Updated: Nov 18, 2020
In this article we will answer most frequently asked questions like "Where is Kolsay lakes", "Hiking at Kolsai National Park", "Is it possible to do camping on Kolsay Lakes" and many more others.
So, this is what Wikipedia says about Kolsay Lakes: "Kolsay Lakes National Park (Kazakh: Көлсай көлдері ұлттық паркі, Qólsaı kólderi ulttyq parki) is located on the north slope of the Tian Shan Mountains, southeast Kazakhstan (10 km from the border with Kyrgyzstan). Often referred to as "Pearls of Tien Shan", the park's main feature are the Kolsay Lakes located between the Raiymbek District and Talgar District of Almaty Region. The scenic Lake Kaindy is also within the park. The park boundary is 120 kilometres (75 mi) southeast of Almaty." We fully agree that the lakes are true gems of Tian Shan mountains, and the reason why we love to come back there again and again is perfect hiking routes and finger-licking home-made Kazakh food in local guest houses.
First Kolsay Lake
Weather at Kolsay Lakes.
We love to visit the lakes in any season - it's always great to walk around the lake, enjoy the stunning view of unique Tian Shan spruce trees and breath crystal clean air filled with healing phytoncides from conifers.
But you have to be ready for big change of temperatures: it can be hot summers (+30 degree Celsius) and fiercely cold winters (-25 degree Celsius). Even during one summer day you can experience summer heat at the first lake & heavy rain with ice cold wind at the second. So don't forget your wind-proof raincoat and warm fleece sweater! And of course in any weather you will need appropriate footwear - hardened and supportive hiking boots to combat dirt, mud & jagged rocks.
Hiking around the Kolsay lakes.
Personally I think the hiking experience between first and second Kolsay lakes is absolutely perfect in terms of gradual rise of altitude and complexity of terrain. There are three points with benches, little tables and at some of these points you can find informational boards with altitude number you are on. At these points we usually do short rest breaks. So until the first rest point (it will say that you are on altitude of 1882 meters) its mostly quite relaxed mode of hiking with just one steep point close to the middle part of the first lake - it is like preparation of your body for the next parts. Between first and second points you will feel that hike became a bit more intense, and the part between second and third points will be most complicated but at the same time most intteresting! It will be steep rise with zigzag tiny roads going all the way up hill. Most of the people turn back on this part but actually it is the last big hike on the way to the second lake. So if you have enough time (always turn back after 4 pm in mountains if you don't plan to camp) and energy - just keep going. After you finally reach the third rest point with benches (there is no table at that last point) its only around 30 minutes of hiking to the second lake. It is around 8 km one way between the lakes, usually requires around 3 hours of active hiking. At the beginning of the second lake its possible that you meet border guards ( the border line with Kyrgyzstan is very close to the lakes), they usually check the passport - don't forget to take the passport! You will need to show it at the entrance to the Satty village firstly, then you'll show it at the entrance to the national park on the way to the first lake and lastly on the second lake. If you wish to hike further to the third lake, you will need special permission that will allow you to be at the border line area between Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan. At the second lake we usually have well-deserved picnic, short walk around the lake and then we go back. Its also possible to camp at the shore of second lake, there is nice flat area great for setting the tent.
Coniferous forests around Kolsay Lakes
Accommodation at Kolsai Lakes.
If you are traveling to Kolsai lakes its definetly worth to spend there at least two days - 5 hours of driving just one way requires some rest time! You can choose in which village to stay - Satty or Kurmetty. Satty is the most developed place in terms of guesthouses: you will see advertising signs on almost every house. We chose several homes with whom we always work, we like these people, their attitude toward the work, their food. Homemade locally-sourced food is actually the main reason to stay in guesthouses cause its always delicious, you will never find this delicious cream or jam in supermarkets in city! But you need to be ready that tourism is just starting to develop here, so in the best case you will have one shower and one toilet for whole group of guests (sometimes it can be up to 10-15 people), at some houses there's even one toilet outside the house which can be just a hole in the ground and Russian Banya instead of shower. Kyrmetty is the next village located further in the mountains not far from the first lake.
Guesthouse at Satty village
However if you want to have a comfort you can drive up to the first lake and stay at newly built Kolsay Lake Village cottages. There are double rooms, cottages for three, four and six people and hostel. Also you can find yurt stays close to the first lake, but again please be prepared to the absence of shower and "city" toilet.
Kolsay Lake Village
Camping at Kolsay Lakes.
There are great spots to camp around the lakes, on the way from the first to the second: in the coniferous forest close to the river, on the shore of the first or second lakes. If you don't want to carry all the heavy staff all the way up - you can pay to the locals and they will transport it on the horses.
Horseriding at Kolsay Lakes.
Speaking about locals with horses whom you can find each day around the first lake me personally would not advise to do horseriding between lakes. And I have several reasons for this point of view: firstly, if you just look at the horses you will immediately see that they are not in the best shape - dirty, with a bad smell, skinny and tired. Secondly, the "organizers" do not give any protection like helmets or special shoes. I've heard about people who fall down from the horses or injured eyes with tree branches. And thirdly, the terrain between lakes is very diverse, so you will need to have some experience with horses going up and down the hill with slippery stones. If you want to experience nice horse riding around Almaty - we know other grrreat places with truly professional attitude towards the horses.
So I tried to cover some of the most frequently asked questions about majestic Kolsay Lakes area, if you have more other questions - please ask us via email