Introduction

Upon seeing the three deep-blue Kolsai Lakes (Кольсайские озёра), squeezed in between the steep, spruce-covered foothills of the Küngey Alatau, you can be forgiven for thinking that you're in Canada or Switzerland. This is some of Kazakhstan's most dramatic scenery, and these glacial bodies of water lie 110km southeast of Almaty as the crow flies, but almost 300km by road, via Chilik (Shelek) and Zhalanash. They are strung along the Kolsai River, about 1800m to 2800m high, 10km southwest of the village of Saty.