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How Cholpon-Ata got its name

Long ago, when the Kyrgyz lived as one people in a single tribe near the mountains, there was a beautiful girl called Cholpon whose eyes were bluer than the sky and brighter than the stars. Two brave djigits (young warrior horsemen), Ulan and Santash, fell in love with her, but Cholpon could not decide which of them to choose, so the men fought savagely for her attention. They wounded each other, drawing blood, and the fighting became so intense that their relatives joined in on each side. Cholpon was faced with an impossible choice as she knew that she could not offend either of them with rejection, so she pulled out her own heart from her breast so that neither of them could possess it. The place where she fell dead on a hill facing the rising sun was named Cholpon-Ata in her honour.

The Kyrgyz people wept bitter tears for a long time over the loss of their beautiful daughter. Their tears flooded the valley between the mountains and formed a lake - Lake Issyk-Kul - and the Kyrgyz became divided into two tribes who settled on the north and the south shores of the lake Kungey and Inskey. Ulan and Santash live on as the winds that blow from east and west, and whenever they meet they fight to exhaustion, causing the storms that ravage the lake from time to time.

Another legend tells a similar story, except in this case it is a cruel khan that yearned for Cholpon's favours. The girl, who loved another, refused his advances and in the end hurled herself from the high tower she was imprisoned in rather than submit to the khan.

It is said that if you stand at Cholpon-Ata's shore today you can see the face of Cholpon's father (Cholpon-ata) in the mountains opposite: his tears flowing down the mountainside to add salt water to the lake.