Esik lake is another one of those beautiful spots around Almaty that make the city such a magnet for any Kazakh or foreigner interested in enjoying the great outdoors.
80 km east of Almaty, the high mountain lake of Esik offers splendid views amidst what is viewed by locals to be excellent photo-posing and meat-grilling territory. You can go for a dip in the icy water or just relax and take in the fresh air and the beautiful surroundings.
The water is very cold, even in summer.
Really couldn’t find any pictures where there wasn’t a woman blocking the view.
There are lots of mountain flowers to be discovered. The lakeside also sustains a lot of sea buckthorn, a local delicacy high in vitamin C usually sold mixed with honey. It has recently been “discovered” by Western marketers as a “superfruit”. .
The lake was formed some 10 000 years ago by rockfall making a natural dam, capturing the water from the Esik river. It was a large lake, more than 2km wide, and a popular resort for residents of Almaty. In the 60’s, another landslide destroyed the dam, and the lake emptied out for a large part.
Many died in the tragedy, and the lake lost its popularity to resorts like Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan and Alakol further north of Almaty.
The lake can get busy on summer weekends with local day-trippers and campers. During the week, you have the place to yourself.
June – September is the best time to go. After that time, you might find it very cold up there, or frozen. If you don’t have a car, you can take public transport to Esik and try to hitch a ride to the lake (on the weekend), or join a bus tour for 3000 tenge organised by Almaty tour companies.
You will have to suffer through the complementary visit at the ostrich farm though!
Hiking and watching wildlife
There are no real hiking trails near the lake. You can find the national park guard on the other side of the lake, who can open the gate to the national park for 350 tenge per person. He can also guide you to see wildlife like bears, maral and snow leopards, but you have to get up very early for that.
Esik kurgans and archeological museum
Esik is also famous for its kurgans, burial mounds from the Scythian people who lived there around 2000 years ago. You can see the hills alongside the road from Almaty to Esik.
The Scythians were skilled goldsmiths and had a sophisticated semi-nomadic society.The newly renovated museum, on the road from Almaty to Esik, does a good job of explaining what their culture is all about, with archeological exhibits, paintings, a diorama and a life-size doll of the famous Golden Man, a warrior adorned with 4000 pieces of gold, found in one of the kurgans.
Entrance is 100 tenge.