Big Almaty Lake

Big Almaty Lake

Big Almaty lake is known as BAO (Bolshoe Almatinskoy Ozero) in Russian and Zhasylkol in Kazakh, meaning a big blue Lake. The lake is located at the mountains of Zailiysky Alatau at an altitude of 2500 meters above sea level and was formed in the process of the movement of an ancient glacier.  Big Almaty lake receives its waters from the several glaciers that are located above it at the border of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The lake is not far from the border but at the moment no special permits are required to visit the lake. 

Note: Note that as of April 2021, the road to Big Almaty Lake is closed for three years due to the construction of mud flow protection. (Source: Tengrinews). In 2023 autumn, the road was opened for some weekends. It is still possible to hike to the lake but it takes from 3-5 hours.

The Big Almaty lake lake is nowadays more like a reservoir as it currently has also a mud flow barrier on its northern end in order to protect Almaty from the mud flows that have taken place in the past from this and the nearby other canyons.

The water from the lake is used for the drinking water of Almaty and it is therefore forbidden to get very close to the lake or swim in it. The water from the lake is led mainly out through a metal pipe

Water pipe from Big Almaty Lake

The BAO lake is a part of the Kok Zai Lau plateau national park, belongs to the Bostandyk district of Almaty and is located about 20 km southeast from the Almaty city center. The lake lies in it’s place like a gleaming greenish or blueish mirror, surrounded from all sides with majestic peaks and glaciers. 

The three main peaks surrounding the lake can be seen from the northern end of the dam, built at the northern corner of the lake: Sovetov 4317 m to the southeast, Ozyorny 4110 m to the south, further up the river valley, and the forested slopes of Turist 3954 m to the southwest. Turist is the top of Bolshoi Almaty Peak, a 3681 m high pyramid, which is also seen from the Almaty city center below. Supported by glacial water, the lake is 1,6 km long, almost one kilometer wide and 40 meters deep.

Big Almaty lake
Big Almaty Lake

Sunkar Falcon Sanctuary

On the way to Big Almaty Lake, you can check to Falcon center “Sunkar”. It is located 7 km from Almaty in the Big Almaty Gorge, in the foothills of the Zailiyskiy Alatau, on the territory of the Ile-Alatau National Park. The Sunkar Birds of Prey Nursery has existed for 25 years and its goal is the cultivation and release of the rare Saker Falcons listed in the Red Book. Moreover, they offer a unique and impressive show with eagles and other birds as well. Pavel Pfander, the Kazakhstani German trains the birds of prey for sets of a highly-entertaining and educational show. 

Sunkar means falcon in Kazakh, today the sanctuary houses 435 Sakers, bred along with other birds of prey that the sanctuary is working to preserve. They are golden eagles, a species not classified as globally endangered and all those whose numbers in Kazakhstan are leaning. Saker and the golden eagle are valued as hunting birds, though few people still practice the ancient art. In the wild nature, most probably you would not be able to observe these birds close enough. By visiting you also supporting the Sankar’s daily work of bird rescue. 

Travel to Big Almaty Lake


The easiest way to reach the reservoir is by car along the road leading directly to BAO. From the center of Almaty, you need to follow the Dulati street in a southerly direction. At the divarication at the bus stop “GES 2” you need to turn left, then go to the sign “Hotel” Alpine Rose” and turn left again. Only this path will lead to the Big Almaty Lake. Some parts of the road are not easy with many sharp turns and narrow road segments. There is also a danger of occasional rockfalls and in winter snow blockages. In bad weather, even experienced drivers are not willing to drive to the lake. 

Public transport does not go to the lake but can take you part of the way, from where you need to walk further for about 10 km. If you are willing to use the public transport, you can get the 28 from the First President Park in Almaty. The bus stops in the divarication of the road, from there you need to walk to the Big Almaty Lake. 

Other sights & Destinations near Big Almaty Lake

Page updated 14.1.2023

Scroll to Top