Markakol Lake is known as “Pearl of the Altai”. The lake is located in the Eastern park of Kazakhstan nearby the Altai mountains. It is 38 km long lake with 19 km wide and up to 30 meters deep, rising at an altitude of more than 1,400m and close enough to the Chinese border so to get there a border zone permit is required. This great mountain lake is the most scenic of its kind in Kazakhstan.
The lake’s northern shore displays a wonderful view of the Sarymsakty Ridge, with its snow-covered peaks of Burkitaul, Eagle’s Eyrie, 3,373 meters and Aksubas, Head of White Water 3,308 meters. For more than 100 rivers flow into Markakol Lake, however, only a single river, the Kalzhyr, flows out, south towards the Black Irtysh. The lake is famous for its crystalline water. The lake and its surroundings of marvelous mountain taiga forest were officially declared a 75,000-hectare natural reserve in 1976. Around hills are forested with larch and silver fir, which host brown bear, elk, fox, lynx and maral. The most significant ones are a fish locally called the uskush, a variety of the Siberian lenok, a trout. Some uskush can reach eight kilograms in weight and are a big draw for anglers
HOW TO GET TO Lake Markakol
Lake Markakol is not the easiest place to reach. From Ust-Kamenogorsk /Oskemen it is a distance of some 500 kilometers and a hard journey of 12-16 hours to reach Markakol Lake. The variety and beauty of the landscape along the way, however, goes some way to offset the difficulty and arduous nature of the trip. The first view of the “real Altai” is revealed beyond the Marble Pass, when the track winds down into the green valley of Akzhaylyau (White Summer Pasture), before ascending to the Tikkabak Pass and down again to finally reach the Markakol Lake.
The only road worthy of the name, and then only just, involves a circuitous southern routing through the village of Terekty. When the weather is dry, and with a 4×4 and an experienced driver who knows the route well, there is a more direct route connecting Lake Markakol with the road to the north between Katon Karagai and Rachmanov Springs. But this route, known as the Austrian Road’ because it was constructed by Austrian prisoners of war in World War I, is a white-knuckle ride of a journey.