Kazakhstan is unlikely to be on the list of the most popular countries to visit. However, Kazakhstan is not only Nur-Sultan, Almaty, and the steppe. The nature here is diverse: you will find red rocks no worse than in the Grand Canyon, lakes with turquoise water surrounded by mountain peaks, pine forests for relaxation, and even a flamingo reserve for birdwatching fans. Let’s go to explore the nature of Kazakhstan!
The Charyn Canyon is a local variant of the Grand Canyon, which is part of the Charyn National Park. The canyon stretches for 154 km along the Charyn River. The age of local rocks is 12 million years, the height of the rocks is up to 300 meters, and the views are simply fantastic: bizarrely shaped bright red stones against the background of the azure steppe sky. The canyon is good at any time of the year and weather. You can get there from Almaty by bus, excursion jeep or by your own car (promotions and discounts can be found here ). The road to Charyn is a separate aesthetic pleasure: velvet green hills and snowy peaks on both sides of the road will not let you get bored.
The options for excursions can also be different. You can go with an overnight stay and admire the starry sky on the banks of the Charyn River, you can eat lamb barbecue on the way to the canyon. For those who like to climb the stones and conquer impassable trails, there are routes too. The price of such pleasure will vary from 5.000 tenges to 100.000 tenges. It is better to book excursions in advance.
Big Almaty Lake
A sight that can be visited without actually leaving Almaty. BAO (as it is called here for abbreviated form) is a high-altitude earthquake lake with stunningly beautiful turquoise water. It is impossible to swim in the BAO since it is the main source of drinking water for the residents of the city – only to receive aesthetic pleasure. The lake is surrounded by snowy peaks: tourists (3954 m), Ozerny (4110 m), and Sovetov Peak (4317 m). The view is just space.
There are several ways to get to the BAO. The most budgetary ones are on foot, by bike or by bus. Yes, the road will take a lot of time and the ascent uphill (especially by bike) will not be the easiest, but if this is exactly what you need – feel free to hit the road. You won’t be able to get directly to the lake by city bus, so if you choose this option, take bus 28 at the bus stop near the Park of the First President and go to the final one. Then go through the turnstile of the eco-post (the territory of the Ile-Alatau National Park begins behind it). At the fork between the Bolshoy Almaty and Almarasan gorges, turn left and walk along the highway for about 8 km.
If such adventures are not for you, then you can take a taxi from the city to the lake. It will not cost you much, will be able to wait for you upstairs and bring you back to the city. The panorama of the mountain road is simply breathtaking in places. It will cost about 20,000 tenges. Finally, an excursion can be booked at the BAO. So you can see two more waterfalls on the way to the lake, and sometimes also dine in the fresh air (it all depends on the option of the trip). You can see the prices, for example, here.
It makes no sense to stay at the BAO itself with an overnight stay, but if you are going to be in this area in the evening, you can look into the Tien Shan Astronomical Observatory. There you can also rent a hotel room and admire the starry sky.
Not only residents of Kazakhstan, but also many Russians who live relatively close to the border come to take a walk among the pine forests of the Burabay (Borovoe) village. And all because in Borovoye, in addition to the beautiful nature, you can find something to do for every taste and budget. The village of Borovoe proudly calls itself a “resort”: there are several sanatoriums specializing in various diseases from nervous tension to specific diseases of the heart, lungs, and stomach. Well, a tourist tired of the noisy Nur-Sultan (or any other city) will be very pleased to wander through the pacifying pine forest, swim in fresh or salt lakes, or conquer the Blue Mountain.
There can be many routes inside Borovoye itself – it all depends on how much you count on adventures and long walks (or, on the contrary, you want to relax on the shore of one of the Burabay lakes). There are 14 large lakes in Burabay National Park, many small ones, and Kokshetau Mountain 947 meters high.
You can get to the resort in different ways. The cheapest and fastest is the electric train or train. The journey will take about 4 hours, depending on the train chosen, and will cost from 1500 to 5000 tenge one way. The station you need is called “Borovoe Resort”. In fact, the train brings you to the city of Shchuchinsk, from where you can easily get to the village of Borovoe by bus or taxi.
A taxi ride from Nur-Sultan to Borovoe will cost about 20-25 thousand tenge. The bus will cost about 5000 tenges, but the journey will take longer than by train, about 5 hours.
With all the obvious advantages of Borovoye, in recent years there have been more and more tourists there. Therefore, if you still love wilderness and less pretentious rest, go to a wonderful place with a sonorous name Zerenda. You can get there by taxi or bus from the city of Kokshetau. Electric trains and buses go to Kokshetau from Nur-Sultan, and the trip will take about 3 hours.
In fact, Zerenda is the name of a lake that is surrounded by a natural park. The purest water, pine forest, and low mountains create a feeling of incredible peace. At first glance, it might seem that Zerenda is still hanging in some kind of Soviet era, but the local atmosphere is much more than the standard hotel facades. In Zerenda, you can stay in holiday homes with three meals a day for a symbolic 12,000 tenge per room.
Korgalzhyn (Kurgaldzhinsky) nature reserve
Korgalzhyn reserve is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is actually a completely unique place, most of which is occupied by salt and freshwater lakes. You can go to the reserve only with an excursion – if you just come by the coordinates on the map, you will most likely not even be allowed into the territory. The location of the reserve is very closely related to the migration routes of birds. If you have long wanted to look at pink flamingos, then the most exotic way to do this is to admire them in the middle of the colorful Kazakh steppe. In general, this place will delight fans of birdwatching- on the territory of the reserve you can see waterfowl and near-water birds, such as whooper swan, gray and great egret, demoiselle crane, curly pelican, steppe eagle, flamingo, black, field, and white-winged larks and others. The excursion usually includes lunch with traditional Kazakh food (in a traditional Kazakh house with a traditional Kazakh grandmother).
If you are not a fan of birds but love to look at unusual plants, you will also like it in the Korgalzhyn reserve. The fact is that Korgalzhyn is located, as it were, connecting the system of Tengiz-Korgalzhyn lakes and dry steppe. Biologists have identified over 30 species of mosses and lichens here, as well as over 60 species of fungi. There are rare specimens: Schrenck’s tulip, Volga adonis, and Tatar iksiolirion, listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan.
If the weather is favorable, it will be possible to have a picnic in the midst of all this splendor. Just remember to take your tick and mosquito spray with you. You can choose a program of acquaintance with the reserve, for example, here. A typical excursion will cost no more than 12,000 per person, including lunch and a picnic.