Each of us since childhood has got a desire for new discovery and for bright and unforgettable adventures. That’s why each year we pack our bags and start a journey – no matter whether it is fishing at the neighbouring lake or a distant trip/flight. Many people consider themselves as quite experienced travellers after travelling around Kazakhstan or visiting many cities, countries. But… If you haven’t passed, at least, one trekking route, you can’t consider yourself a true traveller. You are just a tourist moving from home comfort to a hotel with all facilities. True emotions, wild drive, unforeseen adventures, unplanned events, bright impressions and memories for life are hiding not in the hotels and spa points. These are much closer to the earth. That earth that you have to walk on with your legs in order to feel the power and speechless beauty of the nature, to feel grandeur of uncontrollable force of nature. Only in that way you will realize that we, people, are tiny and insignificant in comparison with nature; how beautiful this world is and it is desperately resisting human’s domination. Trekking is an activity for soul.
Route No 1. Butakovskoye Gorge, Forest Passage and Cape of Hope
This route is one of the most popular among tourists because it is easy to reach the finish point, level of complexity is low and there is no need to stay overnight. You will remember these impressions for a long time because of spectacular views that open up every 100 metres. There are trekking stages below.
You will start with climbing up the Forest Passage which joins Butakovskoye Gorge and Kotyrbulak Gorge together. It is better if you collect drinking water from pure mountain river there, otherwise, there won’t be any drinking water source ahead.
After the passage you will continue climbing along mountain ridge covered with forest. This fragment of the route finishes when you see wide spacious plateau. In winter it is covered with deep snow so you would better to have skis with you.
After the plateau you will be awarded with stunning view over the Cape of Hope (a huge cliff). If you still got some energy left, then go ahead to the top. Bukreevka Peak will be an excellent closing landscape for your trekking; especially, if taking into account a view that opens up from its top over the city and the highest peak of the Ile Alatau – Talgar Peak.
Since people take a chance of participating in such trekking only within a group under the guidance of experienced conductor, you shouldn’t ignore advice in terms of mountain view equipment, first aid kit with basics, food pack, matches, penknife and so on. Mountain drive Almaty and forest – these are unpredictable places but that’s good, as you will never be bored there. You should always be ready to a sudden turn of events. The same rules can be applied to any other trekking journeys, so it is better to learn these rules at once.
Route No 2. Walking along Turgen Gorge
This trekking route is suitable for those who have never gone in for trekking too far and just want to understand the process and, at the same time, to enjoy magnificent beauty of surrounding nature. Walking along Turgen Gorge is not just wandering around and making photos: your purpose is to reach charming Medvezhiy Waterfall (also known as Bear Waterfall). A legend says, that if one drinks water cascading from the top, he or she will look younger and will strengthen health and energy. Your way to the waterfall looks like that.
Arriving at the gorge and starting way to the waterfall. Very soon you will meet a huge monument of the Golden Saka Warrior and a burial hill.
When you are next to wonderful waterfall, you can drink crystal-like pure water and make beautiful photos. Surrounded by rocks and lush flora the waterfall looks so good on all taken pictures!
After the waterfall you can continue your journey and visit a trout farm. If you are travelling as part of the group and this option is included into the fee, you can have a lot of fun fishing out there and then treat yourself with freshly cooked fish from your own catch.
Route No 3. Picturesque landscape between Kolsay Lake I and Kolsay Lake II
All in all there are three Kolsay Lakes located almost one above another with height difference around 700 meters. The beauty of local nature is possible to appreciate by looking at photos – the nature is incredibly magnificent. Famous Tien Shan fir trees are reaching highly up; the same thing is with mountain peaks; water surface is changing its colour from azure to sea-green… Isn’t it beautiful? All route is passing along a path – there is a well-trodden road from the first lake to the second; it is even suitable for a horse riding tour.
But you need to walk on foot to reach the second and the third lakes (in case you have chosen horse riding or car driving option to reach the first lake). Narrow mountain dew path opens up incredible views of rocky peaks, Alpine meadows, a forest. Here you can eat a lot of berries, gather some fresh mushrooms and grill these on a fire, treat yourself with fresh fish from the lake. What a wonderful and easy enough trekking route with lots of impressions!
Route No 4. Excursion to Charyn Canyon and walking in the Valley of Castles
Charyn Canyon is as lovely as Grand Canyon in North America, except its size. Believe us, that the canyon, the Nature had created next to Almaty, will impress you for life. You can come down the canyon by car; but, if you are brave trekking lover, then you may walk down on foot. A little bit later you will see wonderful Valley of Castles, where nature for millions of years had been forming a landscape, looking like another planet, with layered castles, peaks and other impressive shapes. Upon your wish you may stay overnight at the bottom of the canyon, in a bungalow or a tent; additionally, you will find facilities for shashlyks and barbecue out there. Just imagine how after long journey, tired but pleased, you are sitting next to the fire, eating fragrant meat and watching stars. It is exciting, isn’t it?
