Sibibini Lakes Oskemen Reviews
Sibibini Lakes Aug 29, 2011
It's hard to get any further from the beaten path than Oskemen*, Kazakhstan. Near the borders of both Russia and China, this area of eastern Kazakhstan alternates from flat to mountainous terrain, steppe to forest, and is beautiful enough to merit the trouble it takes getting here. If coming from the south, take the train. From the west the bus is a better bet unless you have a Russian visa, since the train lines take you across the Russian border not once, but several times.
A favorite local vacation spot, the Sibibini Lakes (Сибибинские Озера) are a cluster of 4 lakes about two hours south of Oskemen by bus. They're accessible by taxi or marshrutka (think van), which can be hired easily in the city. Each of the lakes has accomodations available along their shores which can be booked ahead of time, and they're all surrounded by large rocky mountain slopes that are breathtaking, especially around sunset.
I stayed at the 4th lake, Korzhynkol, for a week, and definitely recommend this area to anyone that can get here. The lakes offer a great place for quiet reflection and outdoor pursuits, but don't look forward to many modern comforts. Cell phone service is virtually nonexistent, but if you're looking to take a break from our hyperconnected technological world this can be a great opportunity to get away. Toilets are outdoor squatters and running water comes from taps outside, but the beds are comfortable and the meals hearty. The swimming, hiking, and climbing are all fantastic and more than make up for the lack of conveniences.
My favorite part of this little vacation out at Korzhynkol was the hiking/climbing. I have no illusions of being a rock-climber - I'm more of a rock-clamberer who enjoys climbing up high and looking down from the top of things...no specialized equipment for me. What's great about the slopes around these lakes is that they offer climbs that fit to my skill level, as well as many that could challenge even the experienced. In other words, you can pick and choose what you feel comfortable with, and the landscape caters to those of all ages and levels of experience.
* A note on names: Oskemen and Ust-Kamenogorsk are two names for the same city. Oskemen is the Kazakh name, and Ust-Kamenogorsk the Russian. Transportation to the city may have either name on it, and what people will call it largely depends on which their native language is. Russian speakers may also shorten the name to Ust-Kamen or just Ust.
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