Kolsai Lakes National Park

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Located around 12km by paved (from 2018) road from Saty village, these three spruce-and-mountain-hemmed lakes are Alpine-esque beauty at its best and a Kazakhstan highlight. As you hike between the lakes, graze on wild strawberries and raspberries in summer and take frigid dips in the clear waters. The hiking trails between the lakes are steep in places and can get very muddy. You need your own wheels to reach the lakes, or go as part of a tour from Almaty.

From 1km-long Nizhny (Lower) Kolsai lake (1800m) it's 6km up from the lower lake via a hike of about three hours to Sredny (Middle) Kolsai lake (2250m) – the biggest and most beautiful. From the middle lake to the smaller Verkhny (Upper) Kolsai lake at 2800m, where the forests give way to alpine grasslands, is about 4km and three hours’ walking; inquire at the entrance about permission to visit Verkhny lake, since it's part of the border zone with Kyrgyzstan.