Kobyz sounds, Korkyt Ata legends attract tourists to Kyzylorda Region

NUR-SULTAN – The Kyzyolrda Region is famous as the home of Korkyt Ata, the ninth-century Kazakh philosopher, thinker and creator of the kobyz (stringed musical instrument). The Korkyt Ata Complex, built as a tribute to its namesake, attracts foreign tourists with its unusual architecture and legends related to the famous figure.

Photo credits: qazaqstan3d.kz.

In 1980, Aleu Kusherbayev, public figure and former akim (mayor) of the Kyzylorda region’s Karmakshy district, initiated the monument’s construction. The local government subsequently completed maintenance in 1997 and built an additional amphitheatre and hotel. The regional history museum opened three years later. In 2004, the government completely renovated the complex, adding a stele, renewed amphitheatre, new museum building and architectural ensemble composed of animal statues.

On windy days, the complex’s Korkyt Tobe (singing pipes) monument makes kobyz-like sounds.  Korkyt Tobe represents four kobyz, facing the four directions of the world, and the architect incorporated an aerodynamic effect to create the tones.

Photo credits: qazaqstan3d.kz.

The legend about Korkyt Ata tells that from a young age, he could not reconcile with the transience of human life. Tormented by his thoughts and driven by the dream of immortality, he left his village to travel, hoping to find heaven on earth, but instead found death everywhere he went. In a forest, he saw a fallen, rotten tree; in the steppe, feather grass burnt under the sun.

Using those sights and sounds, Korkyt Ata made the first kobyz from shirgai wood. He immediately played it, pouring out his tormented thoughts and feelings. He put his entire soul into the melodies and the wonderful sounds of the strings reached the whole world, capturing and captivating listeners. His melodies have immortalised him in people’s hearts.

The legend says Korkyt Ata bequeathed for his kobyz to be placed on his grave, so when there was a gust of wind, its sound will remind people about the transience of life.

Photo credits: qazaqstan3d.kz.

Azeris, Karakalpaks, Turkmen, and Turks also have legends about Korkyt Ata, which may explain why the complex is a popular destination for tourists from Turkic-speaking countries. The complex is located along the Western Europe – Western China international route, making it a logical stop for foreign and Kazakh visitors.

“It’s beautiful here. The aura of the complex is impossible to convey in words. Last year, my family and I came here. From the trip, we have only good memories. Therefore, we decided to come again. On windy days, you can hear the sounds of a kobyz,” Aktobe tourist Armanai Aldamuratova told bnews.kz.

The museum stores Korkyt Ata’s works and exhibits found in Zhankent, his birthplace, during archaeological excavations.

“Unfortunately, there are no household items belonging to Korkyt Ata. In our museum, there are kuis (a traditional Kazakh composition) of the famous musician. Also, during archaeological research, priceless artefacts were found in Zhankent. Now, they are very popular among museum visitors. At the site of the ancient city, historians have found pottery, coins, a two-headed sheep and things made of bones… Approximately 20,000 tourists visit our complex per year. We have specialists among the guides who are fluent in English,” said museum guide Aigul Bermakhanova.

The local government plans to organise hiking trips for Kyzylorda schoolchildren during the summer holidays, giving them the opportunity to see the Korkyt Ata complex and explore the history of the region. The complex will also receive the participants in the Korkyt Uly Dala Sazy (Sounds of the Great Steppe) International Festival. During the visit, representatives of Turkic-speaking countries will perform Korkyt Ata’s works.



Zerenda-Schuchinsk highway to be improved to make region more attractive to tourists

NUR-SULTAN – The Zerenda-Schuchinsk highway and its surrounding territory will undergo infrastructure development to make the Zerenda resort area more attractive to tourists, reported www.yunews.com.

Photo credit: aqmo.kz.

Despite its tourist potential, the resort’s popularity lags behind the Borovoe resort area in Schuchinsk, reported Bnews. In an effort to alleviate the disparity, the Kazakhdorstroi company will straighten complex areas, dangerous turns and grooves along the 80-kilometre highway, shortening it to 77 kilometres.

The trip between the resorts will also become easier with the construction of 64 reinforced concrete culverts, two recreation sites, 10 bus pavilions near populated areas, 15-kilometre snow-holding fences, 14-kilometre barrier fences, adjustable traffic lights in Zerenda and lighting in the villages of Gabdullina, Serafimovka and Zerenda.

The project, expected to be completed by the end of the year, also provides for reconstructing road maintenance points in Schuchinsk and Zerenda.