Route No 5. Waterfalls, a paradise for mushroom pickers and a Fountain of Youth
Quite lengthy but beautiful beyond words trekking route is waiting for you at the 61st kilometer away from Korgaljyn Highway – entrance to Turgen Gorge and climbing up to Kairak Waterfall. This trekking is very intense so be prepared to feel exhausted by the end of it. However, believe us, this is worth it. Look how many interesting events are waiting for a traveller on this way:
Easy climbing up to two beautiful waterfalls Medvezhiy and Buzgul. Raging flow of water, rainbow, and lush flora – a mesmerizing view!
Going up further on and… there is another waterfall (Kairak)! This waterfall is of such an impressive height – 55 metres. For information, the Victoria Fall is of 120 meters height and this is one of the highest waterfalls in the world.
Just a little bit higher there are plateaus Batan and Asy where mushrooms pickers have enough space to spread out – big and tasty milk mushrooms, orange milk mushrooms, edible boletus are ready to jump into your basket! Just imagine how tasty that would be if to grill these mushrooms on a fire and eat together with potatoes baked in coals… Taste and flavour of freshly cut mushrooms are not even close to those bought in grocery. You should definitely try such forest treat!
At Batan Plateau you can also visit high-altitude space observatory built in USSR era. Not far from that place there archaeological excavations of ancient settlements of the Bronze Age and Iron Age are carried out; so if you are interested in history, you should definitely visit these archaeological sites.
On the way back one more little adventure will be waiting for you. If you turn off the road a little bit, you will bump into a real Fountain of Youth. Crystal-like cold water will satisfy your thirst and all your tiredness will fade away.
This is the route, full of various destinations and quite difficult. But all that you were looking for in travelling to such distant place – a storm of emotions, a delight and bright impressions – will follow you throughout the way.
Route No 6. Way to the Big Almaty Peak with impressive view of the Big Almaty Lake
It is fantastically beautiful, isn’t it? Exactly these words will come up to you at the sight of a view from the Big Almaty Peak – one of the most popular and available peaks among trekking tourists. Climbing up the peak requires minimal skill and basic knowledge about mountain hiking, however, good physical shape would be helpful. Rarified mountain air and level difference will become noticeable there, but these are insignificant in comparison with all things you will see during the journey.
The first destination of the route is Dzusaly-Kezen Passage and Kosmostanciya (Cosmic Station). It is possible to reach the Cosmic Station driving along the concrete road by car. After passing through the road barrier, you will find yourself in a small worker’s town where you may rent a house and stay overnight. There is a hiking path leading to the mountains – here the trekking journey starts.
The path will bring you to Mramorniy Passage with two gorges on each side: Big Almaty Gorge and Pokhodnoe Gorge.
An easy part of the journey has finished. Now, quite difficult climbing up to the South Peak, although affordable, is waiting for you. Bolder stones, which passed solid rocks round the left side, will appear in your way; it is easy to get over them though. Bolder stones on your way will mean that the greater part of the journey left behind.
View from the South Peak can be equally treated as a view from the Big Almaty Peak, but still the best landscape opens up a bit later. If you come down to barely visible path and walk taking the right side of the peak, moving towards the North Peak, the view, you will remember for life, comes out right over there.
At the top you may arrange a high-altitude picnic; luckily, there are a lot of suitable places. The meal will be proceeding in a lack of oxygen conditions, but with a lot of emotions running high, because of surrounding Kazakhstan landscapes!
Route No 7. Malaya Almatinskaya Krugosvetka
Malaya Almatinskaya Krugosvetka is a famous mountain trekking route that includes mounting to four peaks, playing on mountain swings (on the photos it looks like one is swinging right above the snowy chasm), walking in picturesque coniferous forest, going down on a ropeway (free-of-charge), and many more. Perhaps, this route should be categorized as a quite difficult one because of level difference, mounts and mountain paths – all these appear to be a serious test for a person of infirm constitution. But if you feel you are capable of spending 10 hours climbing up and coming down, full of enthusiasm – then go ahead to conquer the peak!
The journey starts early in the morning from Medeu Skating Rink so ensure you get enough sleep and feel energized on the day.
Winding mountain paths will lead you through Kim-Asar Gorge and bring to famous swings. You can take photos there, have some rest and then continue the journey.
After around half an hour a great and beautiful Furmanovka will appear in front of you, further on, in an hour time, you will see Panorama. These are the first two peaks on your way; level difference goes up from 3,000 to 3,200 meters.
Further on, again, we are climbing up to the mountains and watching Bashuta Peak. It is next to the last in the list of peaks.
