Song-Kul: Photographer Sara Taglioretti Captures the Beauty of Kyrgyzstan’s Largest Freshwater Lake

A number of yurt camps around Song-Kul play host to visitors
A number of yurt camps around Song-Kul play host to visitors | © Sara Taglioretti / Culture Trip
Elise Morton

Former Commissioning Editor (Eastern Europe)

Journey with photographer Sara Taglioretti to Song-Kul, an alpine lake high in the Tian Shan of Kyrgyzstan.

Song-Kul is the second-largest lake in Kyrgyzstan
As summer comes to a close, it starts to get very cold in Kyrgyzstan
Visitors can experience elements of nomad life such as sleeping in a yurt

The second-largest lake in Kyrgyzstan, Song-Kul often loses out to the larger Issyk-Kul when it comes to visitors. Its relative solitude, however, was exactly what drew London-based Italian photographer Sara Taglioretti to travel here in September 2019 on her first trip to Central Asia.

Song-Kul is a destination for travellers looking to discover the “unknown beauty” of Kyrgyzstan
“There is no horizon; it was a fascinating exercise, but taking pictures in this ‘vastness’ was very difficult,” says the photographer
 The lake is only accessible between June and September

“My friend and I decided we needed real time away: no internet, just nature. Song-Kul was, for me, the most beautiful spot we saw,” the photographer explains, reflecting on why she chose Song-Kul as a focus of her visit. “The lake is crystal clear and the air is so clean, and you can truly get a taste of nomad life there. Song Kul is where the shepherds spend the summertime with their animals; during winter the lake is icy and the landscape is covered with snow,” Taglioretti says.

Son Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan, 2019
Son Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan, 2019

As a photographer, Taglioretti was drawn to the challenge of capturing the “immensity”, as she describes it, of the landscape. Shooting in this environment, however captivating, brought its own challenges: “There is no horizon; it was a fascinating exercise, but taking pictures in this ‘vastness’ was very difficult.” Already planning another visit, the photographer wants to change focus in her next Song-Kul series: “I would have loved the chance to photograph more people. We went when many local people were going back to the cities; summer was almost over and it was starting to get very cold.”

Taglioretti is quick to recommend Song-Kul as a destination for travellers looking to discover the “unknown beauty” of Kyrgyzstan and experience elements of nomad life such as sleeping in a yurt, but cautions that the lake is only accessible between June and September.

Song-Kul is where the shepherds spend the summer with their animals; during winter the lake is icy and the landscape is covered with snow
Sunset at Song-Kul
Many local people go back to the cities in the winter months
Song Kul Lake

Tours to Song-Kul are available with Viator.

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