This project is part of the effort to make the Zerenda resort area more attractive. Zerenda District Akim (Mayor) Berikzhan Abutalipov praised the area’s natural grounds, arguing its untouched areas are the key advantage over the Borovoe resort area.

“The nature of Zerenda is not inferior to the Burabay (Borovoe) resort area. But, instead, there are some advantages: clean water and untouched forests. You can fish in the lake and hike in the hills and thick pine forest,” he said.

Abutalipov suggested marketing the Zerenda waterfall by developing a tourist route to the cascade and encouraging residents of nearby villages to sell souvenirs and environmentally friendly food products. He also talked about plans to install a yurt and hire a state-employed, free guide. He recounted the legend of the waterfall having curing properties and praised its beauty.

“According to legend, in this waterfall once lived an old doctor who cured human diseases with a holy spring flowing here. Its stream falls off a cliff. The beauty of the terrain, created by the very nature, rocky canyon and waterfall, is beyond words. You just have to see it,” he said.



Kazakhstan’s second largest airline launches flights to Prague, Ulanbaatar

NUR-SULTAN – SCAT, Kazakhstan’s second largest airline, launched direct flights to Prague and Ulaanbaatar from the nation’s capital June 2 in an effort to boost tourist flow and make use of the country’s strategic location.

The Nur-Sultan – Prague and Nur-Sultan – Ulaanbaatar flights will be operated Thursdays and Sundays on Boeing 737s.

Photo credit: Kazinform/Alexandr Pavskiy.

The airline announced the plans in January. It is also negotiating a direct flight between Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

Mongolian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Luvsan Battulga noted the significance of the launch.

“We are very happy with this. Kazakh and Mongolian people are brothers by blood; therefore, the new flight will foster friendship between our countries. Many ethnic Kazakhs live in Mongolia, serving as a bridge between Nur-Sultan and Ulaanbaatar to increase not only the flow of tourists, but for business partners,” he said.

Czech Ambassador Rudolf Hykl said the launch of the Nur-Sultan – Prague route is a “huge contribution” to the development of bilateral ties, which he described as being excellent in all aspects.

“Its value is that it helps strengthen people to people contacts. Not only tourists, but also students. Last year, our embassy in Nur-Sultan issued 18,000 Schengen visas and we expect this number will grow this year,” he said.

Capital resident Nurzhan Algashov was among the passengers on the debut flight. An experienced traveller who has been to 33 countries, he noted the new routes are the result of the company’s own efforts.

“I would like to note that they launched these flights without any subsidies through negotiations. Launching a new route is a huge task both in terms of finance and logistics. They made it and even two. I congratulate the airline,” he said in an interview for this story.

The flight to Mongolia is the first linking the cities in the two countries.

“It is a historic milestone. Nearly five percent of the Mongolian population are Kazakhs who live primarily in the west of the country in Bayan-Ölgii province. There are domestic flights there linking Bayan-Ölgii and Ulaanbaatar, so they can fly to their relatives and friends,” he added.

Algashov also noted big business opportunities can be explored.

“From what I have seen on the first flight, I can say how many different entrepreneurs were there, representatives of companies. There are also tourists. Even on the first flight, I counted almost 15 foreign tourists, not from Kazakhstan, but foreign ones. So, they have been to Kazakhstan and now, they were flying to Mongolia,” he said.

The new route is meant to boost transit potential and the aircraft was full on the June 6 return flight.

“Nearly 20-25 Mongolian citizens were flying from Ulaanbaatar not to Astana, but to Europe with a layover in Kazakhstan. We see tremendous potential for tourists, businesses and relatives. I am very glad that the launch of this flight gives us an opportunity to see one of the most beautiful and authentic countries of Asia,” he added.

Kazakh citizens can receive visas to visit Mongolia for up to 90 days.

“Ulaanbaatar is a very big city. I was surprised the city and the surroundings are not only steppes, but plateau. It is a modern city with booming construction,” said Algashov.

He recommends seeing the Palace of Bogd Khan (Mongolia’s last king), Gandantegchinlen Monastery, Zaisan Monument, Gorkhi Terelj National Park (approximately 100 kilometres from the Mongolian capital) and Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, the world’s largest horse monument.

Algashov added the Nur-Sultan – Prague route will be in demand given business, education, cultural and medicine opportunities in both countries.

