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Armchair Traveler: The mysterious sunken forest in Lake Kaindy

Lake Kaindy, which means “falling rocks/landslide lake” in the Kazakh language, was formed as a result of an enormous limestone landslide, triggered by the 1911 Kebin earthquake that killed 452 people and destroyed 1,094 buildings and 4,545 yurts.

The huge limestone landslide that formed Lake Kaindy was one of two massive landslides that buried forests, people and dwellings. But the earthquake left an almost surreal landscape in its path, including the Saty Gorge, the Chilik Valley, and the Kaindy Gorge. We are headed for Lake Kaindy.

The lake was created by an earthquake in 1911 that caused a massive limestone landslide.
The lake was created by an earthquake in 1911 that caused a massive limestone landslide.
Natural Wonders


Traveling about 129 kilometers (80 miles) east-southeast of the city of Almaty, the lake comes into view. 400-meters-long (1,300 ft), it reaches depths of 30 meters (98 ft) in some areas. A visitor is struck by the number of barren, spear-like tree trunks rising out of the waters, looking like the spears of an ancient army, hiding in wait for the signal to attack.

Besides the imposing trunks of Schrenk’s spruces, Picea schrenkiana, the world’s largest evergreen tree that can grow to heights of 130 to 160 feet, the second most striking feature of the lake is it’s perfectly clear turquoise waters. A traveler can see deep down inside the lake, and will be surprised to see the trees have all their needles still intact.

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The waters of the lake are so cold the boughs of the trees look like a living forest, even after over 100 years. Even in the summer, the temperature of the water barely gets above 6-degrees centigrade, keeping the spruce forest in almost pristine condition.

The turquoise waters of lake Kaindy are striking.
The turquoise waters of lake Kaindy are striking.
Natural Wonders


But being an armchair traveler, you don’t have to don scuba gear to take a close look at the algae covered branches below the cold waters. And you will be lucky because this obscure lake is overshadowed by two more popular destinations, the more famous Bolshoe Almatinskoe Lake and the Kolsai Lakes, all of them close-by but much easier to reach.
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Looking like the masts of sunken ships, the barren trunks of spruce trees rise above the waters of Lake Kaindy.
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Below the turquoise waters, an ethereal, and shadowy ghost forest greets the visitor, yet you won’t find any deer or squirrels here.
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This has to be this writer’s favorite picture. Would you look at how big the trunks of the trees are, rising off the floor of the lake?

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