Kolsai and Kaindy Lakes via Charyn Canyon

Kolsay & Kaindy lakes national

In this article we will answer the 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 is the Kolsay Lakes located between the Raiymbek District and Talgar District of Almaty Region. The scenic Lake Kaindy is also within the park.[1] The park boundary is 120 kilometers (75 mi) southeast of Almaty.” We fully agree that the lakes are true gems of the 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.

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 breathe crystal clean air filled with healing phytoncides from conifers.

But you have to be ready for a 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 the 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 the first and second Kolsay lakes is absolutely perfect in terms of the gradual rise of altitude and complexity of the terrain. There are three points with benches, little tables and at some of these points, you can find informational boards with altitude numbers you are on. At these points, we usually do short rest breaks. So until the first rest point (it will say that you are at an altitude of 1882 meters), it’s mostly quite a 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 the first and second points, you will feel that the hike became a bit more intense, and the part between the second and third points will be the most complicated but at the same time most interesting! It will be a steep rise with zigzag tiny roads going all the way uphill. 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 the 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) it’s 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, it’s possible that you meet border guards ( the border 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 area between Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan. At the second lake, we usually have a well-deserved picnic, a short walk around the lake and then we go back. It’s also possible to camp at the shore of the second lake, there is a nice flat area great for setting the tent.

Kolsai and Kaindy Lakes via Charyn Canyon

Accommodation at Kolsai Lakes.

If you are traveling to Kolsai lakes it’s definitely worth spending 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 it’s always delicious, you will never find this delicious cream or jam in supermarkets in the 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 the 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 a shower. Kyrmetty is the next village located further in the mountains not far from the first lake.

Dinner with locals, Almaty

However, if you want to have the 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 a hostel. Also, you can find yurt that stays close to the first lake, but again please be prepared for the absence of a shower and “city” toilet.

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 stuff all the way up – you can pay 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 I personally would not advise doing 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 a 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

Tours to kolsay & kaindy lakes National park

Tour to Kolsay lakes

2-Day Tour To Charyn Canyon, Kolsay & Kaindy Lakes

The Charyn Canyon is one of the unique natural monuments of Kazakhstan. The canyon is about 12 million years old and surprises with its vertical cliffs, calling to mind ancient castles created by wind, sun, and rain. Kolsay Lakes National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Kazakhstan and a ‘must-see’ destination.

Satty village, Kolsay Lakes

4-Day Active Tour

4 days in the Almaty region, gives you the possibility to explore the nature of south-eastern Kazakhstan. On our 4 day tours, you will discover endless semi-desserts of Altyn Emel, stunning Charyn canyon, breath-taking Kolsai mountain lakes, and mysterious sunken forests in Kaindy lake. Join us for a full unforgettable Zhetisu experience!

Kaindy Lake

5-Day Active Tour

This is our offer to those travelers who prefer to spend more time in each place, enjoy the destination with no rush and have some free time at the end of the day. No doubt this is the best way to travel and we strongly advise you to choose this itinerary. On our 5 day tours, you will discover endless semi-desserts of Altyn Emel, stunning Charyn canyon, breath-taking Kolsai mountain lakes, and mysterious sunken forests in Kaindy lake. Join us for a full unforgettable Zhetisu experience!