Route: Mangystau Region (Kazakhstan)
Best Period: May-June, October-November
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
Day 1. Aktau – Saura –Zhygylgan – Kapamsai – Akespe
Departure from Aktau at 7:00. Arrival to Saura canyon.
Saura is a coastal region of the Caspian Sea, where in a small canyon is hidden a kind of "the black pearl" of the Mangyshlak peninsula - a small freshwater lake Karakol. The stony canal, formed by seasonal watercourses, is cut off by a ten-meter step, forming an unusual waterfall in the rainy periods. The depth of the lake is about five meters, which gives dark color to the water. Depth and constant replenishment of groundwater allow relict species of the marshy freshwater turtle live here. In the morning, when the coastal stones are heated in the sun, turtles creep up on them to warm up. The most surprising that these freshwater turtles are repeatedly found in the Caspian coastline, calmly swimming in the marine saltwater.
Walking around the canyon, acquaintance with the turtles. Then a short transfer to the opposite side of the Tyub-Karagan Peninsula, Zhygylgan Cape.
Zhygylgan is a huge geological landslide. It arose as a result of the washing of the clay-sand cushion on which the limestone layer rested. Heavy plate with its own weight squeezed out a soft pillow and threw it into the sea, and itself turned into an exciting fantasy failure. Zhygylgan gave people a rare opportunity to contemplate the extraordinary spectacle of slabs of plates with prints on their surface, chains of petrified traces of large and small saber-toothed mahayrod cats and bogged down hooves of small three-toed horses – hipparyons The age of these tracks is about 10-15 million years old. With all his fame, Zhygylgan is still the place which is mysterious and far from being well-known. They say there are spirits in here.
After a short walk, transfer to the chalky canyon of Kapamsai by a dirt road (about 40 km).
Kapamsai - a narrow chalky canyon that strikes its sheer and even walls, reaching a height of 70 m. The weathered niches of the canyon are secluded shelters for alpine nests, the owners of which often float above the abyss of the canyon. In a quiet, windy weather, a canyon walks in the canyon straying in steep walls, echoing. You can get to the canyon only from the mouth. But the top view of the canyon is very impressive. In the depths of the canyon another rare sight for these places lies: a huge grotto, in the heart of which rainwater washed the hole. The water gathering under the arch nourishes a small grove of mulberry and hawthorn trees. Even during the hot days, there is always coolness here.
After a walk, a short drive to the historical site, the underground mosque Shakpak-Ata. Visit to the mosque, then - dinner in the fresh air (picnic).
According to the legend, in the north of Tyub-Karagan peninsula in the cave of the chalk slope of a huge ravine in ancient times lived an extraordinary healer - the greybeard Shakpak-Ata. Human rumor carried his glory everywhere, and there were no illnesses, that he could not cure. Centuries have passed but people still come here to heal the bodies and the souls - the power of the ancient healer still saves the sick people from various ailments. According to the archaeologists, the mosque was built in the IX-X centuries and named in honor of Sufi Shakpak-Ata, who lived here with his disciples during the enemy raids. In the last years of his life he was a recluse and no longer left his underground abode.
Further we move to the white canyon of Akespe by a dirt road (about 40 km). On arrival, choose a place for the camp. Then walk along the canyon with very bizarre shapes. After a walk, dinner and free time. Overnight in the tent camp.
Day 2. Akespe - Torysh - Sherkala - Airakty
Breakfast in the camp, then gathering and leaving the camp. A short transfer (15 km) to Torysh - a valley of globular concretions. Walk through the valley and admiring the bizarre forms.
Torysh or "The Valley of Balls", how this area is also called. According to one of the local legends, the hordes of enemies came to the Mangystau vastness, covering the land like locusts. The locals turned to the heaven in prayer for the help and they have been heard. The torrential streams, thunder and lightning came down from the heaven. At once all the enemies turned into the stones. This is how endless fields and ridges of unusual stone formations of Mangystau - globular concretions appeared. Their actual size reaches 3-4 meters in diameter, some are larger. Nodules are formed by bizarre piles of balls, eggs, mushrooms, cylinders, matryoshkas, and little animals.
After the walk, transfer to Sherkala Mount (about 60 km). On the way visiting another very interesting place – Kokala (visiting Kokala area depends on the weather conditions)
Rising from the depths of the earth, Karatau hill lifted up along the edge, which was thought to be forever buried beneath the thickness of sedimentary deposits. Many colored clays of the Jurassic period appeared in the light. We will not see here the petrified bones of long-disappeared dinosaurs, but we can touch the real coal of burnt wood about 200 million years ago.
Further we move to Sherkala Mount.
