Kazakhstan photo tour: around the Almaty region, 4-13 May 2020
I would like to invite you to join our Kazakhstan photo tour around the Almaty region. Tens of millions of years ago, the territory of this modern country used to be an ancient sea called Tethys, inhabited by various ocean creatures and exuberant corals. This has greatly influenced the unusual and diverse nature of Kazakhstan that we witness nowadays – Almaty region alone offers amazing views of the steppes, deserts, red chalk mountains and canyons that are often compared to Martian landscapes; emerald piedmont lakes surrounded by forests and breathtaking seven thousand meter peaks of Tian Shan. On this tour we will visit five unique and distinct areas in Almaty region, which include: poppy fields, the Singing Dunes, the Aktau Chalk Mountains located in the Altyn-Emel National Park, Charyn Canyon and the emerald Lake Kaindy.
May 4, Day 1
Our journey will begin with your morning arrival at the airport of Almaty. We will meet you at the airport or pick you up at your hotel, in case you arrive a day earlier. After having breakfast at 10 in the morning, we will head to a high-altitude skating rink called Medeu, where a cable car route to the mountain ski resort Shymbulak and Talgar Pass starts. After a 40 minute cable car ride we will be surrounded by the Tian Shan Mountains that are 4-5 thousand meters high. In May, the city gets fairly warm and the temperatures rise up to 25 degrees Celsius; however, it can get quite cool on the Pass (10-12 degrees Celsius). As we are going to spend most of the day in the mountains, we advise you to bring warm clothes. In the evening, after returning to the city, we will have dinner in one of the coziest restaurants in Almaty, where you will be able to try traditional Kazakh cuisine. Following this, we will check-in into our hotel.
May 5, Day 2
The first half of May is the time when poppy fields are in bloom all across Kazakhstan. In the morning, after having breakfast, we will head out in search of poppies. We will spend our evening and the next morning amongst blooming fields surrounded by snowy mountains.
May 6, Day 3
In the morning, after a sunrise shooting, we will head towards the “Altyn-Emel” National Park. On the way to the destination, we will have lunch and by afternoon we will reach the entrance to the national park. After receiving our passes, we will set our tents in a campsite not far from the Singing Dune. This miraculous sand dune – located in the middle of a vast steppe – is three kilometers long and up to 150 meters high. As you walk over the dune, you can hear long, plangent sounds resembling pipe organs. You will have enough time to walk around the dune, as we will stay there for our sunset photography session. Afterwards, we will be heading back to the campsite.
May 7, Day 4
We will start early in the morning to see the sunrise on the Singing Dune. After breakfast and vacating the campsite, we will move towards the Aktau Chalk Mountains, where we will spend the next two following nights. The journey will take approximately one hour. After setting up our camp and having lunch, we will take a stroll amongst these vibrant mountains, while searching for and taking pictures of the most harmonious shades of chalk castles, lit up by the soft evening light, followed by returning to the campsite. Starry sky photography sessions are always available upon request, but depend heavily upon the weather conditions.
May 8, Day 5
Today, we will continue exploring the mountains of Aktau. We will take a walk up the riverbed, which fills up only during periods of heavy rain, and explore some areas at the footsteps of the mountains, where the saxaul trees grow. Later on, we will also climb a bit higher – to appreciate the spectacular views emanating from the peaks of the Aktau Mountains.
May 9, Day 6
We will have an early morning shooting in the Aktau Mountains. After breakfast we will be returning to our hotel in Almaty. After lunch, we will be conducting a master class on editing the photos and in the evening we will go for a walk in Koktobe Park, which offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city, cast in warm sunset beams.
May 10, Day 7
In the morning, after breakfast we will make a move to the Charyn Canyon. It’s often referred to as a “little brother” of the Grand Canyon in North America. Standing amid high, sheer cliffs under the burning sun, one can fully experience the atmosphere of the Wild West nature. Before we do this, we will get our passes and check-in to the hotel which is conveniently located at the canyon. Towards the evening, when the canyon is lit up by the rays of the setting sun, we will make our way to a few designated view points for another photography session.
May 11, Day 8
After enjoying the sunrise in Charyn Canyon, we will have breakfast and head to Lake Kaindy – a beautiful, emerald lake in one of the gorges of the Kungey Alatau range. One of the outstanding and unique features of the lake the fir tree trunks submerged in the waters. Our evening shooting will take place on the lake and afterwards we will go to a village called Saty, where we will stay for the rest of the night, hosted by a Kazakh family.
May 12, Day 9
In the morning, the emerald waters of Lake Kaindy are the most vibrant and the tree trunks exude steam. This will be our final morning at the lake. Afterwards we will be heading back to Almaty via a highland plateau called Asy. Kazakh nature will see us off with velvety landscapes. In Almaty we will check-in to our accommodation and have some time to rest. In the evening there will be a farewell dinner in one of the local restaurants. If your flight is late at night, we will book an airport transfer from your hotel.
May 13, Day 10
Price per person: 1400 USD
Deposit (required to reserve your spot): 350 USD (non-refundable)
Single supplement: 350 USD
Full payment: 60 days before starting date
all transfers (car, driver, fuel)
accommodation in a three star hotel double room in Almaty on the day of arrival, in the mid way of the trip and the last day of the tour
accommodation in a hotel double room in Charyn Canyon
accommodation in a guest house with a Kazakh family in Saty village (Lake Kaindy)
tents, camping equipment
three meals daily – breakfast, lunch, dinner
passes to the National Park “Altyn-Emel”, the Charyn Canyon and Lake Kaindy
ticket for the cable way Medeu – Chimbulak – Talgar Pass (3200 m)
entrance passes to the Koktobe park and ticket for the observation wheel
round trip tickets to Almaty and back
personal gear including sleeping bag and mat
GEAR & WEAR LIST
DSLR or mirrorless camera
wide angle lens such as 14-24mm, 16-35mm
middle zoom lens such as 24-70mm
telephoto lens such as 70-200mm
remote shutter release
CPL, GND filters, also it’s better to take ND filters 3, 6, 10 stops to shoot long exposure frames;
spare batteries and memory cards
waterproof and windproof jacket (the average temperature in May is about +10°C at night and +20-25°C at daytime)
waterproof and windproof pants
light down-jacket and thermal pants
sleeping bag (comfort temprature +5°C)
Vadim Gvon is a landscape photographer based in Irkutsk, Russia. Born and raised in Siberia, he is inspired by Lake Baikal, coniferous forests and high mountains. After graduation – and having worked for 5 years as a computer engineer – he started to realize that the world stopped growing around him, and he along with it. During that time, he discovered a passion for landscape photography. Wandering through Russia and Central Asia served to inspire him further, fueling his passion to capture beautiful nature and remote destinations. Seeking new adventures, he continues travelling and capturing wonderful places in our world.
Sergey Terekhov is a local landscape photographer, based in Almaty. He holds a master’s degree in Architectural Environment Design and works as an architect. During the past 10 years and in his spare time, he focuses his efforts on landscape and nature photography in Kazakhstan. He has spent upwards of 300 nights outdoors, exploring the different parts of his native country.