeologists scrambling to dig out some of the many Saka barrows that are now submerged.
According to townspeople, the majority of the compensation money for displacing them disappeared into the pockets of the politician Tayirbek Sarpashev, whose building company never managed to finish a working irrigation system.
With tons of exciting big mountains nearby, Toktogul is not the first place to go looking for a hike. However, if you happen to be around, a lovely day hike runs across the Kyzyl-Too north of town and gives nice panoramic views over the lake.
Longer hikes can be arranged with guides or thought up independently to surrounding destinations like Arslanbob, Suusamyr or Sary-Chelek. In summer you will have the opportunity to meet shepherds in yurts on the jailoos on higher altitudes.
Hanging around town
See what life is like in a provincial Kyrgyz town. The amusement park and the bazaar are the main draws.
Where to stay
Guesthouse Kaghan (Israilov/Dzerzhinski 18) offers warm hospitality and hostel-style rooms with 4 beds per room, a hot shower and wifi outdoors or in the office. 500 som/night, includes a large breakfast of eggs, bread, jam, honey and sweets. Dinner can be had for an extra 250 som, expect Kyrgyz staples. Organizes local tours.
Homestay Kuldanbaev (Nabereshnaya/Akimkan 86) also offers warm hospitality in a family atmosphere, French and English spoken. 3 dorms with traditional mattresses on the floor. Dinner can be ordered extra. Organizes local tours. Reviews posted here.
Where to eat
Don’t expect to eat anything but Kyrgyz staples in Toktogul. It’s going to be a choice between the bazaar or your homestay. There is a good ice cream parlour in the bazaar.
Outside of Toktogul, on the other side of the lake, Uch-Terek (OSM) offers fresh fish and a great view.
Getting there and around
The bus station has a few buses daily to Jalal-Abat and Osh leaving early in the morning (~400 som).
To Bishkek and Talas, there are no minibuses, only shared taxis. It’s easy to find fellow passengers to Bishkek, but not to Talas, so start asking a day in advance. A seat in a shared taxi will be 500 som for Talas, 700 som for Bishkek.
Talas – Toktogul is a 3 hour scenic ride, crossing the Okmok and Akbel passes above 3000 m. Bishkek takes a bit longer. Honey, kymys, kurd and petrol are for sale along the side of the road, which is snow-cleared usually within a day of new snowfall.