By Bruce Pannie, an EurasiaNet Partner Post from RFE/RL.
High in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, near China’s western border, lies the country’s jewel: Lake Issyk-Kul. Kyrgyz officials and local entrepreneurs have long hoped that international tourism to the lake — which is ringed by eternally snowcapped mountains — might provide a lucrative boon for their cash-strapped economy. But the slow pace of Kyrgyz investment suggests it is up to others to make Issyk-Kul a hotspot for international tourism.
Lake Issyk-Kul, tucked away in Kyrgyzstan’s northeast corner and measuring 160 kilometers east-to-west and 60 kilometers north-to-south, is the second-largest alpine lake in the world.
But although nature has bestowed remarkable beauty on this area, it has also presented formidable obstacles. The region lies deep in the heart of the Asian continent — far from the affluent capitals of Europe, East Asia, and even Russia. Access can be difficult, with poorly maintained roads snaking up toward the 7,000-meter mountain peaks.
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