Big Almaty Lake: experiences

All about Kazakhstan. Experts: Julia, walkingalmaty
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Big Almaty Lake: experiences

Postby steven » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:01 pm

The situation around Big Almaty Lake has changed often in recent times. Please let us know how it was for you: did you encounter problems or did everything go smooth? Too many people, had to get on a bus, got accosted by a border guard, ...?

Thanks, and enjoy!
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Re: Big Almaty Lake: experiences

Postby freddieg4557 » Sat Jul 21, 2018 1:58 pm

I did the climb up from Almaty. I was accosted by border guards demanding to see my passport. I explained in some basic Russian that it was in the hotel. They refused this and took me up to a military checkpoint even higher (with my bike) along with several other people they had picked up.
Luckily, I had a Kazakh friend who was able to translate over the phone the situation - at one point he was going to have to go to my hotel to get my passport and bring it all the way up to the checkpoint. Luckily he didn't have to in the end.
I still ended up staying for several hours there.. and if my phone had died, or I wasn't able to pick up a tiny bit of signal, I would have had to stay the night or get directed to a jail.

If you go up to the lake, take your passport!
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Re: Big Almaty Lake: experiences

Postby thl989 » Sat Jul 21, 2018 4:33 pm

Just yesterday I hiked north to the lake from Touristov Pass (I had been hiking from Shymbulak for two days). I stopped and refilled my water at a stream in sight of the lake, then walked along the lower road until it ended and went higher along the east side (opposite the observatory side). At the entrance end of the lake, I walked down a short trail that meets the road, and before even reaching the road I waived my ski poles to the first car coming down, who stopped and waited for me to come down the trail to meet them. Guess I was lucky? It didn't seem a big challenge to camp south of the lake but maybe it's different if they see you coming in.

For how strict they are they sure let one slip through the cracks, I could have been anyone coming from anywhere.
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Re: Big Almaty Lake: experiences

Postby Livingthedream » Sun Jul 29, 2018 4:27 am

We’ve driven up twice from Almaty in the last couple of weeks. No issues or problems, parked near the lake and walked round. Google maps gets a bit shakey near the lake and for some reason most people drive to the top and then try a very steep walk down, we parked further down.

Didn’t see any more police than in other places, not stopped at all except to pay the 440tge park fee.
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Re: Big Almaty Lake: experiences

Postby dessenior » Thu Aug 02, 2018 12:46 pm

I booked a tour to the lake - our guide Dima turned up on time in a 4x4 and took care of all the formalities. The weather on the day wasn't good (rain) so we cut short the hike and instead he took us up to the observatories above the lake. The guard at the barrier to the access road carefully noted down all the details of our passports but there didn't seem to be a problem with entering. There are two observatories, both only with skeleton staff and a small military guard post, and Dima got the babushka caretaker at the lower site to open up so we could eat in the canteen there. It was fascinating to see the now deserted Soviet barracks which in the past would have been filled with scientists from all across the USSR, the small dormitory rooms, the common room with its tiled floor and the canteen served by a very 50s style kitchen.

Heading up the hill to the second observatory, we found most of the buildings had been abandoned due to earthquake damage, but it still functions as a weather station. Nobody questioned us wandering round and the mountain views were fantastic, looking down on Big Almaty Lake. If you get the chance, this is a fascinating outing at least as good as the lake, even if it was unplanned.

This was 2016 I should add, so I don't know if the security situation has changed.
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Re: Big Almaty Lake: experiences

Postby deeejay » Mon May 13, 2019 11:32 am

We went over the May holidays a few days ago. Everything went smoothly, if you call Maxim taxi they will take you one way for ~4,000 tenge. Most other taxi companies were charging 5000.. (although I swear last year I paid about 2,000 tenge for the taxi; could be mistaken) Lots of people, but not too many. No police or guards. Of course this early in the spring the lake is still a bit frozen and much smaller than it would be in July or August (but still beautiful!) There was even a dude with an eagle for photo ops.

Last year we did get accosted by the police, who arrived and chased everyone out of the area - stopping to harass a couple of Europeans. Luckily I look Russian and kept my mouth shut while my wife did the talking and they just told us to get out of there and that being on the shore of the lake is not permitted. So I think it just depends on if someone is working and how bored they are... But there are usually so many people on the shore anyway that I would guess that if you saw the police coming you could just amble away like all the other locals and nothing would happen.
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