How to get from Almaty to Kolsai National Park

Step-by-step instructions on how to get from Almaty to Kolsai National park in Kazakhstan without going on a tour. Includes transportation times, locations, and tips for on the way!

 

Figuring how to get anywhere in Kazakhstan can be difficult, as there isn’t much in the way of public transportation. Rather than pay for an expensive tour to get to Kolsai National Park, we found our own way there through a combination of shared taxis and hitchhiking. Now you can, too!

How to get from Almaty to Kolsai National Park

By (theoretical) bus to Saty

We’ve been told that there is a 7 a.m. bus from Sayakhat bus station to Saty, the closest town to Kolsai.

But it’s not clear if this bus goes regularly. We didn’t make it, and we met other travelers who were told the bus doesn’t exist. You can try your luck if you’re a morning person, otherwise you’ll have to take a shared taxi and hitchhike. If you do catch the bus, head to Saty, then find a taxi (virtually any car that’s not busy) to take you Kolsai. Oh, and let us know that it exists!

By shared taxi to Saty

Take the metro to Batyr metro station, then walk for 10 minutes to Sayakhat bus station. Here, you can find shared taxis to Kegen. Look for cars in the back right corner of the first lot (not the lot where the marshrutkas are leaving from). They should be shouting “Kegen!” occasionally.

A shared taxi should cost around 1,000 – 1,500 tenge per person. Tell the driver you want to go to Saty, and he’ll drop you off at the turn-off point. The ride should take around three hours, and you’ll probably stop in a small rest stop town along the way for snacks and drinks.

You probably won’t have to wait long at the turn off point to hitch a ride. Just stick out your hand, and tell people you need to go to Saty. Some might ask you for money, around 1,000 tenge, but most will just let you in. If they don’t go all the way to Saty, just keep on hitching from wherever they drop you off. When we were there in August, there were plenty of cars going all afternoon.

In Saty you can camp or stay at one of several home stays. Just ask your driver for a hotel or “Gostinitza” (гостиница), he’ll probably know someone or offer to host you himself. Homestays cost around 3,000 – 4,000 tenge, including breakfast. Dinner is another 1,000 tenge.

Camping to save money in Saty, Kazakhstan - Lost With Purpose

Being cheapskates, we camped in the fields outside of Saty to save money.

Hitching a free ride to the lakes might be difficult.Your best bet is to take a taxi to the first lake for 1,000 – 2,000 tenge. Make sure they take you all the way, not just to the entrance gate. The entrance gate is 8 km from the first lake, so walking will take a while! If you slept at a homestay, your host can arrange transportation for you.

Make sure to stock up on supplies before heading up to the lakes. Your only option up there is to buy from the yurt camps at the first lake.

The entrance to the park is about 750 tenge per person per day. They might say something about a camping fee, bust just tell them you’re staying in a yurt, even if you’re camping. Yurts at the first lake cost 7,000 tenge per person without food, 10,000 tenge with 3 meals. Gentle bargaining might bring this price down.

 

Planning your trip to Kazakhstan? Don’t miss our two week photo itinerary for the Almaty region!

Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

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4 thoughts on “How to get from Almaty to Kolsai National Park

    Kim says:

    Ok so stupid question but what about the way back?
    Is it possible to arrange a taxi back to Saty from the yurts at the first lake? And then just hitch-hike back to the main road and flag down a passing shared taxi? Or is it hitch-hiking all the way?

    I’m not entirely fond of hitch-hiking as I’m traveling by myself. I’m not sure either if I’ll be going with a tent so I don’t want to get stuck in between cities…
    Did you use your tent a lot in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Georgia & Armenia? Or wouldn’t it be worth the weight?

    As you can see I’m continuing to plunder your site for info while planning my trip. I might spam you with more questions as autumn comes closer 😉 Keep up the good work and enjoy 🙂

    Sebastiaan says:

    If you know when you’re coming back, you can ask one of the homestays to pick you up. There are also plenty of people who visit on a day trip, and hitching a ride back with them shouldn’t be a problem. There are plenty of families and other travelers, so being by yourself shouldn’t be a problem.

    We camped in Kazakhstan, but not in the other countries. Uzbekistan has annoying registration rules at hotels, and camping is generally not recommended as the police might not like it. You can probably camp in Georgia and Armenia, but it was too cold when we were there. In Iran we camped in the desert.

    Karanjit says:

    Hello. I think your website it brilliant. I am planning a solo-trip to and around Almaty hopefully with a lot of day-hikes involved. I have a few questions:
    1. Fitness: Im healthy but not very fight. I’m a fat guy who doesn’t exersize much. Would hiking to and around the lake areas be difficult?
    2. Yurt stay: How would you rate the comfort and cleanliness of your average yurt stay in the area? And what exactly is the toilet sitaution in a yurt – is it western style or asian style? Are the toilets clean?
    3. Hot springs: Kyrgyzstan seems to have a lot of hot -springs. Are there any natural hot springs in this region as well?
    4. Solo-travel and tours: Is it easy to travel solo in this area? How expensive would local tours be?
    I would be most grateful for your response.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Yo, thanks for reaching out! I’m glad to answer your questions.

    1. You should be fine. You can get a taxi/hitchhike to the first lake. The walk to the second lake is demanding at the end, but if you bring enough water and leave early it should be doable. Just take enough rest as you go up.
    2. Uh, it depends on your standards of comfort. The yurts are pretty basic, with mattresses and blankets on the floor, but for our standards they were perfectly comfortable. The toilet is a hole in the ground outhouse. Don’t expect luxury, if that’s what you mean.
    3. Honestly, we are not sure. Ask around once you’re in Almaty, I would say.
    4. Solo travel can be tricky in places, as transport is not always available. But tours are expensive, and we generally don’t like tours. If you’re flexible and down to hitchhike places, or pay some more money for a taxi, solo travel is perfectly doable.

    Hope this helps. Check out our 2-week itinerary for Kazakhstan, too: https://www.lostwithpurpose.com/kazakhstan-photo-itinerary/

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