After one hour of traversing and simple mounting Chimbulak Peak opens up for you, its height is 3,400 meters. This is the last peak but not the end of the journey.
When you passed rocky parts of the road at Chimbulak by and you got over the path along mountain range, you will finally see Talgar Passage. Now you can breathe out and relax – you have done it. You will also have got a classical set of photos with the best views of Almaty mountains, which you may review during long winter evenings.
From the passage to the basic station you can use comfortable and free-of-charge ropeway making final photos on your way down. Then, in order to reach Medeo, you can go down on foot. If you are exhausted, then buy a ticket to ropeway or use a rainbow taxi/bus Almaty .
As you see, the route is quite extensive with a lot of climbing up and down, however, Malaya Almatinskaya Krugosvetka is highly recommended to all tourists. Just in one day you will see so much of incredibly beautiful nature that by the end of the journey you feel a little bit dizzy!
Route No 8. Kok Jailau Plateau and Gorelnik Gorge
This route, for a good reason, is regarded as the most easy in our list but equally spectacular and interesting. Its main feature is that people of all ages, of any level of physical training can walk along its paths without inconveniences – soft hugs of green plateau with fluffy fir trees with great pleasure will accept everybody who decides to travel here. Children can freely play in the sun rays, while adults can have some rest in the shadow of fir trees and enjoy picnic in the mountains.
The journey takes its start from the stop “Prosveschenets”. Further on, if you walk along the concrete road and then along the steppe road, making several turns and one steep mount along the mountain range, you will find yourself on a path that leads to Kok Jailau. The whole journey will take 2-3 hours of your time.
Through Kok Jailau you can climb up to Gorelnik Gorge in order, once again, to stand still watching beauty of the nature untouched by human. Many raging waterfalls, rocks covered with green moss and coniferous forest in the gorge have created inexpressible atmosphere; sending you for several millions of years back to that point when humans didn’t think of themselves as the main creatures in the world.
Route No 9. Waterfalls, gorges, morainic lakes
Usually, abovementioned destinations can be visited in a long 6-day trekking route called “Alpine Rose” (rose valley Almaty - because it takes its start from a hotel with the same name). Upon one’s wish, the route can be divided into several short outings, in case one can’t physically afford staying in the mountains for a week. So, the route looks like that.
Kumbelsu Passage – Kumbelsu Gorge. At the foothill of the gorge there is an ice cap Lednik Sovetov and a small morainic lake with pure azure water. All around is iridescent in the sunlight: sugar tops, absolutely clear sky without smog hanging over the city, and shining water surface.
Further on, the mount starts from the natural boundary Tuyuk-Su at the foothill of the peak Molodezhnyi. The peak is an ice massif and it is possible to climb on it only with alpinist belay.
In order to look at the morainic lakes of Titov, you need to climb up Gorelnik Gorge and here it is – at 10 km away from its top. Views there are so impressive – it looks like the earth is jeweled with round diamonds that reflect azure sky and are iridescent in the sunlight.
Deeper in the gorge you can enjoy watching its waterfalls and have some rest in the Eagle’s Nest – a camp for weary tourists. A wonderful view over the whole gorge opens up from there.
Route No 10. Bolshaya Almatinskaya Krugosvetka
And, finally, the last stroke to our selection is Bolshaya Almatinskaya Krugosvetka, which lasts from 3 to 4 days; level of complexity is higher than average and volume of impressions from the journey exceeds all possible limits! Yes, sometimes, it will be difficult: level difference goes up from 1,500 to 4,000 meters; no one will offer you to stay overnight in a comfortable hotel and you will be eating in field conditions. But, believe us, by the end of the journey you will regret that those days have passed too quickly. So a 4-day trekking route looks like that.
From Medeu Skating Rink by ropeway you will reach Talgar Passage. First bright photos and first inspiring impressions! Additionally, around 8 kilometers of picturesque great and natural landscapes are waiting for you ahead, up to Levyi (Left) Talgar Gorge.
The second day starts from Solnechnaya Polyana (Sunny Meadow) – a popular place for tourists to have some rest. A very beautiful place in itself, it opens up wonderful views over neighbouring mountains out there. After that you will spend several hours walking to Tourists’ Passage.
The third day will be quite busy and difficult. Starting point is a morainic Lake of Tourists, then mounting up to the passage and coming down to the foothill of the Soviets’ Peak.
The last day is the easiest one – with farewell admiring the Big Almaty Lake and transferring back to the city.
Of course, by the end of the route you will be completely exhausted but, at the same time, absolutely happy and filled with amazing feeling of unity with the nature. During 4 days alone with nature you will understand how lovely it is to get away from noisy, restless civilization and fall asleep to the sounds of burning fire and wake up with morning dew. Mountain air will clear your thoughts and mind. Difficulties of the journey will strengthen your body and spirit. After this adventure you will be ready to conquer not only mountain tops.