Charyn Canyon, Kolsai and Kaindy lakes 2-day tour.
This is probably the most popular tour in Almaty region.The road to the lakes leads through scenic landscapes, including mountain passes, valleys, and rural areas. SUV with high clearance is required to reach Kaindy lake.
The tour can be done all year around but the views will be very different depending on year season. In winter lakes are usually frozen, the area is covered in snow, and access can be challenging. Summer is peak season, and everything is so green. September is my favourite month, trees in the mountains become covered with golden leaves, weather conditions are most favourable.
Road distance is almost 400 kilometers one way with some off road parts, so, it is not recommended to do the tour in one day as it would be very hectic and impossible to explore and enjoy each location in due way. If you want to have one day express tour better go for extended Charyn Canyon tour which includes visiting of Bartoagai Lake and Moon Canyon.
Usually tourists stay overnight in Saty village which is located very conviniently just between Kolsai and Kaindy lakes. Average price for stay in one of many local guest houses of hostel type is 10 000 – 15 000 tenge per person for a bed, breakfast and dinner usually included in the price. Also, you can stay in a private room in any of small hotels located in the area. Price will be from 25 000 to 50 000 tenge for double room.
7.30 Start time. Pick-up from your hotel in Almaty is included.
On the way we have a rest stop can visit supermarket to buy some snacks or stay in one of road restaurants to have a breakast.
11.30 After driving 200 kilometers from Almaty we arrive to Charyn Canyon. Walking part is 3-6 kilometers on a flat ground mostly. Spend 2 – 3 hours at the Canyon.
A new visiting center is operating on Charyn Canyon where you can have refreshments drinks, drink tea with popular kazakh puffy bread – baursaks.
15.00 We return on the road to drive 100 kilometers more to Saty village which is located just in the middle between Kolsai and Kaindy lakes. This is the most scenic part of the road. Beautiful landscape is all around. On the way we stop to see Black Canyon.
17.30 Arrival to Saty village and staying for a night in one of local guest housese. Bed and breakfast style. Also it is possible to order home made lunch and dinner in the guest house.
8.30 Breakfast in the guest house.
9.00 15 kilometers off road trip to the parking space located 2 kilometers beneath Kaindy lake
10.00 We start 40 minutes uphill hiking to Kaindy Lake. It is possible to rent horses to get to Kaindy lake from the parking sapce. Price is around 10 dollars per ride for one horse one way. In the times when walking trail is muddy it is highly recommended to go by horse.
12.00 – 13.00 Free time on Kaindy lake. Then we need one more hour to get to Kolsai Lake by car. Road to the lake is in good condition and we can get by car very close to Kolsai lake.
14.00 – 15.30 Free time on Kolsai Lake. You can go for boating in warm times of a year.
16.00 We start our 300 kilometers way back to Almaty where we would arrive late in the evening. On the way it is possible to plan visiting Moon Canyon. This part of Charyn Canyon also called Yellow canyon looks very different from Valley of Castles which we visited on the first day and actually it is my favourite.
The program of the tour can be very flexible. For example it is possible to go for hiking from the 1st Kolsai lake to the 2nd Kolsai lake, actually, there are 3 of them. Also, it is possible to visit Bartogai lake on the way. Or this tour can become a part of a longer expedition and instead of going back to Almaty we can cross the border with Kyrgyzstan on Karkara check point and go for several days more to explore Kyrgyzstan.