Posted 22 September 2023 in Nature beckons

5 lakes near Almaty you need to visit

Offering breathtaking natural beauty, enough to make you sigh in wonder, Almaty, captures the attention of traveller from all over the world. While the nature on the outskirts of the city is a treasure gem and an ultimate must-see attraction in Almaty, the city is also blessed with a perfect blend of modernity and history. Almaty, also known as Alma-Ata, is the largest city in Kazakhstan which serves as the cultural, economic, and educational centre.

Once you take flights to Almaty, you’ll not feel like leaving the city because there is just so much to see and places to wander. Almaty provide a diverse range of natural wonders, each with its unique charm and allure. Whether you seek tranquillity, adventure, or a chance to immerse yourself in nature's beauty. One of the major treat to the eyes and souls is the lakes of Almaty. These lakes offer a refreshing escape from the urban hustle and bustle and provide visitors with opportunities for relaxation, outdoor activities, and breathtaking views.

Here are some of the notable lakes near Almaty:

1. Big Almaty Lake

Situated about 25 kilometres south of Almaty, Big Almaty Lake is one of the most famous and picturesque lakes in the region. Located in the Tian Shan Mountains, the lake is renowned for its crystal-clear turquoise water, which reflect the surrounding snow-capped peaks. It is a popular destination for hiking, picnicking, and taking in the stunning mountain scenery.

  • Here's how to get to Big Almaty Lake: To reach the lake by public transport, you'll need to take a combination of buses or minibuses. Take bus 28 out of Almaty from President’s Park, the journey will take 30 minutes. You need to get down at the village of Kokshoky, from here, you can either take mini-vans or taxis or hike up the 18 km long road to the lake.

2. Issyk Lake

Located approximately 77 kilometres east of Almaty, Issyk Lake is a glacial lake known for its historical significance and beautiful setting. The lake is surrounded by lush greenery and mountains, making it an ideal spot for nature lovers and photographers. Nearby, you can also visit the Issyk Memorial Complex, which houses artifacts from ancient Saka culture and showcases the region's rich history.

  • Here's how to get to Issyk Lake: Hiring a car is probably the best method to get to Issyk Lake from Almaty since there is no direct transport to this place. However, there are public transport option like bus to Esik town, or a shared taxi or marshrutka. Once you arrive at the village, the lake is three hours hike from there. If you cannot walk, you can either hitchhike or take another taxi.

3. Kolsai Lakes

A little farther from Almaty, about 300 kilometres to the east, lie the three Kolsai Lakes inside the Kolsai National Park. These cascading lakes are surrounded by dense forests and snow-capped peaks, creating a serene and picturesque landscape. Hiking trails lead to the upper lakes, offering a chance to explore the stunning scenery and encounter diverse flora and fauna.

  • Here’s how to get to Kolsai Lakes: The lakes are located inside the Kolsai National Park which is close to Saty village. To get Kolsai lake number 1, you need to drive for about 15 km from Saty, and to reach Kolsai lake 2, you need to hike for 8 km from lake 1. There are buses to Saty from Sayakhat Bus Station in Almaty.

4. Kaindy Lake

Located around 280 kilometres southeast of Almaty, Kaindy Lake is a unique and mesmerising sight. The lake was formed after an earthquake in 1911 that triggered a landslide, creating a submerged forest of spruce trees. The sight of the partially submerged trees in the crystal-clear water of the lake is both eerie and captivating.

  • Here’s how to get to Kaindy Lake: The most convenient way to get to Kaindy Lake is by hiring a taxi. If you do not want to spend too much on your transport, you can take a bus from Sayakhat Bus Station in Almaty. Remember that the buses leave early morning, so, make bookings in advance.

5. Balkhash Lake

Another stunning lake near Almaty is Balkhash Lake. It is one of the largest lakes in Central Asia, situated approximately 400 kilometres northwest of the city. The lake's unique feature is its bifurcation into two parts: the western part is freshwater, while the eastern part is saline. The lake offers opportunities for fishing, boating, and birdwatching.

  • Here’s how to get to Balkhash Lake: To get to Balkhash Lake, you need to catch a bus to Balkhash, a town located adjacent to the lake. Most buses leave from Sayakhat Bus Station in Almaty, while some private taxi services are available from the city as well.

Tips to remember while visiting the lakes near Almaty

Visiting the lakes near Almaty can be a breathtaking experience, as the region is known for its stunning natural beauty. Here are some tips to remember while exploring the lakes near Almaty:

  • Before setting out on your trip, research the lakes you plan to visit. Each lake has its own unique features and accessibility. Make sure you know the best routes and any permits or permissions required for certain areas.
  • Be prepared for various weather conditions, as the climate can change rapidly in mountainous regions. Bring appropriate clothing and gear for rain, wind, and temperature fluctuations.
  • Many of the lakes near Almaty are located at high altitudes. If you are not acclimatised to the elevation, take it easy and allow your body time to adjust. Symptoms of altitude sickness can include headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
  • Some lakes may require hiking or trekking to reach them. Assess your physical fitness level and choose lakes that suit your abilities. If you plan to hike, ensure you have proper footwear and trekking poles if needed.
  • Bring essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, a first-aid kit, and a map or GPS device. Having a fully charged phone is crucial in case of emergencies.
  • The lakes near Almaty are pristine natural areas. Help preserve the environment by not littering and following "Leave No Trace" principles. Take all your trash with you and avoid damaging vegetation.
  • The lakes offer breathtaking views, so bring your camera to capture the beauty of the surroundings. However, be respectful of local customs and ask for permission before photographing people.
  • The area around the lakes may be home to various wildlife species. Observe animals from a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them.
  • Some lakes may have specific rules and guidelines for visitors, such as restricted swimming or camping areas. Respect these regulations to ensure the conservation of the natural habitat.
  • If you plan to hike or explore remote areas, inform someone trustworthy about your itinerary and expected return time. This will help in case of any unexpected situations.
  • Familiarise yourself with local emergency numbers and contacts in case you need assistance during your visit.
  • Whenever possible, travel with a group or a guide, especially if you are not familiar with the area. It adds to your safety and enhances the overall experience.

Visiting the lakes near Almaty is a fantastic opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy the stunning landscapes. By following these tips, you can make your trip both enjoyable and safe.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Almaty is during the late spring to early autumn months, specifically from April to October. This period offers mild and pleasant weather, making it ideal for exploring the city and nearby attractions.

Here's a breakdown of the seasons in Almaty:

  • Spring (April to June): Spring in Almaty is a beautiful time to visit. The weather starts to warm up, and you'll witness the blooming of flowers and trees. The temperatures are generally comfortable during the day, although nights can still be a bit chilly. This season is excellent for sightseeing and enjoying outdoor activities.
  • Summer (July to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Almaty due to the warm and sunny weather. The temperatures can get quite hot during the day, but it's still manageable. Many outdoor festivals and events take place during this time, making it an exciting period to experience the city's culture and entertainment.
  • Autumn (September to October): Autumn is another pleasant season to visit Almaty. The weather starts to cool down, and the city is adorned with beautiful fall foliage. September is a great month to explore the lakes and surrounding nature, as the landscapes are at their most picturesque.

Keep in mind that Almaty experiences a continental climate, which means the winters (November to March) can be quite cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing and snowfall being common. While the winter season may appeal to winter sports enthusiasts who want to enjoy skiing and snowboarding in the nearby mountains, it may not be the best time for general sightseeing.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Almaty depends on your preferences and what activities you want to enjoy. If you prefer mild weather and want to explore the natural beauty of the area, consider visiting in the spring or autumn. For warm and sunny days, plan your trip during the summer months.

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