Skazka canyons: Fairy tale canyon

On the south shore of Kyrgyzstan’s Issyk Kul lake, you’ll find Skazka Canyon, commonly known as Fairy Tale Canyon. The word “Skazka” directly translates to “fairy tale” from Russian, and yes, take it from me – it lives up to its name. Formed as a result of thousands of years of ice, water and wind erosion, this magnificent desert-like landscape has transformed into an array of sculptures and formations, where red spires of rock rise out of the earth and into the sky. It truly is a fairy tale.

Legends have it that, at one time, the Issyk Kul basin wasn’t filled with a lake, but was home to a number of rich and powerful cities. There is probably some truth in this because under the lake archaeologists have discovered the ruins of several settlements. According to one legend in particular, in one of the cities lived a beautiful girl and a seven headed dragon fell in love with her and pursued her, asking her to marry him. She, however, declined saying that she loved another. The dragon was distraught and cursed the valley, saying that one a month, on the occasion of the full moon, the water in one of the wells would rise and flood the valley, until such time as she changed her mind. He then went into a deep sleep. The citizens decided to cover the well with a golden lid whenever the Full Moon approached, and agreed to take turns to make sure it was in place.


At first, everything went well, but when it was her turn, she “forgot” and the waters duly rose and burst from the well, flooding the basic and drowning the cities. The dragon awoke from his sleep and when he stood on the slopes of the hills above the newly formed lake and saw what had happened, went into a state of shock and turned into stone. The place where he stood was Skazka, and, although the legend tells of only one dragon, it is said that in the sandstone rock formations here it is possible to see the petrified bodies of several, all mingled one with another so that it is difficult to tell one from the other, where the heads meet the tails, and so forth, along with gigantic tortoises, herons, and camels. Amongst the weird rock formations there is a ridge which resembles two walls of fortification, something like the Great Wall of China, rising vertically out of the surrounding sandstone. Looking around and applying your imagination, it is also to see formations which resemble other structures with arches and columns.