Kazakhstan: Landscapes from a different Planet

Kazakhstan: Landscapes from a different Planet

These lunar-like lands will inspire wanderlust in every traveler

The expeditions and short trips to this lovely locations are also referred to as “the other planets.” These trips should be thoroughly planned so that you can have the most memorable time in Kazakhstan. Here you will not find too many road signs, and the roads themselves are far from perfect; also one very important aspect is that there is no drinking water for tens, or possibly even hundreds of kilometers around! With such great difficulties like trying to find these stunning sites off the beaten path and the lack of water has not deterred people (especially foreigners) from these adventures. For some strange reason every year more and more people are visiting these beautiful attractions. Difficulties do not stop searchers of unexplored paths and new adventures! Let’s talk about the best “alien” landscapes in more details.

Martian Landscapes

Kiinkerish Tract, a natural landmark in Eastern Kazakhstan, the Akjar Mountains near Karaganda, and the Aktau Mountains in Altyn-Emel National Park, which is located in the Almaty Province, can easily be categorized as Martian land. If you are looking at Mars (also known as the Red Planet) when it is at its closest to the Earth it will look like a big red star. Red, almost rubiginous, colour of Mars, becomes quite obvious on the photos made by space modules. But in fact the planet’s surface is covered in rust, as it contains a lot of ferrous oxide – scientists say. Our planet’s red landscapes are of various shades, dark yellow to bright red, sometimes purple from the soil composition. For example, the Akjar Mountains are located on the border of Karaganda and Kostanay Provinces. Here in this region there are colors of purple that appear to be a mixture of gypsum and clay with amethyst dust. It is such a spectacular view! And the photos are perfect! You will definitely get a lot of likes on any webpage that you post these pictures on!

If you want to go there you must get a local guide who knows all the possible routes because only special transport will get you to your destination. Travelers won’t see or find any signs to guide you!

Kiinkerish Tract in Eastern Kazakhstan is situated pretty far from civilization, roughly 120 kilometers from Kurchum and 300 kilometers from the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk. Mineralized fills of mottled (mainly red) clay are washed out by the water and blown by the wind to make a bright and fantastic landscape. Scientists say that this area was formed by the tropical conditions of heat and humidity of the Mezozoic Era, this is when the dinosaurs roamed the planet.

It is recommended that you travel with a local guide and that the best time to visit is during the dry season in the summer. It is also not recommended to stay overnight at Kiinkerish. Two hours of walking should be enough to have a tour around Kiinkerish and have a few fantastic selfies while on your adventure. After your journey through Kiin-Kerish, you can see Zaisan Lake, which lies like an oasis in the East of Kazakhstan. Then there is the natural monument Shekelmes which is a mini version of Kiinkerish. Here you will find many caves and clay labyrinths that you can explore. This is the perfect place to set up a campsite on the sandy shores of Zaisan Lake.

Altyn-Emel National Park in the Almaty Province has its own piece of “Mars” – this is the Aktau Mountains. “The Aktau Mountains are very unique with their stratigraphic sequences (i.e. sequence of layers of the subsurface rock), which can be seen from space. These layers allow us to study the evolution of the whole Earth on its basis. In addition to this, there is another natural treasure that is hidden deep in the Aktau Mountains. This buried gem is invisible to travelers and visitors, but not to the guides that know the terrain. Here you can find the ancient fossils of animals that had lived in the region more than 50 million years ago. The remains of these animals’ bones are now on display in the visitors center of the National Park; and travelers and guests can also see these bones while on the tour through the Aktau Mountains,” – Rustam Khabibrakhmanov, the head of Altyn-Emel National Park’s Department of Science, Information and Monitoring, has written this in one of his works.

On your journey through the park you will be accompanied by an experienced guide that can inform you about all of the many interesting things about the picturesque relief of the Aktau Mountains and the other wonders that reside in Altyn-Emel National Park. And since you are already in the area you should take a short ride to the Katutau Mountains. These mountains may lack the strange Mars like color like that of the Aktau Mountains, but their beauty and attraction lies in their strange shape, and this will definitely blow your mind.

