Lake Tuzkol (Tұzkөl in Kazakh mean salt lake) is a bitter-salty mountain lake located at the very highest stretches of the Charyn river. It is situated in the Raiymbek district in the Southeast part of the Almaty region in the mountainous border of the Kegen depression, about 70 km east from Kegen town, along the highway to Narynkol leading east from Karkara valley in Kazakhstan. The salinity of the water varies by season and can reach values comparable with the water salinity of the Dead Sea in Israel or the Great Salt Lake in the United States.
The height of the lake is 1959 meters above sea level. It is a large lake with the length of 5 km and the width in some places is up to 1 km. Maximum depth of the lake is 3 only meters and the average depth as low as 0,3 meters. Tuzkol is fed only from the groundwater and there is a small brook leading out to the Ili river basin. In clear weather, from the south shore of Tuzkol, you can see the majestic peaks of the Tien Shan as well as the pyramid shape peak of Khan Tengri which reaches out to the altitude of 7010 meters above sea level and to the right from it, the trapezoid of Pobeda peak 7439 meters above sea level. In the northern part of the Tuzkol lake there are more than 10 cold springs with almost fresh water which then flow along small picturesque channels towards the lake.
Almost no one swims in the Tuzkol, although swimming would be good for skin due to the salts, but quite inconvenient as there is no freshwater available in the area for washing purposes and with the salt itching on your skin after the swim. The nearest mountain river is located about 5 km away, so if you decide to swim, grab enough water to wash off the salt. People come here essentially to see the two major peaks from a distance. However, these giants appear on the horizon only during very clear weather with no clouds at all. So unless you are very lucky, you might need to be ready to spend some time here before the great views appear.
The Tekes River is a tributary of the Ili River, the largest river in South-East Kazakhstan and not very far from the Tuzkol lake and close to the border of Kyrgyzstan towards west. Tekes river begins on the territory of Kazakhstan, then passes to the People’s Republic of China and returns back to Kazakhstan as the Ili River.
In some areas, Tekes river forms bizarre sections and one of them is the Tekes waterfall in the area of Saryzhaz village. It is also called Fazhayip waterfall that translates into an Amazing waterfall from Kazakh. The waterfall erupts downward for about 7 meters and forms a compact bowl where the water swirls around before exiting it. The road to the waterfall passes through beautiful alpine meadows.
The Komyrshy (or Komirshi) gorge is located on the southern side of the Ketmen ridge, the easternmost of the northern chains of the Tien Shan. Nearby the gorge there is also a small village with the same name. The landscape is inherent in the Asian treeless mountains in the foothills and at the same time, an unpredictable spruce forest along the bed of the Komirsha river and the very white colored rocks of Komirshi.
Coming closer to the white rocks, it becomes clear that they form a natural gateway to another unique mountain world behind them. Tall rocky mountains hang over a narrow gorge, which in places narrows to the width of a road along the narrow river. On both sides of the gorge there are mountains with a height of more than 3000 m that can make one feel very small. The best way to get here by a SUV or a crossover. In summer its often rainy and windy here. Keep in mind to get repellents against blood-sucking insects and mites.
HOW TO GET TO Tuzkol lake
The distance from Almaty to Tuzkol is 310 km and its about 5-6 hours of travel time. The lake is located 12 km east of the Karasaz village and about four km north of the low mountain massif Zhabartau. Turn east from A-362 at the village of Kegen and drive towards Narynkol and take a left towards the Karasaz after the village of Saryzhaz to a smaller road.
You can visit the lake at any time of the year. But if you are planning to hike in the mountains, the best time to travel is from June to September. Even in summer, temperatures are quite low here at night, so make sure to take thermal underwear, warm socks and a jacket with you, also spray or cream to protect from mosquitoes.
Other sights & destinations near Tuzkol lake
Page updated 8.2.2022