“There are many Kazakh students in the Czech Republic, nearly 2,000, based on official information. There are also approximately 6,000 Kazakh citizens on permanent residence there. The new flight is a huge relief for them and for businesses as well. I think the Czech Republic will be in demand. Czech citizens also do not need visas to visit Kazakhstan,” he said.

The new routes are part of SCAT’s fleet and route network expansion plan. The company announced it ordered six Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft at the 2017 Dubai Air Show, an agreement worth $674 million according to Boeing catalogue prices. Boeing delivered the first aircraft to SCAT in March 2018.



Tourcenter booking service aims to curate Central Asia to any taste, budget

NUR-SULTAN – Online booking services have advanced to such a level that fully personalised travel to almost any point on Earth is possible – except, that is, to Central Asia. It can still be difficult for foreign visitors to plan their journeys in the region, but the new Tourcenter booking service plans to change all that.

Photo credit: Tourcenter VK page.

The startup, developed within the Astana Hub, plans to show that exciting and comfortable travel is possible to any place in Kazakhstan and indeed along the Silk Road that connects China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Tourcenter is already partnering with more than 50 tour operators in Kazakhstan.

“In fact, on the international market, such services have been around for a long time. But when it comes to our countries, the countries of Central Asia, this niche is almost a complete vacuum,” Tourcenter cofounder Ainur Nusipbekova told astanahub.com. Such a simple thing as finding entertainment or tours in Kazakhstan is difficult – visitors “have to call companies, send requests, wait for them to be processed, and so on. From this we can conclude that the tourist market is not automated, and looking ahead, I will tell you that it is not structured,” she continued.

Photo credit: astanahub.com.

Tourcenter is out to prove people who say there is “nothing to do” in Kazakhstan wrong. It offers a wide range of excursions, including extreme sports and forays into nature.

“When we started to work, began to study the market, we found a lot of unique offers made by small and medium-sized businesses, we found a lot of individuals who arrange very interesting activities. For example, who would know that near Astana you can go kitesurfing and windsurfing, in East Kazakhstan you can fly a helicopter over Katon Karagai, and in Western Kazakhstan there is diving and cruises, and in [the South Kazakhstan Region] you can hunt on horseback with eagles? This list of extreme leisure can continue indefinitely,” she said.

The startup team began to study the market and develop a website, tourcenter.kz, in 2017. They received support from the DAMU Entrepreneurship Development Fund and the Almaty Akimat (administration). The website launched last year after establishing a partnership with the Almaty Tourist Information Centre. Last summer, Tourcenter sold tours to more than 500 visitors from countries such as Belgium, France, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Photo credit: Tourcenter VK page.

At its initial stage, the startup team had been designing its business model around its customers, the tourists themselves. The team has now pivoted their business track to include tour operators as their customers as well.

“We are working to maximise their profits and make their business processes more convenient. Analysing the work, we realised that every tour operator faces problems at the following levels: the first is the lack of calls from tourists, for which they need to develop their websites, invest in advertising and affiliate programmes. The second is the low conversion of the transition from conversation to purchase. That is, there are requests; managers are sitting there, constantly processing these requests, but, in fact, these people ‘merge’ and do not make a purchase. The reasons are the problems voiced above, namely a long waiting time for settlement, the absence of a structured product, the lack of automation, the impossibility of making a purchase online, the need for communication, often in a foreign language, and so on,” explained Nusipbekova.

Ak Mechet cave. Photo credit: Tourcenter VK page.



Kamystybas Lake emerges as an eco and medical tourism destination

NUR-SULTAN – The Kyzylorda Region has long been associated with one of the region’s main products, Syr Marzhan rice, and the birthplace of Korkyt Ata, the Turkic songwriter and composer from the ninth century.

Photo credit: 3d-maps.kz.

But now the region is becoming more attractive as a tourism destination because Kamystybas Lake, has become an ecological and medical tourism destination.

Kamystybas Lake, which locals also call Kambash Lake, is located in the Kyzylorda region’s Aral district, 80 kilometres from Aral city. The Aral district has a system of lakes, the largest of which is Kamystybas Lake (51 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide). The lake is formed by the Syr Darya River.

The local climate is favourable for recreation. The lake is a unique reservoir with rich flora and fauna. The coastline is a natural beach of coarse sand. It has gently sloping soft bottom, clear and transparent water, the temperature of which is comfortable from May to September. The water is believed to have healing qualities.

In the summer, the lake is always crowded. Last year, more than 89,000 people visited the lake. Vacationers come from Aktobe, Shymkent, Almaty, Turkestan and Baikonur. The lake also attracts visitors from Turkey, Russia and Belarus. The Western Europe – Western China highway is passing next to the lake and helps bring international tourists.

