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Photo Tour: Western Part of the Ustyurt Plateau (8 days)

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Photo Tour: Western Part of the Ustyurt Plateau (8 days)

April 1, 2018

Photo Tours | Ecotours | All Tour Packages | Photo tour to the unique places of Mangystau region. Western part of the majestic plateau of Ustyurt conceals many secrets. Remains of the mountains, underground mosques, high cliffs of the Cretaceous mountains, mirrored salt lakes - all this in one trip!
Route: Mangystau Region (Kazakhstan)
Season: April-November
Best Period: April-May, September-November
 
 
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
 

Day 1. Aktau - Torysh Valley 

Departure from Aktau at 7:00 to Torysh - a valley of globular concretions.
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. 
Several stops on the way. Arrival to the valley around 12:00, setting a camp, lunch, then - walking around and photographing. Return to the camp, dinner. Free time. Night photographing, if desired. Overnight in the tent camp near the valley.  
Total automobile mileage in this day approx. 200 km
 
Day 2. Torysh Valley 
 
Early wake up for photographing the dawn in the valley. Return to the camp, breakfast. Free time after the breakfast. Closer to the evening - photographing in the valley. Then, return to the camp, dinner, free time and preparation to the next day. Overnight in the tent camp.  
Total walking distance in this day - approx. 5-7 km
 
Day 3. Torysh Valley - Sherkala - Airakty 

Early wake up for photographing the dawn in the valley. Return to the camp, breakfast. Disassembling of the camp and departure 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. 
Sightseeing. Lunch. Transfer to Airakty canyon.
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 semi-wild 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". 
Photographing in the evening. Dinner and overnight in the tent camp.  
Total automobile mileage in this day approx. 90 km, walking distance - 2-3 km
 
Day 4. Airakty - Tuzbaiyr

Early wake up for photographing the dawn in the canyon. Return to the camp, breakfast. Disassembling of the camp and departure to Tuzbaiyr.
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. 
On the way we'll have a stop in the modern caravan-sarai, where you'll have an opportunity to take shower. Then, transfer to the viewing points of Tuzbaiyr sor. Photographing at the sunset. Then transfer to an overnight place, setting a camp, dinner and overnight in the tent camp. Night photographing, if desired.  
Total automobile mileage in this day approx. 80 km, walking distance - 1-2 km
 
Day 5. Tuzbaiyr

Early wake up for photographing the dawn. Return to the camp, breakfast. Free time after the breakfast. Walking around the neighborhood, lunch in the camp. Photographing in the evening. Dinner in the camp, free time and preparation to the next day. Photographing the starry sky, if desired. Overnight in the tent camp.  
Total walking distance in this day - approx. 10 km
 
Day 6. Tuzbaiyr - Bozzhira

Early wake up for photographing the dawn. Return to the camp, breakfast. Disassembling of the camp and departure to 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. 
Visit of several viewing points and ancient constructions. Lunch at one of the viewing points. Descend to a valley. Setting a camp, walking around the neighborhood until the sunset, photographing. Return to the camp, dinner. Free time, night photographing if desired. Overnight in the tent camp.  
Total automobile mileage in this day approx. 110 km, walking distance - 3-4 km.
 
Day 7. Bozzhira

Early wake up for photographing the dawn. Return to the camp, breakfast. After breakfast, walking in the canyon, photographing. Lunch in the camp. Walking until the sunset, photographing the sunset in the canyon. Return to the camp, dinner. Free time, overnight in the tent camp.  
Total walking distance in this day - approx. 10-12 km
 
Day 8. Bozzhira - Tuiesu - Tokmak Cape - Karakia Valley - Aktau

Early wake up for photographing the dawn. Return to the camp, breakfast. Disassembling of the camp and 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 transfer to the city of Zhanaozen, lunch in a local cafe. Then transfer to Aktau. On the way we'll visit a mysterious place - Tokmak Cape, and Karakia valley - one of the deepest hollows in the world. Arrival to Aktau in the evening. Transfer to the hotel or airport.
 
TOUR FEATURES:
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. Many dangerous insects and reptiles. We recommend you to refrain from drinking alcohol and to be attentive.

Private Tour Price: 2085 USD Per Person, provided 2 persons traveling together 

Group discounts available

Tour Price INCLUSIONS:

1. Transport services on the entire route
2. English-speaking guide and photographer service
3. Camping equipment for common use (camping tent, table, chairs, cooking utensils)
4. Personal camping outfit (tent, sleeping bag, сaremat, personal utensils, etc.)
5. Food for cooking in field conditions
6. Permits to visit the specially protected natural areas, all environmental fees

Tour Price EXCLUSIONS:

1. Accommodation in Aktau before/after the tour, if required  
2. Airport transfer, if required  
3. Meals not indicated in the program and/or not included into the tour price 
4. Medical insurance  
5. Visa support and registration on the territory of Kazakhstan, if required  
6. Personal expenses and other expenses not indicated in the program

RECOMMENDATIONS on clothing and equipment:

Taking into account that in the evenings and at night can be quite cold, be sure to take with you:
1. Waterproof membrane Gore-Tex jacket and pants
2. Warm fleece jacket or Polartec jacket
3. Windproof jacket
4. Several sets of underwear, several pairs of socks and a pair of warm socks
5. Several T-shirts with short sleeves, shorts
6. Appropriate hiking boots, shoes for camp (lightweight sneakers)
7. Sunglasses and sunscreen
8. Head torch with adjustable brightness and beam distance, several sets of batteries
9. Thermos for 1-1.5 liters, or other water container
10. Personal hygiene items, personal first aid kit (for chronic diseases is obligatory)
11. Camera, waterproof carrying case, a neutral filter with variable density, tripod, remote control, wide-angle and telephoto lenses

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