Big Almaty Lake

Top choice in Kazakhstan

This picturesque turquoise lake, 1.6km long, rests in a rocky bowl at 2500m altitude, reflecting the Tian Shan mountains and the giant fir trees in its still depths. Border guards are present around the lake and climbing on the dam is forbidden. You can't get too close to the lake and the border guards will ask for and register your passport. You can take a taxi here (at least 3000T each way), or take bus 28 and then hike in.

The best time to visit the lake is in May and June or September and October. Avoid weekends, as the place is overrun with locals then. Some of the surrounding peaks require permission from the local Migration Police (OVIR) office, while others, such as the Pik Bolshoe Almatinsky, can be climbed without. Outfitter KZ offers day trips to the lake, with the climb thrown in ($75 per person).

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