Our trip to Kazakhstan started from Kyrgyzstan, where we rented a 4x4. We entered Kazakhstan from the customs of the
Karkara valley, a border crossing open only in summer, little used and really bucolic, especially on the Kyrgyz side, where a dirt road
crosses valleys and prairies and is crossed by horses and cows.
The grouchy Kazakh guards controlled the car and our suitcases with Soviet severity, but they let us enter the country without problems or bribes.
After the Kyrgyz mountains, we found ourselves crossing barren highlands surrounded by barren hills.
Finally we turned towards Saty, with the aim of visiting the lakes of Kolsay and Kaindy.
Saty is the only village close to these tourist destinations, but it isn't a very organized village
for travelers. The yurt camp at the entrance to the village was the only place where we could have lunch; they were very kind and they changed us
euros for tenges at the correct price, so we decided we would spend the night there.
After lunch we drove for 12 kms, on a terrible dirt road surrounded by beautiful landscapes, towards the lake of Kaindy.
You pay a small entrance ticket and you enter the national park; from the parking area, an easy path goes towards the lake.
Lake Kaindy was created in 1911 by an earthquake that filled with water a beautiful valley in the mountains. The peculiar thing
that makes this small body of water unique and beautiful is that the trunks of the trees that were flooded still rise from the lake.
You can walk for a couple of hours along and above the lake, looking for sights and beaches where you can put your feet in the icy water.
Leaving Lake Kaindy, we returned to Saty and from there we continued towards the Kolsay lakes. These three alpine lakes are less
strange but still very suggestive thanks to the turquoise waters surrounded by woods and mountains. We stopped at the first lake because
it was late afternoon; to get to the second Kolsay lake you need to hike for almost 3 hours.
We went back to sleep at Saty and the next day we headed for the Charyn Canyon.
While we were getting al lower altitudes, the air became hotter and a bit oppressive.
We arrived at the so-called Valley of the Castles of the Charyn Canyon around 10 am, we parked and
we began to walk in this beautiful valley.
The Charyn Canyon is a gorge crossed by a rather impetuous river and
several secondary canyons depart from the main canyon. The Valley of the Castles is one of these. We walked through red walls and curious rock formations
to the main gorge where the Charyn river flowed.
There were other valleys where it was recommended to go.
We then left in the direction of Almaty. The road, long, straight and rather boring, skirted the Kazakh mountains.
When we arrived in Almaty, the city surprised us by the chaotic traffic, so different from the places we had visited so far
along our travel itinerary in both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. We decided to test the Almaty thermal baths that are known
as the most beautiful in Central Asia. The entrance for tourists, with private suites where men and women can go together,
is as expensive as in Europe, but the public spa, separate for men and women, costs only 3 or 4 euros per person, and they
were huge! An experience that must be lived during a trop to Almaty, in my opinion.
Almaty's top view does not give the right idea of the smog it produces.
We spent our last day of vacation going to see the Big Almaty Lake, at 2500
meters above sea level. The beautiful mountain landscapes were not so original, but always fascinating with the glaciers around.
Continuing along the road, we arrived at a roadblock where
a military man armed with a machine gun welcomed us and began to check our passports. We only hoped to get to some
panoramic point a little more up, but now we had to obey.
Finally we passed and drove for a few miles. We then continued on foot and found ourselves in a ghost town surrounded by mountains.
After a short walk that also took us to admire Almaty, it was time to close our travel itinerary in Kazakhstan:
so we drove towards the border with Kyrgyzstan, which we crossed this time at the busiest customs that connects Almaty and Bishkek.
To read about the Kyrgyz part of this travel itinerary, go to the page
dedicated to the Kyrgyzstan trip report!
For many more photos of Kazakhstan, click on the images of the photogallery:
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