Charyn Canyon, Kolsai & Kaindy lakes: great hiking and amazingly beautiful lakes

Updated: Nov 18

Trip takes 2 days as minimum (better if its a 3-day trip), usually includes visiting Charyn Canyon. So it is 3 hours to Charyn, then 5-6 hours there and around (Valley of Castles is just one of the parts of this canyon, there is a lot more to see), then again 2-2,5 hours to Satty village, with amazing photo-ops on the way. Sometimes road is absolutely awful (closer to the canyon & to Satti village), but this year authorities built a new, very good road from Alasa gorge (near Charyn canyon) to Jalanash village (its on the way and not far from Satti village), so the driving becoming more & more pleasant!

Usually your guest house in Satti village is already waiting for you (arranged from the city by your guide or driver, or you can risk and find guest house at the village), dinner is almost ready, Russian sauna is hot (after day in Charyn Canyon it is a dream place, believe me!), and sometimes even wi-fi is working (but do not expect it)! Just fyi toilets at these simple homes are usually outside, and there are no showers. Staying in a guesthouse despite of all inconviniences is a nice and simple way to see how people live outside of big cities in tiny villages. Also you can stay at Zhibek Zholy hotel with awesome view from the window (of course it is more expernsive than guest house), hotel located at the shore of the first Kolsai lake.

Next day its better to wake up early (around 7 am) in order to see both second Kolsai lake & Kaindy lake at one day. So, after breakfast your driver will bring you to the first Kolsai lake, which is absolutely stunning! Road takes around 30-40 mins. There is no car road to second lake, only little path, which will bring you to the second lake (at some places there are blue arrows on stones, so just follow them). It takes around 3-4 hours of hiking one way, so don't forget to take your lunch and water with you cause after reaching the second lake you will be VERY hungry! Also I would advise to take warm jacket just in case, cause sometimes on the second lake winds are really strong and cold in any summer day, and it can even rain - weather in mountains changes very fast. Anti-ticks spray is a must at spring-summer season. Its better not to go to third lake because firstly it is physically hard to reach it, and secondly it is very close to border line with Kyrgyzstan, and foreign tourists need to have special pass registered in migration police (better to check it with migration police office near Nikolsky market), so after good lunch with an unforgettable view hiking back to first lake takes again 3-4 hours, your driver usually waits you all this time and when you reach him, you drive to Kaindy lake (it is if you have only 2 day trip, if it is 3-day trip then you drive back to the guest house or hotel to take a Russian banya or shower and enjoy rest of the day and on the morning of the third day you go to Kaindy lake - thats an ideal itinerary to see Charyn Canyon and Kolsay & Kaindy lakes).

You should reach Kaindy lake at 4 pm and be out at 6 pm, because it is a long road back to the city - around 5-6 hours. Of course, it is better to have 3-day trip for canyon and lakes, then you will not hurry and enjoy every location as it deserved, and Kaindy lake you will visit on the morning of third day, at morning hours sky is usually clean, no clouds and sun is shining so bright, at afternoon it is usually cloudy, and more mysterious. Usually drivers do not agree to go there (almost no car road at all) so sometimes you have to pay to local drivers for UAZik (soviet offroad car) and go with them. They drive you to parking place, and after you will go around 30 minutes by feet.

If you do not have time for 3-day trip to these places, then its up to you when to visit Kaindy lake - its possible to visit after Charyn Canyon on the first day or as it said in this article, on the second day after hiking to the second Kolsai lake. Usually it depends on how well you trained - if you think that you need more time for hiking between two Kolsai lakes than its more reasonable to visit Kaindy on first day after Charyn Canyon.

Everywhere (Charyn Canyon, Kolsay lakes, Kaindy lake) travellers will pay fee for entering National Parks. Also it is possible to go to Karkara border point after lakes if you plan to continue your trip at Kyrgyzstan. I hope I covered some moments of this fascinating trip, enjoy it!

Photography from Stephen Bridger

#CharynCanyon #Kolsailakes #Kaindylake #Sunkenforest #Alataumountains #TianShan #Sattyvillage #Sattivillage #Almaty #Kazakhstan #Hiking

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