Take a day trip to the Big Almaty Lake

Just 15km away from the busy city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, lies a natural wonder. The Big Almaty Lake, nestled in a ring of mountains and perched over 2,500m above sea level, is famous for its scintillating shades of blue and green.

The water is formed by melting glaciers and contains little sediments and pollutants, which explains its clarity and vivid hues. It’s so clean that the water is piped back to the city as the main water source for Almaty residents. Visitors are thus barred from entering the lake, and patrolling guards are around to drive home this point.

Photo by Konstantin Kikvidze

The colour of the water varies from season to season. In spring, for instance, it takes on more muted shades due to the melting ice and snow. The famously brilliant azure hue surfaces later in the year, during September and early October. Changing water levels at different times affect the colour intensity too – the deeper the water, the bluer it appears.

While you are there, keep an eye out for some exotic wildlife. The alpine lake is located in the Ile-Alatau National Park, which is home to golden eagles, Siberian ibexes, Central Asian stone martens and Tien Shan brown bears. Many of these animals are unique to the region.

Or raise your sights further and hike to the Tien Shan Astronomical Observatory, which takes three to four hours from the national park. You will see beautiful waterfalls and streams along the way.

Getting to any of these places is not difficult. Well-maintained roads and paths mean you can drive right up to your destination.

You can also take bus 28 from Almaty’s city centre, which takes 30 minutes and costs just $0.50. The bus will take you to Kokshoky, where you will find minivans and taxis that will take to you to the lake for about $7. Alternatively, you can always opt to stick out your thumb and hitchhike! Visitors also have to pay about $1.50 to enter the Ile-Alatau National Park.