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Note to tourists

Charyn Canyon Castle Valley

26 April 2021

Fabulous and incredible in its beauty and uniqueness, the Charyn Canyon attracts tourists with its mysterious landscapes every year. In this article, Kazakh blogger and musician Alexander Tsoi will tell you how to visit the legendary natural attraction.

One of the most famous natural wonders is the American Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. A recognized wonder of the world, familiar to us from Hollywood movies about Indiana Jones or a brutal cowboy performed by Clint Eastwood. Steep multi-colored layered rocks, deep abysses, mysterious places-all this has been used more than once by American filmmakers in many films.

But this is all on the other side of the globe and very far away. We’d like to have a closer look at the wonders. And they are! Very close to Almaty, about 200 kilometers east of the Southern capital of Kazakhstan, is the Charyn Canyon, which is absolutely not inferior to the Grand Canyon in beauty and natural wonders.

Surely among the readers there are those who need to know everything exactly and in grams. Especially for them, a little dry statistics, figures and facts. The exact distance from Almaty to the canyon is 195 kilometers. The length of the canyon is 154 kilometers. The height of the rocks in the canyon reaches 150-300 meters. There are about 1,500 species of plants (17 of them are rare, listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan), 62 species of various mammals, 103 species of nesting birds, 25 species of reptiles (there are no crocodiles).

The formation of the canyon, judging by the exposed rock deposits, began not so long ago by historical standards – only some 12 million years ago. At that time, most of the territory that we now call Charyn was occupied by the large Ili lake. After it dried up, the stormy mountain river Charyn remained in its place, which carried its waters among the limestone rocks to the confluence with the Ili. A powerful stream gradually washed away the rock, the channel became deeper and wider, and the wind cut the soft limestone rocks, carving bizarre shapes. So gradually the Charyn Canyon turned out to be amazing and beautiful, full of riddles, secrets and legends, which we can see today.

When is the best time to go to Charyn?

Experienced tourists are advised to go to the Charyn Canyon in the spring, starting from mid-April and until the beginning of June, or wait until the golden autumn-the end of August and September. Why at this particular time, you may ask? It is in the spring and autumn that Charyn blooms with all its colors. Bright green with a full-flowing stormy river in spring and golden-purple in autumn.

In the summer, a real hot hell is created in the canyon: the average air temperature in the shade is about 36-38 degrees Celsius. You’ll just melt down and get guaranteed heat or sunstroke from being in this heat all day. Vegetation burns out, and the river shallows because of the heat.

In winter, it is cold, damp and windy, with an average temperature of minus six degrees and below. And travel agencies do not take anyone to Charyn in winter. Out of season.

What to take with you?

Be sure to take water and food. On the territory of the reserve, of course, there are several outlets and cafes, but they are not always open, and the prices there are like in Michelin restaurants. Be sure to take with you sun protection products: creams, suntan ointments. Bring a hat or a cap, sunglasses. Wear comfortable hiking shoes: you can’t go far in stiletto heels here.

And, of course, do not forget to take photo equipment. A camera or mobile phone with a good camera. To them-a good powerful powerbank-there is no place to charge a suddenly dead mobile phone.

If you are going to spend the night in tents and cook dinner on a campfire, do not forget to bring firewood for the fire – in the canyon with firewood is very bad. They are practically non-existent, and all that is there are protected protected objects. You can’t chop or burn them.

How to get to the Charyn Canyon?

OK, Google. 200 kilometers is not a distance for a modern person, so let’s immediately talk about how to get to the canyon. First for happy pedestrians, and then for those who do not part with the car even on weekends.

For pedestrians and tourists

The easiest way to get to the Charyn Canyon is to look at the nearest travel agency and buy a weekend tour to Charyn. You will be met, put on a bus, taken to the place, along the way telling all sorts of stories. And on the spot, an experienced tour guide will guide you through the most important sights of Charyn and tell you ancient legends inspired by the breath of centuries. And then everyone will be carefully loaded into the bus again and taken back to Almaty. The entire tour, along with the road, takes about 13-15 hours.

The second method is for “wild” tourists-pedestrians. Early in the morning, go to the Sairan bus station and take tickets for the bus that goes to Narynkol or Kegen. Politely ask the driver to drop you off at the turn to the Charyn Canyon. All the drivers know where it is, and if he does not forget, he will definitely stop. And then-about 10 kilometers on foot to the canyon itself. For a real tourist, this is a trivial matter. This is usually the way to get to Charyn for those who go for a day or two, with tents and dry rations, who are not afraid to spend the night in this mystical place. The way back is exactly the same: walk to the highway and catch a bus. You can, of course, negotiate with a tourist bus, if there are seats in it.

For motorists

Not every car is suitable for a trip to Charyn. The best option is a good SUV with an experienced driver. First, the inspectors of the reserve simply will not let you pass in a car: they will then have to pull your Ferrari out of the canyon. And secondly, the descent into the canyon is not the best road for cars, and in some places there are frankly terrible and difficult sections.

The road to Charyn by car will take you about three hours. You leave Almaty on the Kuldzha highway and drive exactly 110 kilometers to Shelek. At the fork behind Shelek, turn right (do not confuse it!) and boldly go on. After 165 kilometers, there will be another fork with a pointer to Chunju. You do not need to go to Chunju, so you go in the other direction for another 23 kilometers, and after turning to the village of Kokpek, turn left. There you will see a pointer on which white on blue is written: “Charyn Canyon”. Well, and already further down the road, where the arrow points. Of course, you can leave the car at the top, in front of the canyon, and go down on foot. But you will have to worry and worry about the safety of the iron horse itself.

This is Charyn

The Charyn Canyon is beautiful, and the impressions received here remain in the memory for a lifetime. These are, for example, red, interspersed with layers of orange, the rocks of the Valley of Castles, which actually resemble some fabulous buildings, towers and castles. These rocks look especially cool at dawn and in the rays of the setting sun. Every minute is a new sight, a play of light and shadow on the walls of the canyon. Remember, here you can not let go of the camera, otherwise you will miss the most beautiful moment.

This is a unique grove of Sogdian ash, the same age as the dinosaurs, which managed to survive the ice age (not the one about figure skaters and Tatyana Tarasova, but the one about cold weather and extinct mammoths). It is believed that the Sogdian ash tree appeared on the planet 25 million years ago. Since 1964, the ash grove has been declared a natural monument. No less beautiful and luxurious is another grove – turangovaya, or the grove of the Asian poplar. In general, if you have not yet been to Charyn, be sure to plan such a trip in your calendar for the next year.

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