The legendary Sherkala Mount is a natural symbol of Mangystau. The adjacent point of inspection, it looks like a giant yurt, set by mythical nomadic geese in the folds of the Akmysh area. Sherkala mount is a large sediment of unusual shapes that arose during the formation of the mountainous Kara-Tau valleys as the result of raising the land from the sea depths. One of the legends about Sherkala says that once valiant knights defended from hordes of enemies here. They fought like tigers. Latest defenders of the mountains disappeared in the underground passages inside the mountain and remained in them forever. The name of this stronghold of heroism and independence remained as Sherkala or the city of tigers.
After the walk and observing the caves, a short transfer to the mountain range of Airakty. Arrangement of the camp, dinner. Overnight in the tent camp in the center of Airakty canyon.
Day 3. Airakty - Shetpe - Tuzbaiyr
Early breakfast in the camp, then walk to the top of one of the edges to admire the panorama.
The system of small remnant mountains well known among the local population under the name of Airakty Shomanay. Airakty mountains look like fairytale castles with spiers, towers, colonnades and fortified walls. A winding trail, trodden by semiwild horses, leads to a small viewing platform, which offers a panoramic view of the far-off Aktau mountains and all the Airaktan castles. In the spring, the valley is covered with small but gently fragrant Sogdian tulips. Along the sides of Airakty Mount on blocks of chalky rock you can see scratched drawings, called by one of the researchers as the "Steppe Symphonies".
After the walk, dissasembling of the camp and transfer to Shetpe village, where we will visit the modern caravan-sarai, try the local chef's treats and take shower. Then, transfer to the viewing point of Tuzbaiyr and descend to the overnight place.
Tuzbaiyr is a majestic creation of natural elements. In this place, the plateau of Ustyurt is cut off by a cascade of clayey-limestone and chalky steps, at the base of which there is an extensive saline, called in the local regions as a «sor». The plumes of the Cretaceous are interrupted by numerous gullies and deep channels, forming endless rows of the most intricate columns. At the very base of the chink there is a giant natural semi-arch, created by wind erosion. During snowmelt and heavy rains periods, the mud is filled with water, forming a huge salt mirror, in which the sky and the сretaceous colonnades are reflected.
After observing the «sor» from the top, descending to the bottom, walking on the salt surface of Tuzbaiyr. Choosing a place for camp, dinner, free time. Overnight in the tent camp.
Day 4. Tuzbaiyr - Beket-Ata - Bozzhira
Early wake up, breakfast. Further, we move along the dirt roads (about 100 km) to the underground mosque of Beket-Ata.
Beket-Ata is known as a prophet to whom the Book of Being is open. Glorious as well as a healer, a man who knows the laws of physics, mathematics, astronomy. This monument of religious architecture dates back to the 18th century. Beket-Ata is considered a holy place in importance standing in the same row with the burial of Khoja Ahmed Yassaui. In the course of two centuries, pilgrims come here to worship to the spirit of the saint. They say, Beket lived in the second half of the 18th century. He was born near the village of Kulsary of the Atyrau region, and at the age of 14 he came to bow to the ashes of the revered sage Shopan-Ata, to receive a blessing. On the third night, Shopan-Ata ordered the young man to study. Having received an order from the saint, the young man went far away to Khiva, where he learned science in the madrasah. Having reached the age of 40, he became a Sufi, began to teach children to read and write. On his own way, St. Beket-Ata passed many roads until he again arrived in Mangystau. The suffering people had been visiting him and he gave them health and vitality. When resolving disputes he showed wisdom, leading both sides to a consensus. In his sermons, Beket-Ata instructed believers to live in truth, to be fair and to do good.
Sightseeing at the monument of culture and history. Then, moving to the overview point of Bozzhira canyon.
Bozzhira is the site of the «chink» (border) of the Ustyurt plateau, where mother-nature gave complete freedom to its imagination, creating an unearthly landscape in white tones. A small Bozzhira valley is surrounded on three sides by an amphitheater of natural fads. Here everything is white: canyons, peaks, mountain-towers, mountains-castles, mountains-yurts. The Bozzhira remnant mountains are like chameleons, they change their appearance when you go round them. Whimsical remnants as silent guards peer into the misty far away, keeping the peace of the majestic symbol of Mangystau - a giant stone yurt. Its only owner is a lonely wind, singing a melancholy song of the steppe to the boundless skies.
After viewing the canyon from above and observation of the traps for mountain goats, built by ancient people who once inhabited this area, we go down to the valley of Bozzhira. Choosing the place for overnight, setting a camp, dinner. Overnight in the tent camp.
Day 5. Bozzhira Valley
Breakfast in the camp. After breakfast, preparations for trekking to the top of one of the remains of the canyon. A short transfer to the start of the trekking part. Walking about 3 km to reach the panoramic point. Lunch on the panorama. Return to the camp, free time, rest. Dinner, overnight in the tent camp.
Day 6. Bozzhira - Tuiesu - Zhanaozen
Breakfast and dissasemling of the camp. Departure to Tuiesu sandy massif.