The Kyzylorda authorities are planning to make Kamystybas Lake an ecotourism centre. In 2017, it allocated 4 million tenge (US$10,488) from the local budget and installed a 1,350-metre water pipeline.

Five-six years ago, visitors could rent only yurts. Now, the coastline offers many houses suitable for vacationing.

“In the region, great attention is paid to the development of domestic tourism… Kamystybas Lake attracts more tourists every year. Therefore, all conditions are created for quality recreation for visitors. We support entrepreneurs and try to help them in (developing) infrastructure. Special attention is paid to the cleanliness of the lake and its territory,” Regional Business and Tourism Department Deputy Head Bagdat Aliyev told bnews.kz.

The lake’s fishing industry is also developing.

“According to scientists, Kamystybas Lake appeared before the Aral Sea. Thanks to the reservoir, local residents have the opportunity to fish. They get fish and sell it in the city. Every angler has their own equipment. The water at the lake is salty, so the fish is very tasty. Demand for fish products is very high,” said Kamystybas Agricultural Cooperative Chair Aldabergen Issayev.

Medical tourism is also developing in the region. The Zhanakorgan health resort is located at the foot of the Karatau Mountain near the Syr Darya River’s flow and is open all year. It is 200 kilometres away from Kyzylorda, 100 kilometres from the historic city of Turkestan and two kilometres away from the Zhanakorgan railway station.

The resort provides accommodation in a five-story building with 380 beds. It has standard, junior suite and suite rooms with bathrooms, televisions and refrigerators. Accommodation, meals and treatment are included.

The healing properties of clay and salt water at the resort help fight many illnesses, such as the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, peripheral nervous system, gynaecological and urological diseases. Doctors monitor visitors’ health around-the-clock.

The resort has its own large area for walks and a pier at the Syr Darya River. For leisure activities, it has a gym, table tennis, summer dance floor and library.

The owners of the resort receive regular government assistance. As the number of newcomers increases every year, with the support of the government, they plan to open another resort this year.



Kazakhstan wants tourists to come play, not just work

NUR-SULTAN – Central Asian countries working together to promote regional tourism would help increase the number of travellers who visit Kazakhstan for pleasure rather than business, said Director of the Kazakhstan Tourist Association Rashida Shaikenova at an April 10 press conference.

Photo credit: tengrinews.kz.

Approximately 8.5 million people visited Kazakhstan last year, mainly for business, according to data from Kazakh Tourism. In 2017, the latest year for which statistics are available, only 1.2 percent of visitors listed tourism as the purpose of their visit.

The association believes that promoting eco- and ethno-tourism in cooperation with other Central Asian nations and developing more programmes that would offer cross-nation tours would help increase the number of pleasure travellers.

Flights to the region can be long and expensive so it would help entice pleasure travellers if they were able to visit multiple countries at once.

“We must meet these needs. The market is moving towards partnership with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and sometimes Turkmenistan. We have developed 28 cross-cutting tours in Central Asia, with the inclusion of elements of rural and eco-tourism,” Shaikenova said.

Shaikenova also said it is important to better train travel industry professionals to use digitised tools to provide tourist services. Poorly managed digitisation tools contribute to limiting the flow of pleasure travellers, she said.

“The tourist manager today is an orchestra-person, who needs to use several programmes. Such an employee must be technologically armed to the teeth… Also, he should not lose the ability to direct sales and work with the consumer,” she said.

Shaikenova also said Kazakhstan’s issuance of electronic visas could be improved to make the process easier for travellers. “The system of payment through banks was not brought to mind, and the system itself freezes, can’t be fully operational,” said Shaikenova.

The association recently proposed to the Kazakh Parliament measures it believes will help support the tourism industry and attract more visitors.



Kazakh tourism professionals seek out new attractions among nation’s eastern wilds, atop its horses

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh Tourism national company plans to take travel industry representatives and travel writers on four scouting exhibitions in 2019 to identify new tourist attractions, said its Deputy Chair Timur Duisengaliyev during the recent Almaty Travel Fest.

The 2018 Almaty Travel Fest participants. Photo credit: qazaqgeography.kz..

The first tour, the Vostochnyi (Eastern) Transit international expedition, will follow the path of the famous geographer, Pyotr Semyonov-Tian-Shansky.

