Национальный парк

Kolsai Lakes National Park

Location and Territory

Kolsai Lakes National Park is located in the Kolsai gorge of the northern Tien Shan, between the ranges of Kungei Alatau and Zaili Alatau, 330 km southeast of the city of Almaty.


The first lake (Lower Kolsai) is at an altitude of 1818 m, its length is 1 km, the width is 400 m, the depth is 80 m.

The second lake (Middle Kolsai, Mynzhylgy) is at an altitude of 2252 m, the largest of the three lakes.

The third lake (Upper Kolsai) is at an altitude of 2850 m.

Kaindy Lake is at an altitude of 1667 meters, the length is about 400 m.

Main Attractions

Lower Kolsai Lake

Kungei Alatau is one of the ridges of the Northern Tien Shan which borders the Issyk-Kul lake basin in the north, and joins the Zaili Alatau ridge in the south. These two mountain ranges are separated by the huge valley of the Chilik (Shelek) River in the eastern part.

Kungei Alatau is famous for its mountain lakes, which are called "pearls" of the entire Northern Tien Shan. They are located in the mountain gorges near the village of Saty. Scientists associate the formation of these lakes with earthquakes that occurred at the end of the 19th century (1887-1889). Powerful rock falls have blocked the gorges in several places, forming natural dams.

Kolsai Lakes are located in the Kolsai gorge at different heights. The first lake (Lower Kolsai) is located at an altitude of about 1800 m above sea level. It is quite elongated in the gorge and is about 1 km in length. The motor road approaches it from the north, there are hotels, cafes here.

The steep slopes descending to the Lower Kolsai Lake are covered with a dense spruce forest. Some poplar groves are found along the bank. On the slopes there is a beautiful plant Alfredia nivea which blooms in August. In the meadows, you can see many species of butterflies, among which the white Apollo stands out, which is very large in this area (wingspan up to 9 cm). In the crystal clear water of the Kolsai Lake, one can observe flocks of trout which grows here up to 50-60 cm. In this area, the Kolsai Tien Shan spruce (Shrenk spruce) has a narrower crown shape than in Zaili Alatau. The tree looks more slender, and this gives the local forest a special charm. Huge reserves of moss of metre-deep layer in some places, are found in the forest.

Middle Kolsai

There is a well-visible path that goes through the spruce forest along the river to the second lake, Middle Kolsai. Under the forest canopy, you can find many shrubs: various types of wild rose, cotoneaster with red and brown berries, red and black honeysuckle, Meyer's currant, raspberry. Blackberries are common along the banks of the river, and strawberries and stone brambleberries can be found in clearings in the middle of the forest. There is a lot of trout in clean spring water. In steep places, the river flows in a series of small waterfalls. In such places, the stones along the riverbed are covered with moss. It is here that you can see the famous bluebird. Nutcrackers, black grouses, and sparrowhawks are also found here. In bad weather or in the evening, you can meet the owner of these places - a bear.

After 6 km, the trail leads to the second lake, located at an altitude of about 2200 meters above sea level. It is roughly diamond-shaped, and has a small elongated bay, at the Kolsaika River inflow. On three sides, the Middle Kolsai Lake is surrounded by sheer monumental rocks. All mountain slopes are also covered with rich dense spruce forest interspersed with rowan trees. There are good places for camping and lighting fires on the northern shore.

Upper Kolsai

Bypassing the forest, the path leads upwards, going along the eastern coast, rising high on the mountain slopes, winding, crossing the meadows and then entering the upper spruce forest. In it, the river looks like the purest crystal, rather large stream. It begins with many small streams that ooze right from a steep, densely forested slope. At this height, the forest is very rich in various types of mushrooms, the most valuable of which are milk mushrooms and saffron milk caps. The first half of summer is usually very rainy here, so there are a lot of mushrooms.

Having overcome the last steep climb, we can see the panorama of the third lake (Upper Kolsai), located at an altitude of about 2800 meters above sea level. Its surface is half as large as the second lake. A natural dam formed by an old stone blockage, has been overgrown with forest. Here, on the northern shore, near the water, there is a relict grove of tree-like juniper. The height of some trees is up to 4 meters. Juniper is one of the long-lived trees in Kazakhstan, it can reach the age of 800 years. Above the lake, another very interesting plant grows - Caragana jubata. This shrub reaches a height of 2.5 meters, its stem is covered with long, about 5 cm, spines similar to a cactus.

Above the Upper Kolsai Lake, alpine meadows begin. A path leads to them through the forest, along the eastern shore. Another hour of ascent, and you reach a small lake, which in some years dries up, turning into damp mountain meadows. This place is very close to the pass, from which you can see the Issyk-Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan.

Kaindy Lake

To the east of the village of Saty, there is the Kaindy gorge, along which a small spring river with the same name runs. If you ride along this gorge for about 15 km, you can reach the Kaindy Lake.

This unique lake lies at an altitude of about 1700 meters, in a belt of dense spruce forest. A dirt road leads to its western gently sloping shore where a camp can be set. The eastern shore of the lake is a sheer cliff, about 40 meters high. The Kaindy Lake was formed after a huge landslide from the eastern slope. The site of the fall of this landslide can be observed even today, since it has not been overgrown yet.

The peculiarity of the Kaindy Lake is that after the formation of a natural dam, the water that filled the dam did not destroy the spruce trees growing in this place along the river. The upper part of the trees sticking out of the water has lost side branches and bark, and the wood has become white. The lower part of these "drowned" trees retained the branches, which were overgrown with algae under the water, creating thereby a unique underwater landscape. For diving enthusiasts, the Kaindy Lake is a unique find. The Kaindy River flows into the lake, passing between two cliffs, about 20 meters high. From this view point, the surface of the Kaindy Lake with firs sticking out of the water looks especially fabulous.

Other national parks in the Almaty Region: