The countries of Central Asia offer some unforgettable hiking opportunities. If you happen to be in Almaty, the southern capital of Kazakhstan, you might want to spend a day exploring Zailyisky Alatau, the mountains that surround the city. All local hikers will suggest you a place with a magnificent view - Kok-Zhailau. Every weekend throughout the year, the hiking paths to Kok-Zhailau are filled with nature lovers. This hiking journey is considered a light trip as it takes only two hours to reach Kok-Zhailau from the city.
The name that this place bears in the Kazakh language means "the green pasture". In our culture, all the names given to lands, buildings or structures have a deep meaning. So, the name "Kok-Zhailau" was usually used for a place which can comfort people and offer a good pasture for the livestock. In ancient years, these kind of places were the best spots for a nomad people's lifestyle. Nowadays, there is only one place that bears this name, and it became a tourist destination. It is a plateau in the territory of the Ile-Alatau State National Natural Park. Located just 10 km from the city of Almaty, Kok-Zhailau sits at an altitude of 2251.2 m.
The cheapest yet comfortable way to reach Kok-Zhailau's path is by bus, which you can take at the station on the opposite side of the Kazakhstan Hotel, located right in the center of Almaty. Please make sure you take bus number 12, circulating from 6 am till 11.30 pm. It will take approximately 30 min to reach Prosveschenets bus stop. From there, you will see some local village houses on top of hills, and that will be your way to start. Walk until you see the sign with the name Kok-Zhailau or ask kindly somebody around. The first half an hour of your hike will not be easy since the roads to Kok-Zhailau are about ups and downs. So, in some places, you will need to make extra efforts, while in others you will have a relaxing walk.
How do you know that you reached Kok-Zhailau? Most probably you will see some people walking, sitting or lying there. Anyway, you will see a big, green place with some fir-trees, and that is how you will know that you are where you planned to be. Please bear in mind that there shall be no rubbish left from your side, and try to keep your surrounding clean. There will be plenty of time to take some photos and, of course, enjoy the magnificent view of the city as if it fits into the palms of your hands.
Some people decide to stay there for a sleepover. This kind of trip with a sleepover needs more preparation. Apart from the general hiking equipment, it would be best if you take some warm clothes as the nights at Kok-Zhailau get chilly. Apart from that, you are advised to bring your sleeping tent, sleeping mat, at least three litres of drinkable water per person, food and snacks. If for the sleepover, it is very important to reach the spot before the sunset to bring water from the river, find some wooden sticks to make fire, install the sleeping tent and do other preparatory activities. And voila, you will have two magnificent views of the city - at night and early in the morning, when you wake up.
Overall, the hiking route takes around two hours one way, and the whole trip can be completed in around eight hours. In summer time, it is vital to bring some sunscreen, a hat to avoid the sun heat, and comfortable training shoes. Most importantly, your trip will be even more enjoyable if you find some hiking groups of Almaty or if you already have a group of friends. In that case, fun, joyful time and magnificent views are guaranteed on your way to Kok-Zhailau!
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