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Lake Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes- Everything You Need to Know to Visit Kazakhstan’s Gorgeous Lakes
Updated October 2023, Everything you need to know to visit Lake Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes was originally written in August 2019
A string of beautifully turquoise lakes dots the evergreen landscapes best appreciated under the golden light of the Kazakh sun. Nature lovers who make this journey to Kaindy and Kolsai Lakes will without a doubt be greatly rewarded.
It is possible to visit Lake Kaindy and Kolsai Lakes both by an organized tour as well as with public transport with a little patience. Continue reading to learn how to get to Lake Kaindy and Kolsai Lakes.
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Kolsai Lakes is a series of 3 glacial lakes shimmering beautiful blues high in the Tien Shan Mountain Range. The first lake is reachable by taxi from the nearby village of Saty and from there you can trek, or horseback ride to Kolsai 2 and Kolsai 3.
You can do this as a day trip from Saty, returning to the village in the evening, or as an over or multi-night trip by bringing your own tent and supplies or staying in yurt camps near the lakes.
The Sunken Forest Of Lake Kaindy
One of the striking features of Lake Kaindy aside from its shade of bright turquoise is the forest seemingly rising from the frigid waters.
In 1911 Lake Kaindy began to form after the damming off of the Kaindy River, owing to a large earthquake that struck the area. As glacial meltwater could no longer continue to flow out of the valley water levels rose over the years, nearly covering the forest of Shrenk spruce trees in the valley. What remains now is the eerily beautiful sunken forest.
Important Note: Bring your passport with you. There is now a checkpoint as you arrive at Saty and passports will be checked. A photocopy WILL NOT suffice.
Plan the perfect trip: A two week Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan itinerary
How To Get To Lake Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes
Almaty To Saty
From Sayakhat bus station in Almaty, there is a 6 am marshrutka that leaves bound for the village of Saty where you will begin your trek. Arrive early and ask around where the marshrutka will be, some have reported difficulty in finding it. Plan to pay 3000 KZT one way.
By Marshrutka + Taxi or Hitchhiking
Alternatively, if you don’t arrive early enough or can’t find the direct marshrutka you can grab a marshrutka bound for Kegan and ask to be dropped at the turn off to Saty for 2000 KZT. You will need to flag down a passing taxi or hitchhike the remaining 68 kilometers to Saty.
Saty To Lake Kaindy
Once you arrive to Saty you can either hike to Kaindy Lake or grab a 4WD taxi, which can easily be arranged from your guesthouse in Saty.
The taxi option will cost about 5,000 KZT round trip for the car and you’ll need to pay the national park entrance fee as well. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes each way. This road is in bad shape and a 4WD is strongly advised. The 5,000 KZT can be split among up to 5 people.
If planning to trek it’s a 12 kilometer hike along the road. Make sure you have warm camping equipment.
Saty To Kolsai Lakes
You’ll want to grab a taxi from Saty to the first Kolsai Lake. Plan for it to cost 1,500 KZT give or take 500 KZT. If you don’t want to deal with haggling you can have your homestay in Saty arrange a car.
Make sure the car goes all the way to the first lake and not just to the entrance gate, which is still 8 kilometers from the first lake. The road is paved.
At the entrance gate you’ll pay the national park entrance fee that seems to fluctuate, but at the time of my visit it was 450 KZT.
There are plenty of tours that include Kaindy and Kolsai Lakes, so if you’re on a time crunch or just don’t want to deal with the logistics of getting here independent this is a great option.
Shop different Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes tours on Viator
Park Entrance Fee
The park entrance fee seemed to fluctuate a bit on my research (ranging from 550-730 KZT), when I entered the park it cost 450 KZT per person if entering on foot, 750 KZT if entering by car, and 750 KZT per tent if planning to camp.
Things To Do Around Kolsai Lakes
The main reason to make the journey to Kolsai Lakes is to hike through velvety green alpine forests and among the fields of wildflowers between the three dazzling lakes. The trek from Lake 1 (Nizny) to Lake 2 (Sredny) is roughly 5 kilometers and should take about 3 hours, going from 1,800 meters to 2,250 meters in elevation.
From Lake 2 to Lake 3 (Verkhny) the trek is about 4 kilometers, 3 more hours trekking, and will take you up to 2,800 meters in elevation. It is possible to do this trek as a day trip, but camping overnight is a good option.
It is possible to rent a boat and take a ride around Kolsai 1. Boats are available to rent from vendors set up at the lake.
Staying The Night At Kolsai Lakes
You can opt to either stay in yurts or bring in your own gear and camp around the lakes. If it’s obvious that you are camping (hauling in obvious camping gear) you will be charged an additional fee at the park entrance for camping.
There are yurts at the first Kolsai Lake for 7,000 KZT per person per night or 10,000 KZT including 3 meals. Further back from the parking lot there are more yurts, these cheaper at 5,000 KZT per night.
Things To Do Around Lake Kaindy
Hiking and trekking around the unusual lake for the best views of the sunken forest are the main reasons to visit Lake Kaindy.
Staying The Night At Lake Kaindy
There are no formal accommodations around Lake Kaindy, so you will need to bring in your own camping gear if you plan to spend the night.
Staying In Saty Village
Saty is more of a base for exploring the area further. You can typically show up and find a homestay (plan to pay about 3,000-4,000 KZT per person, per night).
If you like to plan ahead you can book a bed at A-Frame Kolsai or Guesthouse Arcabay-Karligash. Booking ahead is smart especially if you plan to visit on a weekend in July and August when many locals head out here for a weekend of play.
When to Visit
July to September are the best months to visit Lake Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes with the warmest temperatures (but don’t expect very warm). September honestly is probably the best month of the lot as most students have returned to school and fewer people will be traveling around.
It is possible to visit in the later fall months but plan for subzero temperatures at night. If the cold doesn’t bother you visiting between December and February can offer beautiful scenes with the forests covered in a blanket of snow, though it’s advisable to visit at this time of year as a tour.
Generally, May and June are recommended to be avoided because of the possibility of contracting tick-borne encephalitis.
Visit nearby Charyn Canyon on your way from or back to Almaty
What To Pack
- Camera, tripod, phone, and any other electronics
- Solar charger and/or a battery bank
- Hiking boots
- Water bottle or a hydration reservoir.
- Tent, camp stove, sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad if planning to camp
- Dry bag
- Warm layering clothing
- Russian/Kazakh phrasebook
- Cash- There are no ATMs out here or in Saty.
Getting Back To Almaty From Saty
There is a 5 am minibus that departs Saty for Sayakhat bus station. The cost is 3,000 KZT, and you can easily have your homestay arrange for it to pick you up.
Looking For Things To Do In Almaty? Check out my previous post Best Things To Do In Almaty
Want to Explore As Part Of A Tour?
I know getting out there can be a bit of a hassle, so why not have someone sort the logistics for you and join a tour? Click here to shop various tours to the lakes and some including nearby Charyn Canyon and Altyn Emel National park.
Have Any Questions About Visiting Lake Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes?
Ask your Lake Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes questions in the comments section below.