Blue Uranium Landscapes

When comparing colors of the planets in our solar system, it is without a doubt that Bozjyra (also spelled as Boszhira) and its surrounding landscape on the Ustyurt Plateau has a very similar terrain like that of the planet Uranus. Through a telescope Uranus is seen as a sky-blue planet, the blue color is a result of red beam absorption by atmospheric methane. With its distant location from the sun, the planet receives 140 times less of the sun’s energy and 400 times less of the sunlight than what our earth receives. That is why the temperature on Uranus’ surface is unbelievably low, dipping down to minus 208 to 212 degrees Celsius. This is why this great blue planet is known as the Icy Giant.

On Ustyurt Plateau in the Mangystau Province you won’t feel any of this minus 208 degrees of icy cold except crosswinds that blow from every angle; but visually you will definitely notice the similarities between these two. Actually, Bozjyra in Kazakh means Grey Blue Earth (lacuna), and in the daytime it looks like it is in a grey blue haze.

What really catches your eye in the photos of Bozjyra, are the two limestone peaks called Fangs, because of their shape. They stand over 200 meters in height, and from a narrow “observing deck” (that only the local guides know about) you can see a gorgeous view of the castles in Bozzhyra as the valley opens up to you. You can also use drones to capture all of these wonderful images and videos.

In order to get to Bozjyra, you must travel several hundred kilometers along *takyr – this is a special kind of soil that is formed of salty soils in the desert and semi-deserts. When this “takyr” is dry it then forms a very solid and even surface on the ground. This is why in the dry season in the desert the ground will allow race cars to speed on its surface like asphalt. But once this surface sees any rain you may find yourself in very different circumstances.

On your way from Aktau to Bozjyra you will encounter another strange and interesting “alien-like object.” This is the lost mountain of Bokty, standing at a 160 meters high, this symmetrical mountain from various angles some say looks like a trapeze while other may say a triangle. There are 37 kilometers between Bokty and Bozjyra (and 298 kilometers between Aktau and Bozjyra).

Another great traveling site that we highly recommend, also located on the Ustyurt Plateau, is the Valley of Balls in Torysh.

Despite its distance from civilization, the Valley of Balls somehow manages to attract travelers from all over with its mystery. People with their own eyes want to see the huge round stones strewn throughout this steppe region. The scientific term for the formation of these balls is called “concretion.”

Scientist are to this day still puzzled about the derivation of the Balls; perhaps, this is somehow in connection with the deep-water currents of the ancient ocean? Or maybe it is just a trick from an alien species from outer space, who knows? Anyway there is something really mystical about these places that we would like you to experience!

Snow-White Mountains of Aktolagay

The Aktobe Province also has its own outer planet landscapes – this is a chalky plateau by the name of Aktolagay. This is a must-visit location, here you can find real ancient sharks’ teeth! Aktolagay Plateau is spread out through the south to the north in the Aktobe Province. A part of the mountain ridges are located in the Atyrau Province. Also at this site you find the Emba River flowing from the west running parallel to Aktolagay. On the one side of Aktolagay is the edge of the Alshynsay sands and on the other side is the Togalay sands.

Scientists and travelers from all over the world come to the southern slopes of Aktolagay, to see and observe the chalky walls rise from the bottom to the top, many meters in rising and changing over to snow-white sloping hills. This hills display colorful layers of Palaegogonic rocks which are dark in these layers; beige, green, grey, and brown with a shelly limestone to top off this rock layer. Today, the Southern Aktolagay Plateau is a geological and geomorphological (i.e. related forms of relief) site of the State Wildlife Sanctuary of Republican and International Importance.

Bektau Ata Pink Granite Mountain

Another set of colors coming from an unusual natural formation, which is located, roughly 70 kilometers from the town of Balkhash. This place is called Bektau Ata, and is a one-of-a-kind natural site in the opinions of many astronomers. Imagine a granite mountain, standing in the middle of Balkhash Lake’s steppe area, now add pleasant pink to this mountain. Even the drivers passing by on the Almaty-Karaganda highway, do not know about the beauty that is hidden among the visible mountain peaks. Here you can see that there are woods growing among the granite rocks, lakes and mystical caves, too. This place is more like a get-away or hiding spot than a far off galactic location.

This mountain is called by the locals, “the Mountain of the Holy Elder Bek,” who lived in a cave on the top of the Bektau Ata Mountain.

Red, white, pink, and blue landscapes of Kazakhstan will not allow you to stay indifferent! Before you make a journey be sure that you stock up on drinking water, and charge your digital devices to the fullest. May the sun be on your face and the winds on your back, and live the adventures that you want to have!