Kolsay Kolderi (Kolsay Lakes)

The Kolsay Kolderi (Kolsay Lakes) park within easy reach of Kazakhstan's mmercial capital, Almaty, and makes reat '.weekend break for the city's >itants and visitors alike. izzd 330 kilometres from Almaty, the are a six-hour drive which begins on d leading east from Almaty to China. > buy some home-grown fruit for your г of the stalls that cluster along the ; in spring and summer the most apricots and plums are on offer, lutumn you'll find the juiciest apples, ig the famous local speciality, aport. Swing off the road to China and head for the Kyrgyz border. Before too long you'll enter the Kolsay Kolderi park, and a little further on, at 1,800 metres above sea level, you'll find the first of the three stunning lakes around which the protected area has been formed. This lake stretches for a kilometre through the pine forest and reaches depths of up to 80 metres. It's here that most visitors choose to base themselves for further forays into the park, and to the other lakes that await higher up in the Kungey Alatau range. Yurt camps have been set up near the first lake, consisting of several of these traditional circular tents sleeping up to 10 people; they are often occupied by weekenders arriving in tour groups from Almaty. Those requiring a few more home comforts can rent a room with local people, while those really in need of luxury can stay at the secluded hotel that nestles on a ridge overlooking the lake. But for more energetic types who really want to get away from it all and are not afraid of roughing it, the best option is to take a tent and strike out further towards the second and third lakes, where the roads peter out. The second lake is around five kilometres further into the forest and is reached via a steep climb of three to four hours up to 2,250 metres above sea level. A further ascent of some 500 metres over four kilometres, which will take several hours on foot, takes you to the third lake. Camp out here and make the most of the stillness, pristine air and night stars that light up the sky like thousands of sparkling torches.
The park is a paradise for hikers, with trails snaking up and down between the lakes and plunging off into the thick emerald forest. The lakes are full of trout, but catching them has been banned since the national park was opened in 2007.
Swimming is also off limits, but - stunning as they are - these alpine lakes don't beckon you in for a dip; the temperatures are freezing, even at the height of summer. There is another option for those who wish to see the unspoilt beauty of the higher lakes but baulk at the hike to reach them: a more relaxing way to travel is on horseback, and local inhabitants are happy to rent out their steeds and act as guides. A weekend break here will be nothing more than a taster, and as you head back to the city you'll probably already be planning your return - this time for a longer trip.


Visa to Kazakhstan

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