Alakol is a particular salt lake located on the border between Kazakhstan and China. The word 'Alakol' in Kazakh means “motley”, due to the fact that it constantly changes its color and transparency. The healing waters of Alakol Lake are considered to be curative - any skin problem and chronic cold are treated by simple bathing. The lake is surrounded by mountains, with a 10 km wide passage - the Dzungarian Gate.
Today, Alakol Lake is opened for tourists from all over the world, but in the Soviet times, it was a closed border area. To get a pass, it was necessary to get permission from KGB. It could be explained by a seven-month undeclared military conflict between the USSR and China in 1969. Besides the conflict, it’s known that the Soviet astronauts regularly visited the eastern coast of Alakol Lake for the rehabilitation phase. According to older legends, the Kazakh warriors regained their strength in these healing waters after the battles with the Dzungars.
Alakol Lake is not only about healing waters, it has an amazing nature, so any tourist will also get an aesthetic pleasure. In the center of the lake, there are three islands with snake and bird nature reserves, that are still closed for any visits. The reserves were opened back in 1971, for the protection of the Central Asian gulls, unexpectedly discovered here by Kazakhstan ornithologists. The reserves have more than 250 species of plants, around 60 species of mammals, 260 birds, 20 fish, 23 reptiles, and yet - about 1000 species of insects.
As I have already mentioned, today, the healing waters of Alakol Lake are open to all tourists, but it’s important to admit that the tourism sector is not yet good developed here. The lake can be reached by car, bus or train (it runs only in summer, and it’s really hard to get the tickets due to long queues). After reaching the destination, foreign tourists have two choices where to stay:
1. Rent a house from local residents.
Benefits: It’s really cheap;
Drawbacks: There is no central water supply due to the sewage treatment system.
2. Campsite - There are different options for any budget: from small bungalows to VIP cottages.
Benefits: Some campsites have security, fire alarms, and the Internet;
Drawbacks: No bars and restaurants on the territory of the campsite.
The ideal time to visit the lake is in June and August, since in July, there is a strong sun, and it has a negative effect on the skin. If you are still not convinced in the amazing powers of healing waters of Alakol Lake, once you come to explore it by yourself, it might become your favorite place.
Cover photo © Credits to Heewon Jang
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