If you’re looking forward to leaving for a holiday get-away but haven’t decided where to go, Kazakhstan is a great place to take a break and discover something new. Standing at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, Kazakhstan boasts plenty of crystal-clear lakes that stretch between boundless steppes and high mountains covered with snow.
To tempt you further, Caspian News has put together a list of ‘must see’ lakes in what is one of the most diverse and fascinating countries in the Caspian and Central Asia regions.
5. Lake Markakol
With a charming landscape, Lake Markakol will charm you at first sight. Located 1,447 meters above the sea level, the ellipse-shaped lake is surrounded by the Kurchum and Azutau mountain ranges, measuring a length of nearly 40 kilometers. The lake turns bright blue when the sun is shining, and appears in a gray-black or silvery color when the clouds cover the sky. In 1976, the government of then Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic announced the creation of a nature reserve around the territory of the lake. Today tourists visit Lake Markakol to enjoy pristine nature and see one of the most beautiful high-mountainous lakes within the entirety of Central Asia.
4. Lake Balkhash
Running a length of 614 kilometers, Lake Balkhash is considered Kazakhstan’s largest lake and the world’s second largest non-drying saline lake, after the Caspian Sea. Located in southeastern Kazakhstan, Balkhash is home to about 120 kinds of birds, including those specified in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Roughly 20 species of fish – Balkhash marinka, spotted thicklip loach, carp, eastern bream and catfish – have a home in its waters. Although the infrastructure around the lake is not well developed, Lake Balkhash is still a popular place for beach recreation, mainly among Kazakhstanis and Russians.
3. Big Almaty Lake
While in Kazakhstan try not to miss the Big Almaty Lake. The color of its water varies depending on the season, while the breathtaking view of the canyon will definitely impress. Although it is strictly prohibited to go down to the coastline of the lake – its water feeds the former capital of Kazakhstan, the city of Almaty – you can enjoy its mirror surface and mountains, including the 4317 meters-high Sovetov Peak, Ozerny Peak (4110 m), as well as Tourist Peak (3954 m) from viewing distance. The lands lying around Big Almaty Lake are home to more than 2,000 species, including the snow leopard, Pallas’ cat and the Himalayan brown bear.
2. Lake Issyk
The Alatau mountain range, which stretches along Kazakhstan’s southeastern corner, is just one of the area’s many lakes. At 1,760 meters above sea level and about 70 km east of Almaty, Issyk was born in the wake of a strong earthquake that hit the area approximately 8,000 years ago. The region is rich in mountains worth climbing, especially the picturesque rocks known as the “Kremlin Walls.” If you are a history buff, check out Issyk kurgan, or burial mound, where archaeologists have unearthed evidence of early use of the symbol of the legendary Golden Warrior – now the symbol of Kazakhstan. Ostrich farms located near the lakes allow gourmet aficionados to taste mouthwatering dishes made with ostrich meat, as well as omelets made using ostrich eggs.
1. Kolsai Lakes
This group of three emerald green alpine lakes is known as the “pearl of Tien Shan” or the “necklace,” because of its extravagant location along the mountain ranges of the Alatau. Surrounded by a spruce fir forest and rocks, Kolsai Lakes are located 300 km east of Almaty and stand at up to 2,700 meters above sea level. While the lakes are open to visitors throughout the year, spring and summer seasons are the best times to pack your bags and visit the area. When Mother Nature wakes up from winter, the lakes turn a turquoise color and the forest turns green. The area around the lakes, which is perfect for walking and fishing, is home to rainbow trout, deer, mountain goats and bears.