This small lakeshore village, 35km from Cholpon-Ata, has a decent beach and offers a quieter alternative to larger, bustling Cholpon-Ata. It is also becoming increasingly favoured by overseas visitors, either as an overnight stop whilst travelling along Lake Issyk-Kul's north shore, or as a place to relax after a stint of strenuous trekking. As a village it is a pleasant but fairly unremarkable place, but it does have something that most others do not have: a location that is right by the water and a long lakeside beach. For visitors circumnavigating Lake Issyk-Kul, Tamchy makes a good choice for a first night's stay.
Out of season, you’ll likely see more donkeys than tourists on the beach. The town boasts one small supermarket, near the mosque on the main road (Manas), which is big on vodka and light on everything else. By the end of September you’ll find more life in a morgue.
Tamchy's prime attraction is its natural setting: a beachfront location with the backdrop of the mountains of the Kungey Ala-Too range. There are pleasant walks to be had along the beach in either direction. In summer there will be plenty of Russians and Kyrgyz swimming in the lake, and families picnicking on the beach or eating in the tents that have been set up along it. Umbrella and pedalo hire are both available at the beach.
Immediately behind the beach is a wet grassy area with the improbable sight of flocks of turkeys and the odd cow grazing upon it; beyond this is a poplar plantation where some people camp or park their vehicles. Away from the shore, on the main road, is a small modern mosque with a steel dome, and behind this, beyond an area of wasteland and just before open fields, is a cemetery that, oddly, has Orthodox and communist graves rather than Muslim ones.
Tamchy's most unmistakeable sight, however, is the Villa Stariy Zamok hotel near the beach, which as its name suggests looks like a castle, or rather the Disney version of one. This architectural conceit first appeared a few years ago, a blot on Tamchy's unspoiled and low-rise skyline. The hotel was the scene of internecine Kazakh mafia shootings a few years back and, although it is peaceful now, it is still said to be popular with business people from Almaty.
Frequent minibuses and buses pass by on the main road, heading west to Bishkek and east to Karakol. Both buses and minibuses leave from Bishkek's West Bus Station (Zapadniy Avtovaksal) and most will be bound for either Cholpon-Ata or Karakol; and the journey takes around 3 hours. There’s lots of minibus traffic through to Bishkek (3,5 hour) and Cholpon-Ata (40 minutes) and Balykchy (25 minutes). Flag down anything with wheels going your way on the main road. If you are on public transport, remind the driver you want to get out, they usually speed right through town en route to Cholpon-Ata. If you ask to be dropped off at the mosque you’ll be near the centre of town.
During the summer months many locals rent rooms to Kazakh holidaymakers and, once over their disbelief that a foreigner wants to stay, are happy to take in guests.