Big Almaty Lake

Big Almaty Lake

Big Almaty lake is known as BAO (Bolshoe Almatinskoy Ozero) in Russian and Zhasylkol in Kazakh meaning the 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. On the upper side of the canyon by the same name, the river is fed by the Almaty River running through it. 

The lake is a part of the  called Kok Zai Lau plateau national park. The Big Almaty Lake belongs to the Bostandyk district of Almaty and is located 20 km South-East from the center Almaty. Recently, the reservoir passes the state border with Kyrgyzstan, but the presence of a special pass to visit the BAO is not required.The lake lies in it’s place like a gleaming mirror, surrounded by all sides with majestic peaks and glaciers. 

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 4,317 m to the Southeast, Ozyorny 4,110 m to the South, further up the river valley, and the forested slopes of Turist 3,954 m to the Southwest. Turist is the top of Bolshoi Almaty Peak, a 3,681 m high pyramid, which is also noticeable from the city center below. Supported by glacial water, the lake is 1.6 km long, almost one kilometer wide and 40 m deep.

Note: Note that as of April 2021, the road to Big Almaty Lake is scheduled to be closed for three years. The construction of mudflow protection dams has begun, which will take 3 years. (Source: Tengrinews)

Sunkar Raptor Falcon Sanctuary Eagles

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. 

How to get 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. This path will lead to the Big Almaty Lake only. Some parts of the road are not easy with many sharp turns and narrow ways. There is also a danger of occasional rockfalls and in winter snow blockages. In bad weather even experienced drivers are not willing to drive the way. 

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 near Big Almaty Lake

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