“We want to try to travel in time, visiting the wilds of the East Kazakhstan region and the Almaty region, as well as the territory of Kyrgyzstan,” Duisengaliyev said at the April 19 event, reported inform.kz.

The second expedition will follow the path of Chinese monk Xuanzang. The route, known as Silk Road – the Way of Dialogue, passes through China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and India.

“In the seventh century, Monk Xuanzang went from China to India to learn Buddhist wisdom and returned home spiritualised, with new practices. This historical path is popular among pilgrims all over the world – from Europeans to representatives of Asian culture,” he noted.

The other two scouting expeditions will be 13-day horseback riding expeditions starting from the capital and Almaty.

“These are, in fact, full-scale professional horseback riding expeditions. One of them starts from Nur-Sultan and passes through the territory of Saryarka. The second one (starts) from Almaty and will pass through the Almaty region. There is an opinion that foreign tourists do not position Kazakhstan’s citizens as people of a nomadic civilisation. For them, the countries with a nomadic culture are Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, but Kazakhstan is the country of the Great Steppe. The horse was domesticated in Kazakhstan. The first chariots also appeared here,” said the deputy chair.

Duisengaliyev stressed that Kazakhstan should show the world its ecotourism, nomadic and mountain tourism.

“As you know, last year we visited the most beautiful places of the Almaty Region, East Kazakhstan and Turkestan regions. We admired the beauties of the Tien Shan and Dzhungarian Alatau mountain ranges. The mountains of Dzhungarian Alatau are [like] Klondike, where there are untrodden places. Saryarka (the Kazakh Uplands) is a sacred place. Our main task is to promote these routes. Mountain tourism can be developed in Sairam-Ogem National Park and the south of Kazakhstan. These routes are not for professionals; these are of a softer format that are meant for everyone,” he said.

The 2019 Almaty Travel Fest united travel lovers, professional travellers, travel photographers, travel bloggers and journalists, outdoor enthusiasts and industry representatives. Speakers presented their trip topics and stories and answered questions from the audience. The festival, held annually since 2017, was organised by the Qazaq Geography National Public Association and ITECA.



Almaty’s Esentai Mall seeks to go tax-free for tourists

NUR-SULTAN – Almaty’s Esentai Mall will be offering a system for value-added tax (VAT) refunds on purchases made by foreign citizens, said marketing director Olga Komissar at an April 15 meeting with journalists, reported Forbes.kz.

Photo credit: forbes.kz.

Kazakhstan’s VAT rate is 12 percent and applies to revenues derived from the sale of goods and services within the country and the import of goods.

“Esentai Mall is in negotiations with the government to launch the pilot project this year,” she said. “By the end of the year, we hope to attract additional tourist traffic.”

Komissar previously introduced tax-free shopping at Moscow’s Tsum shopping centre, increasing the percentage of foreign shoppers at the mall to 20 percent. She intends to attract visitors to Kazakhstan from three priority areas.

“Tourists from China often seek out major fashion brands, lower prices and better deals on luxury goods. Secondly, we chose Arab states and, specifically, cities from which tourists fly directly to Kazakhstan, such as Dubai, which is close to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Some may say that Kazakh tourists fly to Dubai for their shopping, but, upon price comparison, it turned out that Dubai is more expensive. Our third market is the Commonwealth of Independent States, including Russia and Uzbekistan,” she added.

Kazakhstan’s tax rebate programme will launch on a broader scale in 2022 at airports in the capital, Almaty and Shymkent. Refunds will range from 7-22 percent of the purchase price and depend on the size of the VAT and tax-free operator fee.

Komissar also presented Esentai Mall’s new marketing strategy, in which the shopping centre, marking its seventh year, will position itself as a tourist attraction.

“What we are saying is that, upon arriving at Almaty, you can relax at Shymbulak [ski resort], reside at the Ritz-Carlton [hotel] and go shopping at Esentai Mall,” said Komissar.

A loyalty programme for clients of Esentai Mall, the Ritz-Carlton hotel and Shymbulak ski resort will start in May. The shopping centre is also testing its Personal Shopping Service programme, in which personal stylists select clothes for shoppers.

“The service will allow shoppers to not waste time on walking through all of the mall’s floors,” said Komissar. “Now, the programme is running in test mode with 10 stylists.”

The shopping centre will also be opening a concept store, added Deputy General Director for Retail Development Madina Abilpanova.

“This will be a store where trends will be displayed before they reach the masses. In this way, we will cultivate a culture of fashion in our community,” she said.



