Issyk Lake & Turgen Gorge
About 70km from Almaty lies Issyk Lake. The road to get there is good right up to the lake, and this makes it a popular weekend picnic place for those wanting to escape the city and relax in beautiful natural scenery. If you carry on driving through Issyk town, however, you will reach Turgen and its namesake gorge. Before the gorge itself you will pass Stetson Ranch, run the by the bar of the same name in Almaty. This is a wonderfully peaceful spot, and the ranch has 28 pleasant rooms, a pool and a charming staff. The largest waterfall, named Medvezhny (Bear), of the gorge is only 6km away from Stetson (four of those can be done by car) and getting there makes for a great mountain walk amongst streams and fir trees. For the more adventurous, there are six other waterfalls to explore further into the gorge; one of them, Bozgyl Falls, so powerful it has worn a tunnel into the rock. For more info about Stetson Ranch, go to www.stetson.kz. Rooms cost between 20,000 and 55,000 KZT and the ranch can organise riding trips and picnics in the surrounding area. Main office in Almaty: 128 Furmanov Street, tel: +7 727 261 3068.