Five incredible destinations for summer travel in Kazakhstan
NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM - As summer is just around the corner, it seems a perfect time to revisit the many incredible destinations in Kazakhstan. More on where one can travel around the country is in the latest article of Kazinform.
Over the past years, the government has significantly increased its efforts to develop the tourism sector and motivate people to travel within the country. In 2021 alone, the volume of investments in fixed capital in the tourism industry was 564.4 billion tenge (US$1.3 trillion).
Kazakhstan boasts abundant natural resources full of breath-taking sceneries and places available year-round. The country offers travel opportunities for every taste and budget.
Though Kazakhstan’s biggest cities Almaty and Shymkent attract the most investments and attention, the greatest travel adventures start beyond big cities.
Located between Ust-Kamenogorsk and Almaty, Lake Alakol has turned into a popular destination among locals famous for its healing benefits. The water contains almost all the Mendeleev's table except iodine.
Located between the mountain systems of Dzungarian Alatau and Tarbagatai, on the border of Almaty and East Kazakhstan regions, east of Usharal town, the lake has a northern shore, which is mineralized by underground saline springs, and a southern shore, which is freshwater.
The Katynsu, Urzhar, Zhamanty, Yrgaity, Emelkuysa and Zhamanotkel rivers flow into the lake but do not flow out, making it a drainless lake. The name of the lake, which translates from Kazakh as ‘the colorful lake’ entails the many colors the lake can have from sunrise to sunset.
In terms of accommodation, there are guest houses, hotels, and small houses available for rent. An average price for one night stay for one person with meals included starts from 13,500 tenge (US$32).
Infrastructure, however, might not be sufficient in some places, but the officials have recently accelerated the effort to renew the local airport and improve the coastlines.
Travelers must keep in mind that the season is quite short – the weather is hot only in July, whereas in August, it is getting chilly and windy.
The number of transportation options has also increased in recent years. The distance from Almaty to the closest village Akshi makes 630 kilometers, approximately an 11-hour drive by car.
When the season opens, buses start to go directly from Ayagoz town and Semey city to the northern shore. If the destination is the southern part of the lake, then there are buses going from Almaty and Taldykorgan as well as trains. There are also flights operated by Scat airline from Almaty to Usharal.
Located not far from Alakol, Lake Balkhash is another popular and affordable summer destination in Kazakhstan. It is the third-largest lake after the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea.
The lake is one of its kind due to its different mineralization in western and eastern parts, which are connected by a narrow strait. The western part of the lake, which receives water from the Ili River, is fresh, whereas its eastern part is salty resembling oceanic seawater in salinity.
Balkhash offers opportunities not only for those who seek beach vacation, but also for fans of sailing, canoeing, and fishing.
The season usually starts in mid-June and lasts through September with the highest demand in July. The price varies from 3,000 (US$7) to 10,000 tenge (US$23.5) per person without meals.
There are plenty of ways to get to Balkhash. From Nur-Sultan, one can get to the city of Balkhash by car, bus, or train. The train takes almost a day, while the bus takes around 9 hours. The distance between the cities is nearly 600 kilometers.
Lake Zerenda is getting increasingly popular among locals. Located some 300 kilometers from the capital and not far from the Burabay resort area, it is a less crowded and more affordable option for a weekend getaway.
Zerenda, which has a tectonic origin, is located 370 meters above sea level and has a little indented shoreline with beautiful beaches and sparse single trees, mostly pine trees. The bottom of the lake is flat and sandy.
The water in the lake is fresh and in the summer the water temperature can reach up to 24 degrees Celsius.
Because it is located just 50 kilometers from Kokshetau, taking a train and then using a bus or taxi to get to Zerenda might be the fastest option. The price of train ticket starts from 3,000 tenge (US$7). Zerenda is around a 4-hour drive from Nur-Sultan.
Accommodation options also vary from guesthouses to small hotels with an average cost per person from 7,000 tenge (US$16.5) per night.
Kolsai and Kaiyndy Lakes
Kolsai and Kayindy lakes are by far one of the most breathtaking sceneries in the Almaty region. Just five hours from Almaty, it is a chance to enjoy the pristine nature, get a great hiking experience, stay at the locals’ houses, and watch the stars at the night.
Kolsai, and Kayindi - part of the Kolsai Lakes National Park - are two separate lakes but are located close to each other. Tours there usually combine visits to both lakes, but the entrance fee should be paid separately.
Kolsai Lakes are located around 12 kilometers from Saty village. It is around 6-kilometer hike from lower Kolsai lake to middle Kolsai lake and an additional 4-kilometer hike to the upper Kolsai lake. Visiting the upper lake, however, might require permission, as it is part of the border zone with Kyrgyzstan. Hiking is also a physically intensive endeavor as it is very steep there.
The origin of Kayindy lake is another interesting story. The lake would probably never exist if not for the major earthquake in 1912 that created this cerulean lake with the crystal-clear blue water, surrounded by numerous fir trees.
The temperature of the lake water is always cold which allowed for saving the age-old spruces, whose branches are located under the water.
The lakes are a perfect destination for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Caspian Sea coastline
The Caspian Sea offers big recreational options. Though there might be not many beaches,
Aktau, the city located on the Caspian shores, remains among Kazakhstan’s popular resort spots.
Summers are hot when the average temperature in July hits 27 degrees Celsius. The summer season usually starts at the end of May and lasts until the end of August. The water temperature might be a bit chilly, but the coastline is still a nice place to enjoy the waters and sunbathe.
There are different types of hotels from high-end international chain hotels to local guesthouses.
Aktau is one of the major cities in Kazakhstan, so getting there would be easy. There are direct domestic flights from Nur-Sultan and Almaty as well as from other regions of the country.
Trains are also available. They go to the Mangystau station, some 12 kilometers from Aktau. Visiting Aktau, the center of the Mangystau region, must also include a visit to the region’s holy places, such as Beket-Ata, Masat-Ata, Shakpak-Ata and Shopan-Ata mosques – revered among Sufi pilgrims.
This is just a list of popular destinations in Kazakhstan, but considering Kazakhstan’s vast territory, the bucket list of must-visit places across the country might not have an end.
Written by Assel Satubaldina