ALMATY – The Bozzhyra gorge in the Mangystau region is one of Kazakhstan’s most popular tourist destinations, known for its unique, extraterrestrial landscape.
The gorge is located in the Ustyurt Plateau, which was once the bottom of the prehistoric Tethys Ocean. The fossilized remains of ancient creatures can still be found at the foot of the giant cliffs.
Bozzhyra received increased attention when the news about a new hotel construction project came out in 2020, sparking a negative reaction from residents, activists, scientists, and public figures who believed it might damage the region’s ecosystem.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev instructed the government to revise the construction project after a public appeal in December 2020.
Due to this media exposure, the location has attracted more international visitors recently. For example, last November a famous Estonian slackliner Jaan Roose became the first athlete to walk along a 500 meters rope stretched 200 meters above the ground between two hills of the Bozzhyra.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Bozzhyra is spring or fall, with mild weather. In summer, the temperatures can be very hot, and the gorge can be covered in snow in winter.
How to get there
With the construction of a highway from Aktau to Zhanaozen, getting to Bozzhyra became less challenging. Locals recommend taking off-road vehicles and planning a trip only in dry weather.
Many recommend staying overnight, enjoying the colorful sunset and sunrise, and getting acquainted with local inhabitants, including gazelles, Ustyurt mountain sheep, lizards and turtles.
Flights to Aktau from Astana and Almaty are operated daily by Air Astana, Fly Arystan and Scat Airlines.
What to do
Despite many detailed routes to explore the gorge online, one should prepare for the trip and take a local guide. A one-day trip in an off-road vehicle starts from 80,000 tenge (US$180 per car). Meals and drone shooting can be organized for additional fees.
The Mangystau Region has a plethora of unique destinations, including the Caspian Sea beaches and the unusual underground mosques. Its fauna includes pink flamingos, seals, honey badgers and leopards.
What to see in the region
Karynzharyk hollow is based in the Ustyurt National Reserve of the Mangystau Region in southwest Kazakhstan. The territory of the reserve complex is 223,342 hectares, which is home to rare species of flora and fauna.
Famous for its unique sand and clay, Karynzharyk hollow astonishes its visitors and gives them a feel as if they are on another planet. There is practically no wind there, so all is silent which gives one a feeling of oneness in that enormous space.
Torysh, named as the valley of spheres, is the most mysterious sight of the Mangystau Region. Located 100 kilometers from Aktau, the valley is covered with sun-bleached round-shaped stones that resemble dinosaur eggs that have been in the steppes for thousands of years.
There are several versions of the origin of the valley of balls. One assumption is that the spheres appeared as a result of electrical discharges in the Earth’s crust, which occurred in areas of active tectonic faults. As the rocks rotated in the fault, they formed into spherical nodules.
Tourists can explore no less fascinating places in the Mangystau region such as Sherkala mount, Kapamsay canyon, historical and sacred places such as Beket Ata, Shakpak Ata, and the Sultan Epe underground mosques.