In this publication, which continues a series of articles devoted to weekend tours, I will tell you about the most beautiful places near Almaty located in the «Kolsai Koldery» National Park, the «blue necklace of the Northern Tien Shan» Kolsai Lakes and the mysterious Lake Kaindy.
Kolsai Lakes is a system of three gorgeous lakes located in the Kolsai gorge, a bridge connecting the ridges of mountains Kungei-Alatau and Zailiysky Alatau, they are famous for their water changing color from dark blue to emerald green.
The first lake is located at an altitude of 1.8 km above sea level and is called Sata (Саты) - this lake is the most accessible for tourists. The length of the lake is about a kilometer, a width of 400 meters, a depth of 80 meters. Water in the lake even in summer does not warm above 6-8 degrees Celsius.
The second lake Mynzhylgy (Мынжылгы) - the largest and most beautiful of the three lakes, is located at an altitude of 2.2 km above sea level, the depth of the lake is 50 meters. The only way to the lake is a narrow mountain path, the reward for climbing is the picturesque shore of the lake, covered with alpine flowers.
The highest and the smallest of the three lakes, the upper Kolsai, is 600 m above Mynzhylgy.
Lake Kaindy is located east of the Kolsai Lakes, at a distance of 11 kilometers from the village of Sata in one of the gorges of Kungey-Alatau. The main attraction of the lake are spruce rising directly from the water, thanks to which the lake is a successful amongst diving enthusiasts.
Due to cold and transparent water, spruce trees in the lake are not rotten, and their trunks are clearly visible through the water in clear weather.
The lake was formed in 1911 because of an earthquake. In translation from Kazakh "kaindy" means "abounding with birches". The lake was named because of the big birch grove, which must be crossed on the way to the lake.
From Almaty to the village of Sata (Саты) about 270 kilometers. Sata is the nearest settlement to the Kolsai lakes and Lake Kaindy. Most of the way passes through a concrete highway and a good asphalt road, approximately the last 30 kilometers from the village of Zhalanash (Жаланаш) to the village of Sata is almost complete lack of roads. It is difficult to get to the lakes themselves by an ordinary passenger car, better off-road car. Total travel time 5-7 hours.
First, you need to leave Almaty along the Kuldzhinsky tract and go along it in an easterly direction, to the village of Chilik (Shelek) (Чилик, Шелек). There is an alternative road a new concrete highway that is located to the north from Kuldzhinsky tract. Before the village of Chilik, there will be a fork, you have to go along it to the right, go round the village along the southern extremity, right after we pass the bridge across the Chilik river we again turn to the right (to the south) in the next fork.
Moving along the main road in a southeast direction, we pass villages Baiseit, Nura and Kokpek (Байсеит, Нура, Кокпек). By the way, in the village of Baiseit there are many kebab cafes along the route, so you can eat and rest from the road there. Eight kilometers after the village of Kokpek there will be a fork, the road to the left (to the northeast) leads to the hot springs in Chungju, we need to move straight (southeast) towards Charyn canyon. After passing the Toraigyr Pass, turn right - to the village of Zhalanash (Жаланаш). After the village of Zhalanash we continue the moving to the village of Sata.
The first Kolsay lake is located about 10 kilometers from the village of Sata, it can be reached by car. We need to pass the village of Sata, after five kilometers there will be a fork go up and to the left (to the south) along the main road. At the next fork, go straight - to an ecological post. The environmental tax per person is 727 Kazakhstani tenge, 200 tenge for car parking and 750 tenge per tent per day, the prices are valid as of the date of writing the article.
The road to Kaindy begins before reaching the village of Sata, at a fork in 600 meters before reaching the village, near the Muslim cemetery, it is necessary to turn to the left (to the south). Further, we move along the road to the house of the forester with a barrier, here it will be necessary to pay an ecological fee, the prices are similar to the ecological fee at the entrance to the Kolsai Lakes. After, the road goes along the birch grove, the river now you will have all the time on the left side. Immediately behind the grove the road ends by a wide glade - cars are usually left here, and go to the lake by walking or on horseback. For information, the road from Sata to Kaindy is better cross in an off-road car.
In addition to your own transport to Sata you can get by the intercity bus, prices and timetable you need to clarify at the bus station or you can purchase a Tour in a travel agency, which in my opinion is the best option. For information on tours to Kaindy and Kulsai, see below.
You can stay in guest houses directly in the village of Sata, designed for 2 - 6 people. Accommodation with breakfast and dinner for one person will cost approximately 5,000 tenge.
On the shore of the first Kolsai Lake there is a hotel with shower and TV, meals are not provided, the cost of living from 7,000 tenge per person per night. Also, near the first lake there are wooden cottages and yurts, if convenience is not the main thing for you, you can stay there, cost from 5,000 tenge per person. There are certain difficulties with accommodation during the peak season, due to the limited number of places of living.
Near Lake Kaindy there are also guest houses, the cost of accommodation starts from 7,000 tenge.
The cheapest option is a tent, a fee for using a tent in the territory of the «Kolsai Koldery» National Park is 750 tenge per day.
As a rule, tours to the Kolsai Lakes and Lake Kaindy are sold as one tour lasting two days. The cost of group tour starts from 14 000 tenge per person, individual tour or jeep tour will cost from 90 000 tenge per group to three people.
The standard program of the group tour:
Duration of the bus part of the tour is 6 hours in one way.
Also I want to note that some tour companies offer three-day tours - with a visit to the Charyn canyon.