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Rakhmanovskie Klyuchi

Big Rachmanov Lake, a body of water 2.6km long, sandwiched between forested slopes, its waters clear and cold, never reaching temperatures higher than around 12°C. But at the northwestern shore is a warm radon-rich spring, whose curative properties have been exploited since the 18th century. One story surrounding the discovery of this place runs roughly as follows. A hunter named Rachmanov shot a deer close to the lake. The deer tumbled into the waters of the lake, which proved so reinvigorating that the wounded deer, to the astonishment of the hunter, was able to bound off into the woods to its safety.

The lake and village got their name from an 18th Century hunter named Rachmanov, who discovered the nine hot springs that feed into the dark, mysterious lake in this remote corner of Kazakhstan. Rachmanov lived to the ripe old age of 102, and the springs soon became famous for their medicinal qualities.

Rachmanov Springs was a well-known sanatorium in the Soviet period, when it fell under the control of the Zyryanovsk Lead Enterprise. At its heyday, customers flew into Katon Karagai, from where they were brought up to the sanatorium by helicopter. The plan is to attract high-end tourists who will be flown in by helicopter (an exhilarating flight of a few hours instead of the 12 hours or more by van or 4WD), but there will be a limit of 120 guests at a time. (This of course does not count the numerous other tourists who make the long trip up by road and either camp or rent rooms at homestays in the village.)