One of the things I really wanted to do when I got to Almaty was to visit Kaindy and the Kolsai Lakes. I heard it was one of the most beautiful spots in Kazakhstan. Although it’s not the easiest task to get there if you don’t go on a private tour, it’s still possible. Me and three guys I met on the road decided to go together so we looked at all the alternatives. It was either taking a local bus that might be going, and then hitchhike, or make it easy for us and go on a so-called private tour (although I wouldn’t call it tour since the driver just dropped us off and let us do our thing).
We decided for the latter. And I’m really happy we did! Although I was craving some adventure and I’ve heard hitchhiking is quite easy, I realised that getting there might not be as easy as I thought. But with the private tour, we could just sit back, relax and enjoy the pretty views that Kazakhstan has to offer.
3 Day Tour
We (or one of the guys who literally did everything for us) booked a 3 day tour with a tourism company. The trip cost us 88,000 tenge in total. We split it in four so I paid 22,000 tenge, which is about 55€.
This was included in the price:
Transportation from Almaty to Saty Village and back
Accommodation with a lovely Kazakh family for 2 nights
Two meals a day
Driver who took us to the starting point of the hike to Kolsai Lake 2 and Lake Kaindy the next day
Not included in the price:
Entrance Fee for Kolsai Lakes – 753 tenge
Entrance Fee for Kaindy Lake – 727 tenge
Lunch for our second day, but we just went to the small grocery stores in the village and got some fruits and vegetables there
We thought that was quite fair considering the fact that some tours charge up to 300€ per person for a 3 day tour! Also, I loved staying in Saty village. The mountain village is literally out in nowhere so there’s not much to do, but that’s what I really liked. Just look outside and you’ll see some of the most spectacular views you’ve ever seen! Rolling hills, snow covered mountains, all the wild horses… And being able to take part of the local village life. Ugh. I miss it already. Saty village is quite popular amongst tourists since it’s a good starting point when you want to visit the lakes (only about 15 km away from both lakes), so I expected there to be lots of other foreigners. I was wrong. It was literally just the four of us. I’m not sure if it’s because this is not the season, but it’s almost end of May. Not complaining though! How many times do you get to have a place like this all to yourself? BUT! Do note that during weekends, we heard that it gets really busy. All the locals drive to the lakes then so if you want to avoid the crowds, go during weekdays.
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect when I went on this tour with the guys. I knew how the lakes looked like, but I didn’t know if we had to hike or just take the car to get there. So when the boys told us that a 12 km hike (6 there and 6 back) was waiting for us the second day, I was like okey… Can’t be that bad… There were times I cursed myself for doing this. I’m not the fittest of the bunch, but I’m not bad at hiking either. But I have to admit – I was struggling the last hour getting to Kolsai Lake 2.
The driver took us to Kolsai Lake 1 and dropped us off there at about 8 am. From there, we just followed the path on maps.me. The path is quite straight forward though and you’ll probably encounter a few hikers on the way, but it’s always better to download the app so you won’t get lost. The first 1 1/2 hour was quite okey but the last hour… Holy moly. We walked up for one hour straight and I was like WHY AM I DOING THIS. I tried to put on a brave face and keep up with the guys, who were walking like they were walking on air, but man, I won’t lie. It was tough. I survived the 6 km there though and was rewarded with a stunning lake. It was really windy, but thankfully, I brought my rain and wind jacket. We stayed there for about one hour to just enjoy the views, take some photos and eat some snacks before walking back for another 6 km.
It took us about 2 1/2 hours to hike to Kolsai Lake 2 with two small breaks, and about 2 hours to hike back since we were going down instead of up. We paused to jump in the lake, which we realised was freezing. But it was so worth it after sweating out my soul.
The morning after, our “host dad” took us in his Russian off-road UAZ-452 van to get to Kaindy Lake. Luckily, he told me I could sit in the front. I said yassssss and the boys looked at me with envy. Kidding, they were busy talking about girls.
The road was bumpy as hell but the views were just… Aahh! Out of this world. The ride to Kaindy Lake took us about 1 hour. We didn’t have to hike this day, only about a 10 minute walk (to be honest, not sure how much more my booty and legs could take after Kolsai Lake). We took some photos of it and then headed back to Saty Village before departing home to Almaty again. Kaindy Lake is really beautiful and I was surprised, again, that we had this place all to ourselves. We went there early in the morning though, at 8 am, but when we left, we met some people who were coming. But that’s what I love about Kazakhstan – you have these incredible places all to yourself!
I was a bit hesitant at first to go on a guided tour. I wanted to do everything on my own – take the public transportation, find a guesthouse in Saty, hitchhike, etc. But I’m so happy I decided to go with the guys. I realised on the way that hitchhiking would’ve probably been quite tough. There’s barely any cars going to the village and who knows how long it would take me to get there. I can highly recommend doing the tour I went on. I had so much fun and I’d definitely do it again.
If you’d also like to go on the same private tour, contact the tourism office at: +7 777 526-96-14
Otherwise, check out Caravanistan’s blogpost where they write about how you can do it independently.