Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest metropolis, is set in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains. It served as the country’s capital until 1997 and remains Kazakhstan’s trading and cultural hub.

Landmarks include the Central State Museum, displaying thousands of historic Kazakh artifacts. In the center is Panfilov Park, home to the bright-yellow towers of Zenkov Cathedral, a tsarist-era Russian Orthodox church.

Almaty is a great city to explore for a weekend break and is also a good starting point for visiting the many attractions in the area:

  • Introduction to Almaty – 4 hours
  • Dinner With Locals – 3 hours
  • Big Almaty Lake – 1 day
  • Charyn Canyon – 1 day
  • ‘Best of Zhetisu’ No-Rush Tour – 5 days (see below)

‘Best of Zhetisu’ No-Rush Tour – from £399

May – September, minimum Group size 5 people (private tour also available)

On our 5 day tour you will discover endless semi-desserts of Altyn Emel, stunning Charyn canyons, breath-taking Kolsai mountain lakes and mysterious sunken forests in Kaindy lake. Join us for a full unforgettable Zhetisu experience!

Photos below courtesy of Slawomir Adamczak & Stephen Bridger.

Singing Dunes

Day 1:

  • ​Get picked up from your hotel by air-conditioned  4WD vehicle with an experienced driver and meet your guide. Along the scenic drive you will pass the little villages and farmers’ markets, artificial lake and Kapchagai town – one of two places in Kazakhstan where gambling is officially allowed.
  • It usually takes 3-4 hours to reach a hotel at Altyn Emel National Park, here we stop for a lunch and rest break.
  • Its time to see first miracle of our trip – Singing Dunes, rising about 150 meters and stretching for a distance of approximately 2-3 km. Learn how is it possible that sand dunes are appeared in steppe vast area and, with luck, listen to the organ-like song of Singing Dunes. Never have climbed a dune before? Here we will have a lot of time for hiking, taking magnificent photos and enjoy amazing panoramic view!
  • Coming back to the hotel, dinner. Overnight at the hotel. Don’t forget to enjoy starry night sky above Bashi village – it is so bright away from the city lights!
Aktau Mountains

Day 2

  • ​Breakfast at hotel’s café
  • Departure to Aktau mountains – a museum of the earth’s distant past. Fantastically-shaped natural sculptures rise from the bottom of an ancient sea in all the colors of the rainbow, from the pale blue “Lunar landscape” to the “red mountains”. These mountains are 30 km long, 1.5-2 km deep – and 400 million years old.
  • It’s time to unpack a delicious picnic lunch and enjoy it by the side of Aktau mountains!
  • Next visit the incredible Katutau mountains formed by lava and some associated volcanic rocks. Time, water and the sun have created intricate rock rarities here. Snap photos as your guide explains the origin of such a fanciful landscape, and then continue the trip to see 700-year-old willow!
  • Take a rest under 700-year old willow – possibly the same as warriors of great Genghis khan did?  
  • Time to drive back to hotel at Bashi village, dinner, overnight at the hotel.
Charyn Mountains – Valley of the Castles

Day 3

  • Breakfast at the hotel at Bashi village.
  • Kick off your third day of travel to see the spectacular landscapes of Charyn Canyon. Throughout your tour, you’ll learn about Charyn’s history, geology, flora and fauna. Enjoy plenty of rest stops and photo ops along the way.
  • Charyn Canyon National Park – time to explore this magnificent natural wonder! Marvel at dramatic rock formations shaped by the elements and time, and keep your camera handy for amazing photos. There’s time at leisure for exploring on your own at your own pace. 
  • Take a break from touring with a stop for a picnic lunch on a bank of Charyn river.
  • Leave for the another part of Charyn Canyon – Moon Canyon located in 30 mins from the Valley of Castles, but with such a different landscape! 
  • Leaving to Satty village, which is the closest place to stay around Kolsay & Kaindy lakes. 
  • Arrival to the village, homestay with a local family, dinner, Russian banya.
Overnight homestay and dinner with a local family

Day 4

  • ​Breakfast
  • We drive to first Kolsai lake and start hiking to the second lake. It is 16 km (around 16 miles) both ways, with the highest point 2700 metres (1.7 miles), it takes around 3-4 hours to reach the second lake.
  • Picnic at the shore of second Kolsai lake.
  • Coming back to the first Kolsay lake – time to enjoy the lake view, take last photos and drive to Satty village.
  • Dinner in local family’s home, Russian Banya.
First Kolsay lake

Day 5

  • Breakfast
  • Departure to Kaindy Lake.
  • Unusual and mysterious Kaindy Lake (Birch lake) is located at the altitude of 2000 meters above sea level. Kaindy lake was formed as the result of a huge landslide after the powerful earthquake in 1911. The landslide blocked the river and the water has flooded the valley. That is how appeared the lake with Tien Shan fir trees in the middle. The water of the lake is very cold, that is why the needles of the flooded trees are well preserved and clearly visible through the transparent surface of the water, and dry stems of fir trees overlook the water surface. It is impossible to describe in words all this mystical splendor of the lake – it is necessary to go there and see everything with own eyes.
  • Return to the city – there is a long way back to Almaty – either by a 5 hour hike, or by transport. On the way we will stop  for a lunch in one of the village cafes. 
Kaindy Lake (Birch lake)