Kazakh capital to host 2019 UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism

NUR-SULTAN – The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Nur-Sultan Akimat (city administration) will organise the eighth UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism under the Smart Cities, Smart Destinations theme in the Kazakh capital Oct. 9-12.

L-R: UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and Nur-Sultan Akim Bakhyt Sultanov. Photo credit: astana.gov.kz.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and Nur-Sultan Akim (Mayor) Bakhyt Sultanov signed April 5 an agreement at the UNWTO Mayors Forum for Sustainable Urban Tourism in Lisbon, where the akim made a presentation of the capital, pointing out that Nur-Sultan has all necessary infrastructure for international events. The decision to have the event in Nur-Sultan was made at the seventh UNWTO Global Summit in Seoul last year.

“The importance of urban tourism is growing in mature and emerging destinations alike, providing immense opportunities to make tourism an integral part of cities’ sustainable future, and we are very pleased to be holding the eighth UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism in Nur-Sultan,” said Pololikashvili.

“In times of intense development of tourism, all stakeholders must work together to ensure sustainable development and social integration of cities. As the akim of Nur-Sultan, a dynamic and growing hub in Central Asia, I am very pleased to invite all to the upcoming eighth UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism,” said Sultanov.

Nur-Sultan Akim Bakhyt Sultanov (C). Photo credit: astana.gov.kz.

The summit will bring together representatives from national tourism administrations, city authorities and related stakeholders to exchange expertise and set a shared vision to advance urban tourism. Participants will discuss sustainability, accessibility, innovations and inclusion of tourism in the urban agenda.

During the summit, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) will give a masterclass on trends in convention industry.

According to the akimat, having the summit in Nur-Sultan will increase tourism to the capital and strengthen cooperation with major international tourism associations and companies.

The UNWTO is responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism around the world. It promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to advance knowledge and tourism policies worldwide. The organisation has 158 member countries, six associate members and more than 500 affiliate members.

The UNWTO Global Summit is designed to encourage new approaches to tourism and its impact on urban destinations. Previously, the event took place in Seoul (2018), Kuala Lumpur (2017), Luxor (2016), Marrakesh (2015), Barcelona (2014), Moscow (2013) and Istanbul (2012).



Martian landscapes on Earth: Kiin-Kerish Valley and Shekelmes Cape

ASTANA – Kiin-Kerish Valley and Shekelmes Cape in the East Kazakhstan region are famous for their red, orange and white-coloured landscapes that resemble the surface of the moon. Although the destinations are not easy to reach, their astounding views attract many tourists and travellers.

Kiin-Kerish Valley. Photo credit: travelbook.kz.

Kiin-Kerish Valley, located 120 kilometres from Kurshim village, occupies an area of approximately 300 hectares. The valley is a puff of tertiary clay, eroded by water and wind; unimaginable in its beauty and originality, it is called the Spirits Valley. From a distance, the red clay cliffs look like flames tearing in the wind, giving the cliffs the name Burning Rocks, reports 3d-maps.kz.

The canyon landscape is stunning in its diversity. It includes plains, salt spots and stripes of meadow vegetation adjacent to dried streams that disappear in summer.

Although it is a desert, rare animals such as Eurasian eagle owls, falcons, steppe eagles, golden eagles and Pallas’ sandgrouse inhabit the area. Unusual insects including scorpions and huge crickets can also be found.

According to Kazakh geologist Viktor Filippov, the valley includes five floristic horizons and four subtropical forests with bone remnants of the fauna of ancient vertebrates such as rhinos, crocodiles, turtles and salamanders. It also contains the remains of thermophilic palms, araucaria and magnolias. The saturation of these remnants and diversity of continental deposits at Kiin-Kerish Valley have no equals among similar natural monuments in Asia and Europe, reports e-history.kz.

The optimal trip to the valley takes three-four days by car, the first and last partially on the road. It is difficult to find it without a guide, since there are no signs and it is located in lowland like a funnel or volcano crater. As there is no drinking water in the valley and its climate is unpredictable, it is better not to stay for the night.

Shekelmes Cape. Photo credit: photosafari.kz.

Shekelmes Cape, another unique natural monument, is located 20 kilometres from Kiin-Kerish Valley. It is a micro analogue of the valley and, according to geologists, was formed by a meteorite. Because of the collision, the lower layers of the earth came to the surface, forming an unusual landscape. Pelicans, cormorants and rare species of animals like gyrfalcons, bustards, black-sprouted specks and desert shrikes inhabit the area.