One of the best ways to explore the area around Kochkor is in a 'jailoo stay'. This unique experience is likely to form one of the most memorable features of your trip. You'll be staying in working yurts, sharing their meals and experiencing the slow rhythm of life on the jailoo. For those short on time, many excursions can be made in just two days, with one overnight stay.
Around Kochkor there are six jailoos with yurts, including Tes Tor, 3,100 metres above sea level, a few hours walk from a glacier. You can apparently watch cheese being made here.
Many excursions can be made in just two days, with one overnight stay, if you don't have time for longer. One example is Kol Ukok jailoo, which is just three hours on horseback (and a little more on foot) from a village ten minutes drive from Kochkor. Alternatively, you can trek for several days on foot or horseback from jailoo to jailoo. Locals also recommend a visit to the nearby Chon-Tuz salt caves about 30 kilometres away, now part of a hospital, specialising in treating people with asthma and allergies.
Bear in mind that jailoos don't come with toilets so be prepared to commune with nature behind a large rock or bush. Washing facilities will be the nearby stream-which comes straight down from the snow-laden peaks, losing little of its icy temperature along the way.
You'll probably be going quite high so bring warm clothing and rain gear, as well as protection from the sun.
You'll be treated to lots of koumys, not only in your own yurt but in any others nearby because it would be the height of rudeness not to call on neighbours or receive courtesy visits from them in turn.
One of the most popular trips is to Sarala-Saz (53km northwest), a wide open jailoo with fine views, from where you can take day trips on horseback to petroglyphs (three hours by horse). An adventurous two- or three-day horse trek leads from Sarala-Saz over the 3570m Shamsy Pass and down the Shamsy River valley to Tokmok. Kol Ukok (Treasure Chest) is a beautiful mountain lake above Tes Tur jailoo, south of Kochkor and is a recommended overnight or three-day trip.
Take a taxi 6km to Isakeev and then trek by horse or on foot half a day to the jailoos. Before June it’s better to stay at Tes Tur (four hours from Isakeev by horse); after June you can stay up by the lake (six hours from Isakeev). Day excursions from the lake include the Kol Tor glacial lake, a couple of hours further up into the mountains. For a slightly longer alternative trip take a taxi 15km to Kara-Suu village and then go first to Kashang Bel or Bel Tepshay (Bel means pass), for views of Issyk-Kul, and then ride or hike the next day to Kul Okuk (seven hours).