Kazakhstan: Charyn Canyon and Kaindy Lake
Catching a flight to Almaty, the ancient capital of Kazakhstan, leaves you just a stone’s throw away from two of the most impressive natural gems of the country - Charyon Canyon and Kaindy Lake.
Last summer the pin dropped on Kazakhstan for a few days of city-sightseeing and hiking. After spending a few days in Astana to see the EXPO and in Almaty to hike in the Ile-Alatau National Park, we decided to head out see the “Grand Canyon of Europe” and the unbelievably turquoise “birch tree lake”, a lake which formed after a landslide following an earth quake nearly a century ago and features a submerged forest and eerie looking birch trees sticking out of the clear mountain water. Our local host, Daniil, luckily agreed to organize the trip for us and so we headed east in his 4x4. Along the way, we stopped at a few places to pack some local flat bread directly out of the clay oven, a giant water melons sold off a truck, a few bits of the infamous horse cheese, and even some fresh duck for dinner later.
After a few hours, the main roads gave way to dirt roads and the settlements became sparser and sparser.
Our fist stop was at the Charyn Canyon, a 90 km long canyon carved into the red sandstone over millennia by the Charyn River coming from the nearby Tiang Shan Mountains on the border to China. The canyon is nothing short of impressive and falls up to 300 m deep into the gorge.
After exploring the canyon for some time, we headed on towards the Kolsai Lakes National Park were we planned to set camp. Without Daniil, we would hve never found the way as we left the steppe behind and drove into the lush and green hills of Kolsai.
Right after reaching the village of Saty, the road towards Kaindy Lake was more river bed then road and without a proper 4x4 you’d end up hiking the last 15 km to the lake or trying to find someone in the village to take you (both of which are by all means possible).
After another hour of dirt road driving, we finally set up camp close to the lake and took the time to cook our delicious duck and tea made from fresh herbs picked up around the lake.
The early morning hike to and the extremely refreshing swim in the lake itself were a fantastic highlight for this amazing trip - just look at the color of the water and the unique submerged forest.