By Alex Lee
As Kazakhstan’s icy snows begin to fall across its vast landscape and temperature plunge to depths in which it’s best to stay inside, the country offersa respite from the long, cold winter – hot springs. These warm bubbling – and many believe – healing waters dotting the Kazakh territory are just another unique aspect to a country whose charms are just beginning to be discovered.
The hot spring season starts when temperatures begin to drop at the end of September and continues throughout the winter. Springs are sources of healing and spirituality in many cultures, and near Kazakhstan’s hot and cold springs, you can still see ribbons tied to trees, which locals have tied there when they make wishes on the magical waters.Kazakhstan offers numerous resorts offering access to these waters, as well as tour companies which can arrangemulti-day packages. So EdgeKz has taken a look at some of the country’s best hot springs resorts to help you add a little heat to your Kazakh winter.
Hot Springs Resorts
Chundzha Hot Springs
Most tour packages are based out of Almaty, the former Kazakh capital and economic hub of the country, and take visitors to the county’s most visited and well-known hot springs area, Chundzha.
Chundzha is located 243 kilometers east and a four-and-a-half- to five-hour drive from Almaty in the Uighur district of the Almaty region. The area is home to a whopping 140 mineral springs. The road to Chundzha takes travellers through the picturesque Kok Pek pass, offering vistas of steep slopes and sharp turns. After crossing the Charyn River on the way to the springs, visitors are treated to a host of naturally flowing wells along the road where tourists and locals stop to drink or fill bottles with crystal clear, cold mineral water. As visitors approach Chundzha, they are offered a host of resorts, large and small, offering access to hot springs. Here are a fewChundzha region hot springs resorts EdgeKz recommends:
Mirage, as the name suggests, offers a heated oasis from the country’s cold. Mirage offers three spring-supplied pools on its premises; an outdoor pool, an indoor pool and a children’s pool. The rooms and pools are clean and the staff is friendly and helpful.
Address: 49th km of the Chundzha-Kolzhat Highway
Phone: +7(727) 292 09 57, +7(701)777 4000, +7(727) 783 6368
Price: 3500 KZT (Approximately $25)
Tumar is one of the better resorts in Chundzha. It opened recently so its rooms are modern and comfortable.It offers a large, hot outdoor swimming pool size spring that is surrounded by a thin glass wall, as well as an indoor pool.
Address: 55th km of the Chundzha-Kolzhat Highway
Phone: +7 (727) 292 09 57, +7(777) 133 30 30
Price: 8,000 KZT for a double ($53)
If you’re looking for a resort for the whole family with activities beyond just taking a dip in hot water, try the Derevushka Resort. It doesn’t boast the largest springs in the region, but offers other activities, such as ATV (all-terrain vehicles) rides, Russian billiards (a challenging variety of American pool with a larger table and smaller pockets) and sightseeing tours around Chundzha.
Address: 55th km of the Chundzha-Kolzhat Highway
Phone: +7(705) 554 05 05; +7(727) 783 6660
Price: 6000 – 7000 KZT ($40-$46)
Premium SPA resort
Premium is new and offers two large pools with hot mineral water, one pool with cold water, two children’s pools and a Jacuzzi. And to give you an authentic, natural feel, all of the pools are located outside. (Warm robes recommended!) Premium is also the only resort in the area with a spa.
Address: 30th km of the Chundzha-Kolzhat Highway
Phone: +7 (727) 7840001; +7(771)4019891
Price: 6000 - 10 000 KZT ($40-$66). Prices include breakfast and lunch.
Omir Su (Омир Су)
Omir Su offers an outdoor pool and an indoor pool with temperatures ranging from 117 – 122 °F.The resort is known for its excellent service and is considered one of the best in the Chundzha region.
Address: 72nd km of the Chundzha-Kolzhat Highway
Phone: + 7(727) 292 09 57
Price: 20,000 KZT ($132)
For a More Remote Experience
The hot springs of the Rakhmanovsky area offer one of Kazakhstan’s most unique experiences and are located in one of the most pristine natural reserves in the country. The Rakhmanovsky springs are located in far eastern Kazakhstan in the Katon-Karagai National Park in the Altai Mountain range. This is the region of Kazakhstan which borders China and Russia. The springs are found between two lakes at an altitude of 1,760 meters above sea level.
The Rakhmanovsky springs are named for the man who discovered them. Legend has it that Rakhmanov, a local hunter, once wounded a Siberian deer and followed it as it ran into a mountain spring.Rakhmanov discovered that the water was warm and steamy as he continued to track the wounded animal in order to finish it off.But as he approved the stag and aimed for a final shot, he witnessed what he thought was a miracle: The nearly fatally wounded animal lying in the hot mineral waters was suddenly healed, rose up and ran away.Rakhmanovwas paralyzed by what he had just seen and couldn’t pull the trigger. Since then, locals have called the healing hot springs after the stunned hunter. To this day, despite their remote location, the Rakhmanovsky springs remain popular and many still believe they offer healing benefits such as reducing pain and improving cardiovascular health. The springs are also thought to help spark regeneration and slow aging.
The major resort in this area is the Rakhmanovsky Klyuchi Resort, which opened in 1964 and can accommodate 80 people. The resort also offers activities beyond the springs, such as whitewater rafting in July and August, boat rental on the nearby lakes, and horseback riding and biking tours in the region’s mountains. Tours are also offered to Yazevoy Lake, the Valley of Tsars and the Radostny Pass.
How They Work
Hot springs, or thermal waters, are plentiful in the Almaty region in Chundzha. Many of the world’s hot springs areheated by magmatic intrusions in active volcanic areas. However, no volcanic eruptions are expected anytime soon in Almaty, so a lot of the thermal pools in the region are heated by leaking groundwater from more than one kilometer deep where temperatures reach about 86 °F. This results in most Chundzha resorts offering hot springs ranging from 68 – 99 °F to near boiling.
Since ancient times, thermal springs have been used as a folk remedy for numerous ailments. Thermal waters have been thought to heal the musculoskeletal system, nervous system, skin diseases, the cardiovascular system and even improve reproductive health. Whether thermal pools are a magic remedy or not, however, is up to you. But there’s no doubt they can help ease the stress of a long work week and add a little heat to Kazakhstan’s chilly winters.