Kyrgyzstan’s Skazka Canyon: Rock Spires & Fairy Tales

Skazka Canyon, Kyrgyzstan

On the south shore of Kyrgyzstan’s Issyk Kul lake, you’ll find Skazka Canyon, commonly known as Fairy Tale Canyon. The word “Skazka” directly translates to “fairy tale” from Russian, and yes, take it from me – it lives up to its name. Formed as a result of thousands of years of ice, water and wind erosion, this magnificent desert-like landscape has transformed into an array of sculptures and formations, where red spires of rock rise out of the earth and into the sky. It truly is a fairy tale.

This rings even more true when you compare it to the rest of Kyrgyzstan. The country is rich with green meadows, snow-capped peaks and alpine lakes; a far cry from the dry, rocky panorama of Skazka Canyon. Skazka Canyon seems to be in a world of its own and is, without a doubt, one of the best things to see around Issyk Kul.

Fairytale Canyon, Kyrgyzstan
Skazka Canyon, Kyrgyzstan

The legend of Skazka Canyon

Legends say that Issyk Kul was once home to a number of rich and powerful cities. To be honest, there is probably some truth to this, given that archaeologists discovered evidence of several settlements beneath the lake.

However, according to the legend, a beautiful woman lived in one of these cities. She was so beautiful that a dragon fell in love with her, and he cursed the valley with rage when she rejected him. The curse meant that Issyk Kul valley would flood on every full moon until the woman changed her mind and agreed to marry the dragon.

The local people took turns covering the wells with golden lids to prevent the valley from flooding. This worked, until one day, the woman herself forgot to cover the wells, and Issyk Kul flooded, transforming into the lake you see today. When the dragon saw the lake, he was apparently so shocked that he turned to rock, and this rock is what makes up the canyon.

A pretty strange story, if you ask me, but the formations of the rock are indeed fairy-tale-like, so it’s likely that this is where the canyon got its name.

Hiking on Skazka Canyon, Kyrgyzstan
Skazka Canyon, Kyrgyzstan

Exploring Skazka / Fairytale Canyon

I was seriously impressed by Skazka Canyon. My group stopped there en route to Karakol, and it made for a really fun pitstop.

Once you enter the canyon, you’ll be graced with a colourful, rocky landscape, not unlike the terrain you might see in Turkey’s Cappadocia. The ever-changing yellows, reds and oranges are simply spectacular.

Over the years, the canyon has been moulded and transformed into amazing sculptures and formations; some are thought to look like snakes, dragons, castles and even The Great Wall of China. There are lots of nooks and crannies, so you could spend hours walking, exploring and taking epic photographs.

And, if you manage to get up to a vantage point, you’ll be able to see a beautiful, panoramic view of Issyk Kul lake.

Practicality-wise, it costs 50 som to enter. I would advise wearing good shoes in order to fully enjoy climbing and walking around the canyon as the terrain is rough and rocky.

View of Issy-kul from Skazka Canyon
Lauren Pears at Skazka Canyon, Kyrgyzstan

How to get to Skazka Canyon

Luckily, Skazka Canyon is in a convenient location just off the road that runs along the southern shore of Issyk Kul lake. This means it has excellent public transport links and is easily accessible from either Karakol (1.5 hours), Bokonbayevo (30 minutes) or Tosor (10 minutes).

If you’re coming from Karakol, be sure to catch a minibus that takes the southern route along the lake, not the northern route. You’ll want a #315 or #310 minibus towards Bishkek. The journey will be about 1.5 hours each way – just ask the driver to let you off at Skazka Canyon.

From the nearby village of Bokonbayevo, it’s a 30-minute drive east to the canyon. You can either grab a taxi or take a minibus towards Karakol. From Tosor, it’s just a short 10-minute drive west.

As we had our own transport, we were able to drive right up to the entrance of the canyon. You’ll be able to do the same if you use a taxi. However, if you are taking public transport, you’ll need to get off the minibus from the main road and walk 2 kilometres to the canyon entrance. There is a really large and obvious sign pointing the way, so don’t worry – you won’t get lost!

Skazka Canyon map

Where to stay near Skazka Canyon

There are lots of amazing places to stay near the canyon, but here are four recommendations:

Guesthouse Gulmira: Expect to be treated like one of the family here, as the hospitality from the host, Gulmira, is incredible.

Guesthouse Aziza: You’ll feel right at home at Guesthouse Aziza, thanks to the warm atmosphere and welcoming family.

Yurt Camp Meiman Ordo: Staying in a yurt camp is a Kyrgyzstan experience that you shouldn’t miss. This camp offers shuttle services to help you explore the area, too.

Yurt Camp Tosor: Another gorgeous yurt camp. This one is located just a 10-minute drive from Skazka Canyon, plus it has a sandy beach on site, gorgeous homemade food and a relaxed atmosphere.

The Skazka Canyon is an excellent addition to any Kyrgyzstan itinerary, especially if you’re already planning to spend time at Issyk Kul Lake. Do you think it lives up to its name?

Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you would consider using the affiliate links below when planning your travels. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This will help me to keep this blog running. Thanks for your support – Lauren.

Hotels – Booking.com
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  1. The blog is really interesting to read with information given in great detail. Some of the images are truly amazing.

  2. great post! I was supposed to visit Kyrgyzstan this year.. so maybe in 2021!! 🙂 can’t wait to go and your post has gotten me really excited for it 🙂

    1. Thanks Lannie! That’s a shame you aren’t able to go this year but hopefully you can soon 😊 the canyon is so worth checking out!

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