Tuiesu sandy massif has a section of not overgrown sands with combed dunes, where a sultry wind in the branches of rare saxaul (haloxylon) sings its melancholy songs. Sands are many faced. They amaze with its purity and unique novelty. In the afternoon, the sands seem uninhabitable, only the eared roundheads, the local lizards, like frightened birds, slip out from underfoot. In the early morning the sands are covered with a carpet of unusual patterns left by the paws of night creatures. If you switch on a flashlight at eye level in the dark, bright white lights can appear in the beam. These splendours belong to the eyes of a surprisingly beautiful and peaceful lizard - wonder geckos.
Walk along the sandy massif. Dinner. Then move to the city of Zhanaozen.
The wealth of Mangystau was in the zone of interest of many peoples from ancient times. The wealths that had been discovered by the Russian scientists who participated in a small expeditions only confirmed the guesses about treasures of the Mangystau soil. Historical events happened here at different times did not allow us to absorb the wealth of the peninsula for a long time. Only in the fifties of the 20-th century geologists began exploration of the peninsula. With the full support of the government, steps in the development of the region were taken. In the early sixties a settlement of geologists was formed in Zhanaozen, and planned research and reconnaissance work began. The selfless work of the researchers of the peninsula was not vain, sources of oil and gas were discovered in Zhanaozen. In 1964 the construction of the city of oil workers began. Today about 120 thousand people live in Zhanaozen, the city's population grows by about 3-4 thousand people every year, due to the active influx of people.
Upon arrival to the city, accommodation at the hotel, dinner, overnight at the hotel.
Day 7. Zhanaozen - Tokmak Cape - Karakia Valley - Aktau
Breakfast in the hotel. Departure to the place Kenderli, where in the future it is planned to build a sea resort, the first in Kazakhstan. Not far from Kenderli there is a very mysterious place - Tokmak Cape.
Tokmak Cape - barely investigated place, there is not much information about it, but what is known is astonishing. Each archaeological expedition makes a new and new unique discovery, which, in turn, only puzzles the scientific world more and more.
Take at least two strange structures in the form of huge stone ships, discovered by scientists on the coast of the cape. How could a simple inhabitant not gasp with the thought: "Here it is, there was a mysterious Atlantis. "The age of the stone finds is supposedly 1 millennium BC. That's what the ship looked like when scientists discovered it. "The nose of the ship will turn into the sea. The contour is laid out of vertically placed unprocessed stone stoves up to 50 centimeters high. The length of the ship is about 14 meters, the greatest width is 4 meters. On the starboard side there is an entrance about 2 meters wide." The huge stone ship, according to scientists, served as a staple for the manufacture of ancient ships. "In ancient times, Amu Darya River flowed into the Caspian Sea near the Tokmak Cape. Ships carried cargo from the Azov Sea through Don River to Volga and Caspian Sea. Then, the cargoes on the wagons were sent to Aral Sea and more or less along the rivers of Syr Darya and Amu Darya. Perhaps there was another option: the ships could cross the Caspian Sea directly and reload goods to one of the directions of the Great Silk Road. The economic benefits are obvious here. In this place, on the peninsula of Mangystau, it is possible that these ships were manufactured or repaired before shipment."
On the desert lands of Tokmak Cape another archaeological expedition not so long ago discovered and explored the burial of the era of the Eneolithic. Millennia ago people lived here and their settlements yet to be investigated. The age of the tomb is counted as thousands years old, this is the end of the fourth millennium BC - a very important epoch for the history of Kazakhstan and the nomadic civilization. The find was even more valuable and unique due to the fact that the discovered cemetery was destroyed as a result of natural factors and was not looted, the main part of the monument reached untouched today, which allowed scientists to learn a lot about the funeral customs of those remote times.
Walk around the cape. Sightseeing at ancient burial places and settlements. Coffee break, then move to the Karakie valley near the village of Eralievo.
According to one version, Karakia translates as "Black mouth". The pit basin is huge. The deepest mark of Karakia is in the southern part and it is -132 m below the level of the world ocean level, which gives it the status of one of the deepest in the world. At this point the bottom of the depression is covered by an extensive salt marsh called Batyr (a hero). There are several hypotheses about how this valley was formed. For one of them – as the result of a grandiose processes of wind erosion, according to the other – a colossal seismic failure. More likely, the origin of all Mangystau trenches is related to the erosion of rocky and clayey rocks by giant waves of the retreating ancient Caspian.
Enjoying the panorama of the valley from one of the precipices. Lunch overlooking the hollow. Then move to the lowest point of the hollow. Return to Aktau city.
The tour program is very intensive, almost all camp-to-camp transfers will be off-roads. You will need to get up very early and walk a lot in search of the best shots. All of this - in the desert, where the weather often changes: it can be very hot during the day and quite cool during the evening and night, and not accustomed person can can experience a dehydration. It is recommended to drink more water.