I actually started writing this blog post a few months ago, when being in an isolated camp without WIFI and unwinding from the world seemed like a great idea in our busy daily lives. Although nowadays with the coronavirus pandemic we are spending a lot of time at home and probably dreaming of an active holidays, I am sure that soon we will again search for a nice spot for calm vacations.
Bel’tam Yurt Camp is definitely perfect for such holidays. This idyllic camp is located in the south shore of the Issyk-Kul lake near the village Bokonbayevo in Kyrgyzstan. It consist of many yurts (typical Kyrgyz round portable houses), main big yurt, bar and common area. The camp also has an incredible view of the lake and the nearby mountains. When we planned our trip to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan we knew that we wanted to try sleeping in a yurt. And since our trip was also meant for resting and getting back some energy after overworking the previous summer, we decided to spend two nights in remote yurt camp without internet. And it definitely was the right decision as we loved our stay in Bel’tam.
The experience of staying in a yurt camp
In Kyrgyzstan after summer months soon comes the winter. We visited the camp in the last week of August and it was also the end of their season, so we were lucky to be the only ones sleeping in our yurt. Otherwise their yurts usually host four guests at once. Our yurt had two mattresses on the ground with linen, one light bulb, an electric plug and a little bench in front of the entrance. We were surprised how the yurt had a perfect temperature throughout the day – it was warm during the night and cold during the day heath. The toiled and showers are located in the outside shared bathroom. The camp is basic but it has its charm.
Bel’tam Yurt Camp also offers food, so we decided to have all our meals there. The family that owns the camp made delicious traditional Kyrgyz food, like beef stew, langman and plov. The camp also has an open air bar and common area so it is a great place to get to know other travellers. We chatted with other guests during the dinner, at the bar while trying out local beers and in the evening next to the camp fire.
What to do in Bel’tam Yurt Camp
Enjoy the private beach on the shore of Issy-Kul lake
The camp is located just next to the beautiful Issy-Kul lake. So spending some time on the beach with a book in your hand is a must. The beach has some sandy spots, perfect for sunbathing. The entrance to the crystal clear and cold water of the lake is a mix of stones and sand. But once you walk so far that the water is high enough for swimming, the bottom of the lake is filled with sand. I loved the fresh water of the lake and the incredible views of the snowy mountains in the distance. And the beach is primary used by the guests of the camp, so most of the time we were alone there.
Get to know the local culture at the folkloric music concert
Every few days a folkloric music concert takes place in the camp’s main yurt after the dinner. A local family – husband, wife, daughter in law and two grandchildren – came dressed in traditional clothes and prepared a presentation of the Kyrgyz music and instruments. While sipping on tea we listened to traditional songs. Their themes are mostly connected to nature, which is very important in their nomadic culture. We also learned about many traditional string instruments, like the kyl kiak, and listened to the accordion.
Visit the nearby public beach
If you want to spend some time with the locals, then a visit to the nearby public beach is a must. It is located approximately 10 minutes drive from the camp in the way towards Karakol. The sandy beach is a popular socialising spot for the locals, there were a lot of families with kids playing in the sand and learning to swim in the lake. There are also some stalls offering food and refreshments.
Make a trip to the Fairytale Canyon
Just half an hour drive from the camp the “Skazka” or the Fairytale Canyon is situated. The colourful valley is full of little canyons made of gorgeous red, orange and yellow rock formation. Their interesting form is a product of years of erosion. Today the rock sculptures are full of stories, the most famous one resembles the Great Wall of China. A walk and a climb around the canyon offer amazing views of the exciting landscape with the Issy-Kul lake in the distance. The hills are quite steep so wear appropriate shoes. Also don’t forget to bring enough water as the area is hot and there are not a lot of places to hide from the sun. There is a small entrance fee for the visit to the canyon.
Learn about yurt making in the Kyzyl Tuu village
Kyzyl Tuu is a village of yurt maker families. We visited one of the families where mother and son showed and explained us how a yurt is made. A traditional Kyrgyz home is constructed with willow and felt. It is a man’s job to make the wooden frames of the yurt and women are in charge of the exterior coverings and the interior decorations. Once they make all the parts for the yurt it is easy to construct it in a short period of time and so perfect for the Kyrgyz nomadic lifestyle. The traditional knowledge and skills for making Kyrgyz yurts are also enlisted on the UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Visited: August 2019