Kapshagai Reservoir

Kapshagai Reservoir

Kapchagay is the largest reservoir in Kazakhstan and is the is located 89 km Northeast from Almaty. The reservoir is about 100 km long and 22 km wide at its widest point and it was formed by damming the Ile River (or ili river) in the late 1960s to produce hydroelectric power and more water for irrigation in the otherwise arid but fertile region. However, the construction of the dam has shown some harmful effects to Lake Balkhash by weakening the flow of water from the Ile River. Nevetheless Kapchagai lake has warm water and sandy beaches and has become a popular summer weekend destination for Almaty residents who want to escape from the big city heat.

Kapchagay beach
Kachgay beach resorts near Almaty

Kapshagai Town

Kapchagai (or Kapchygai) town was established in 1970 following the construction of the hydropower station and is settled at the Western end of the reservoir close to the dam. It is a typical Soviet-era town with apartment blocks and green boulevards with the statue of Lenin still erected in a central position near the town administration. Next to the square there is also a statue of Dinmuhammed Kunaev, former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan and an instrumental person in the decisions to build the dam and to establish the town.

Since the casinos and other gambling are illegal to promote entertainment tourism in 2007 the authorities allowed in Kapchagai town as well as in other two tourist destinations as Borovoe and Schunchinks. Projects for major gambling- centered resort complexes are in progress and the main road is starting to get lit by neon lights in the night times. There is a new project to construct a straight road between Almaty and Kapshygai. It also proposes four new satellite towns: Gate City, the closest to Almaty that will concentrate on business and commerce, Golden City will be a gambling hub and industrial zone as and along the banks of the lake the Green City would be combining residential accommodation with parkland.

Vast multi-million dollar Las Vegas-style entertainment complexes are being built and luxurious hotels with marinas appear to the shoreline  at the Northwest bank of the reservoir. Gamblers from China, Russia, India, the Arab states and Europe are expected to spend their money in this new “Kaz Vegas”. Moreover, a new airport will be built to secure the comfortable arrival of wealthy tourists. Better to check this place before it totally transforms! With a fairly inexpensive entry fees you can access water wonderlands crowded with leisure-seeking city inhabitants, where resort-style waterskiing, banana boating, swimming and beach volleyball are all available. In most areas the water is rather shallow, so you have to walk far out to swim. While many visitors from Almaty come to Lake Kapchagai as a day trip, there are many holiday cottage options for longer stay as well.

East part of Kapchagay reservoir

As mentioned the Kapshagai reservoir is fairly big and has also some other smaller municipalities at its shoreline but they are mostly focused on agriculture. At the east end of the reservoir, the Ile river flows into the reservoir and forms a large green delta wetland area which is a haven for birds and other animals as well. Just from where the Ile river flows into the reservoir, the Altyn Emel national park desert type landscape starts towards north and northeast. Here the shorelines are almost untouched by humans.

Kapchagai field, Kazakhstan
A vast green wetland area formed by the Ili river in Kazakhstan when the river flows in to the reservoir Kapshagay

Travel to Kapshagai Reservoir

If you are traveling by car, you can reach Kapshygay reservoir West end and the Kapshygay town in just little more than an hour from Almaty driving North along the A3. If you are looking for the nature experiences rather than beach resorts you should take the A351 towards east to Shelek and make your way north towards the delta area from there. The reservoir can be seen from the road in a clear weather.

Other sights near Kapchagay reservoir

Page updated 24.1.2023

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