Issyk-kul is an amazing and huge lake in Kyrgyzstan. There is 182 km from east to west and 58 km from north to south. Surrounded by paved road. Distance on both sided are equal between Balykchy and Karakol (around 220km). Northern part is more developed than Southern.
The places are small and you can just thumb everywhere on the main road. Hint: Spend there a few days hitchin' from village to village and stay where you find a good place, f.e. very cheap yurt camps on the South shore.
The are no really big places, so just walk to the end of the town/village you are and put your thumb in the air. If you are hitching to Bishkek it makes sense to wait for a direct lift, as traffic to the capital is huge. In every other direction you can be happy about every lift going further than 20 km. In summer it is very likely that some tourists from Russia and Kazakhstan in great mood will pick you up. On the other hand there are a lot of families with full cars.
Places to Avoid
Avoid Balykchy and Karakol at nighttime.
Accommodation and Sleep
There is a huge number of hostels, guesthouses and hotels mostly North and less on the South. The North, especially Cholpon-Ata is very popular among tourists from Russia and Kazakhstan. But anyway, with bargaining it should be no problem to get a place to sleep for a small price. Still, the South is more puristic and recommended.
Other Useful Info
There is friendly geologist's service cars couple times in a week from Bishkek through Barskoon Valley to their party on more than 3500 meters altitude near Kumtor golg mine. Try hitch them. Great expirience among glaciers is guarantee.