The sunken forest of lake Kaindy is a stunning view to behold and a lovely place to relax for a picknick when going east from Almaty, visiting Kolsay lakes or Charyn Canyon. Viewing the submerged trees from below is popular with divers.
The sunken forest
In 1911, an earthquake triggered a large landslide, which formed a natural dam on the slopes of the Kungey Alatau range outside of Almaty. The imposing Shrenk spruce trees that previously formed a forest there, were now suddenly submerged in the lake that was born from the landslide.
Above water, the sunken trees appear as large masts from lost ghost ships, eery reflections in the water. But underwater, the needles of the Shrenk spruce still remain on the trees, even 100 years later. Because of the clear mountain water, you can see deep into the depths of the lake.
Hiking around lake Kaindy
The track to Kaindy lake has many scenic views to the Saty Gorge, the Chilik river valley and the Kaindy Gorge. If you have a few days to spend, you can connect with the 3 Kolsay lakes. You can even hike to Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan in 3 days, but since there is no border control, you need to arrange with a tour company to get your passport stamped, if that is even at all possible.
If you don’t want to go far, Kaindy is also a great place to just walk around the shore, camp, pick some wild strawberries, mushrooms and raspberries and smell the fresh air. Watch out for ticks, though, they may be infected with tick-borne encephalitis. A vaccination is a good idea.
Wildlife, hunting and fishing
Lake Kaindy is great for trout fishing. Around 30m deep, at a height of 2000m, it holds big fish underwater and fresh air above water. Very nice!
If you are a hunter or would simply like to see animals without killing them, the area around Kaindy holds quail, pheasant, goose, duck, coot, partridge, badger, Siberian roe, Siberian mountain goat (ibex), deer, wild boar, fox and rabbit as well as many other bird species.
Diving Kaindy lake
Popular amongst hardcore Kazakh divers, the sunken forest affords views of an unusual natural phenomenon. Watch the video. If you plan on diving lake Kaindy, get your thickest wetsuit out; in summer the water heats up to a maximum of 6°C.
Lake Kaindy tours
All tour companies based in Almaty organise lake Kaindy tours and accommodation. They will provide you with transport, a place to stay, meals and all you need for fishing, hunting, hiking and horse riding. Some companies provide multi-day trekkings as well to Kolsay and beyond.
If their websites are only in Russian, try their phone number or go to their office, they should speak English.
For independent travellers, there are ecotourism homestays available in Saty. The price is between 200 and 3500 tenge per person per night, with 3 meals included. The season runs roughly from May to October, but at 2000m, prepare for cold evenings even in summer. You can call Elchebai at +7 72777 27718 (no English spoken) or arrange via the Ecotourism office in Almaty.
Yurt stays and camping near the shore are organised by several tour companies.
You can also go camping by yourself, there is plenty of space.
How to get there
The lake is a 280km drive from Almaty, but due to the road conditions, it will take you around 5-7 hours to get there. There is a park fee levied for entry to the national park: 500 tenge per person, 700 if you plan to sleep there.
With your own transport
The road from Saty to the lake is very bad and you have to cross a river twice: you need a 4WD. If you have one, don’t drive too fast, there is a danger for speed control for the first 100 km.
From Almaty, head for Chilik – Kegen – Narynkol on the main road east out of the city. After about 120km, you pass Chilik. Keep going on the main road towards Kegen and Narynkol for another 70 km. After 190 km from Almaty, you see a sign pointing to a turn-off on the right for Zhalanash. Turn right, where the road gets worse. Pass Zhalanash, and you will pass another village before you cross the Chilik river. Next up is Saty, where there are options for homestay. 1 km past Saty is a cemetery. Turn right there, and follow the very bad dirt road. It’s another 15 km to the lake from the barrier.
By bus or shared taxi
There is an early bus leaving for Saty every morning from Sayachat bus station at 7am, but you should come early to secure a seat. It goes from Saty to Almaty at 5am. Alternatively, there are buses going to Kegen and Narynkol from Almaty’s Sayachat bus station. Get off at the turn-off towards Zhalanash and stick out your thumb to get a ride to Zhalanash and then to Saty.
Better is to track down a private taxi at Sayachat, cost is 12000 tenge for a full car to Saty. Because of the bad road, you will need to find someone with a 4WD to get you to Kaindy if you don’t want to walk. Cost is another 12000 tenge return. If you decide to walk, count on 5 hours to get there.