The land of seven rivers starts from Balkhash lake in the north and extends to the eternal snows of the Tien Shan in the south. The nature of the Seven Rivers is unusually rich and diverse.Zhetysu in Kazakh language means “Seven Rivers”. The seven main rivers from which the name of the region came from: Ili, Karatal, Bien, Aksu, Lepsi (Lepsy), Baskan, Sarkand. Beside seven largest rivers in this territory there are more than a thousand large and small rivers and lakes. 

Ili - the largest river in Zhetysu. Its length is 1439 km. The river startes in China, on the territory of the Almaty region it forms an artificial reservoir Kapchagai and flows into Lake Balkhash.  Karatal River takes the second place after the Ili River in the territory of Zhetysu. From the Kazakh language Karatal is translated as "Black Willow". From the west, the Koksu river flows into the Karatal river. Pelicans, ducks, several species of ducks, herons and others live on the territory of the river.

The Bien river is located on the south of Lake Balkhash, between the rivers Karatal and Aksu. Bien originates in the glaciers of the northern part of the Dzhungar Alatau ridge.

The Aksu River originates in the Dzungarian Alatau Mountains near the border with China and flows into Lake Balkhash. In Kazakh languages, the name 'ak+su' literally means "clean/white water". Aksu freezes in December and stays icebound until March.

The Lepsy originates from the glaciers of the northern part of the Dzungarian Alatau at an altitude of more than 3,000 m. The water in the upper reaches is clear, soft, people can even drink it, and in the lower reaches is muddy. 

The Sarkand river originates from a glacier on the northern slope of the Dzhungarskiy Alatau at an altitude of 3400 meters. The width of the Sarkand River Valley is 300 - 1,500 meters.

The Baskan river as Sarkand, Lepsy, Aksu, Bien originates from Dzungarian Alatau. 


Balkhash lake (where Zhetysu starts) is the biggest lake in Kazakhstan. The uniqueness of the lake is that one side of the lake is fresh and the other is salty, and between them there is the small Uzynaral Strait. The western part is more shallow and muddy, the eastern is much deeper and more transparent, the maximum depth reaches 26 meters. Tourists prefer the eastern part of Balkhash because of the salty blue water and strong waves. Western part of the lake has yellow-gray colored water. The lake has small islands, most of which can be reached by boat. From time to time the water level in Balkhash falls, the area of the islands increases, and new island appears. Balkhash is located on the border of three regions, and has unusual natural environment. On the one bank there is Chu-Ili mountains. On the other side Betpak-Dala steppe. 

The nature of Zhetysu region always were very convenient for human habitation. More than 1000 cave paintings that left from the Bronze Age were discovered in the north-west of Almaty. Burial grounds at the Tamgala gorge give an idea of the funeral rites, customs, traditions and religious representations of ancient people that lived in that area. The paintings are clearly visible because of the black patina that covered the surface of the stone slates. Petroglyphs were discovered in the late 1950s. There are drawings of goats, horses, deers, peoples, saigaks and domestic animals - camels, horses, bulls, kobaks. Also, there is ancient altar, where ancient people prayed to a sun (or God of the Sun).

Zhetysu is known not only for its cultural and historical diversity, but also for its nature and many resort places. The nature of the region is unique. In foothills and mountains there are different kinds of plants and dozen types of animals inhabit here. In the bottom flange of mountains, up to 600 meters high, travelers will enjoy the greenwoods. On the valley of the rivers grow apple trees, cherry trees and hawthorns. The fauna of the Zhetysu land is diverse. Here one can meet hares, ground squirrels, hamsters, badgers and even brown bears. Zhetysu is also a home for rare snow leopard, which is listed in the red book. On а high mountains you can meet mountain goats, archers and gray ground squirrels.