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Konstantin Kossov


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Natural Park Charyn. Duration 1-2 day

season - from April to November. Weather - usually hot, normal summer temperatures are 25-30 degrees Celcius.

Clothing - It is desirable to have easy , light-colored clothing covering the whole body .
Sunglasses. Sunblock . Headpiece. To walk around Charyn Canyon and Temerlic Canyon one needs to have comfortable shoes.


  You can continue the journey after Charyn Canyon to:
- Park Altyn-Emel, 200 km.
- Zharkent-city, 100 km.
- Kolsay lakes, 90km.
- Assy plateau, 40km.


Information about the park


   State national natural Park "Charyn" is wasis organized in2004 in a valley of the river Charyn on border of Uighur and Enbekshi-Kazakh regions of Almaty oblast. The territory of park, with the common area of 93150 hectares, is located in the middle of Ilijskij intermountain hollow, in 193 km from the ? lmaty city. It includes canyon-like valley and fan-shaped delta of the river, adjoining sites of deserts Sjugatinskij valley and low-mountainous ridge Ulken-Boguty, and also fragments of steppes in the top part of valley and on slopes of ridge Torajgyr.
   Climate in territory of park is deserted continental. Mid-annual temperature is about +50, the coldest month (January)-6°C, the warmest (July) - about +270?. Duration of the frostless period in air is - 180 days, an atmospheric drought - about 40 days. The snow cover superficial (10- 20sm), keeps about 60 days; it is established on the average on December, 20, collapses on February, 20. Total sum of deposits is about 150 mm per year.
   The main waterway - the river Charyn - the largest left-bank inflow of the river Ili. It is the river of mountain type. Sources of it are located some snow line, on southern slope of ridge Ketmen. Therefore, the river crosses all vertical belts. Its names are various: at sources Shalkudysu, then Kegen and only on under-mountain plains - habitual to all Almaty citizens - Charyn. The river is abounding in water, with well defined spring high water (April - May) when it is spent more than 40% from all annual drain. The summer freshet (July - August) on capacity is twice less. The common annual charge of water changes within the limits of 25-49 cube. m/sec., mid-annual -- 34.,5 cube. m/sec. The temperature of water during the warm period of year is always positive. In natural boundary Sarytogaj (the Ash grove) in April it constitutes 8.,20?, in July -- 17.,50?, and transition through 0.,20? is marked on December, 5. At the end of December coasts of the river become covered by ice which disappears at the end of February - the beginning of March. Very seldom, about once in 10 years when the river is completely caught by the frost, thickness of ice on stretch sites reaches maximum - 35-40sm.
  The river goes down from mountains by rough streams, the channel of it is blocked up with huge stones, and therefore prompt current often forms the big picturesque thresholds and falls. For past millions of years the river has cut powerful layers of ancient adjournment of carbon epoch and the igneous rocks. As result, there was formed huge completely unique canyon - the main sight of national park. During last decades it has the highest rating on tourists' attendance.
   For this territory it is characteristic extreme ruggedness of relief. Numerous beams and the ravines "coiling, crossed and again severed, form dense chaotic network, so-called badland. This term which was got accustomed in scientific literature, in literal translation from English means - "bad", or the fruitless ground remote, unsuitable site for processing. Bad- land and other territories of park include set of forms of relief - low mountains, melkosopochniks, plains, sandy files, slopes to canyon and canyon with numerous terraces, half-glasses, caves, grottoes, freakish single rocks, etc.
   The set of geological formations of various agescast out crystal and metamorphic breeds of palaeozoic, outputs of motley florescence of Neogene epoch and covering them modem Quaternary adjournment - is original. All this in complex with fast change of climatic parameters causes unique landscape variety of territory.
Landscapes as whole - mountain, foothill and intermontane -hollow, and their separate unique components are original. The landscape map of national park totals 100 allotments on the level of natural boundaries and types of district. Number of the unique species concernash grove in natural boundary Sarytogaj, red and yellow canyons of Charyn, "Valley of Castles", original badlands, the retinues formed by adjournment of Ili, stony gamada the bottom part of hollow, etc.
   The set of steppe soils (chemozems, chestnut) and deserted soil formation (brown, gray-brown, extremely-arid) is unusually various and original enough. Among zonal soils are especially allocated forest-meadow dated under an ashen wood and extremely-arid ground(gobi) type.
  Charyn national park is distinguished with high degree of biological variety. The riches and an originality of vegetative cover is caused by boundary position of territory between Kazakhstan and Dzhungar deserts, influence of large mountain constructions of Northern Tian-Shan, presence of ecologically contrast habitats and favorable conditions of existence for vegetation in valleys of the rivers. Here seven types of vegetation (steppe, deserted, shrubby, wood, tugai, meadow and marsh), more than 70 formations and numerous, often unique on structure communities are submitted.
   One of the main sights of park is relic deciduous ashen wood in natural boundary Sarytogaj the area of 5,014 thousand hectares. It is protected in rank of the state nature sanctuary since 1964. Dominants of this wood - one of the most ancient kinds of modem flora - sogdian ash (river-loving), kept here since an epoch of palaeogene. Ash forms dense forest stands, frequently lifeless-intergumentary or with rarefied herb circle from bluejoint, asparaguses and blackberries. In underbrush willows, dogoses - Ili and Albert, and also rare red-book kinds barberry Ili and honeysuckle Ili are usual. In rarefied ash woods the circle of large grass (dog-bane lancet-leaved, licorice Ural, an asparagus medicinal, wild rye multicaulis, etc.) is well advanced. On cuttings down and glades dense thickets of bushes (? barberry, dogroses, salt tree and tamarisks) are usual In parts adjusting to river-bed are formed dense, impassable riparian forests with prevalence of willow, rabbit berry and sea-buckthorn berries. In their structure lianas - clematis east, milk vine Siberian, hedge bindweed are plentiful.
On the salted top inundated terraces there are light forests of one more relict -deserted poplar - Asiatic.
  They are very original on floristic structure, as except for two kinds of Asiatic poplar (diversifolious and grey-leaved), here in the big abundance can be met ash.
There are also present saxaul black and halophyte bushes - saltwort, halostachys belangeriana, nitraria sibirica, tamarisks and groupings of rare red-book kind marsh-beet of Mikhelson. The flora of national park totals 940 kinds of the supreme plants that are comparable to riches of floras rate mountain territory. In its structure there are submitted more than 60 endemic, subendemic and the rare kinds concerning to 20 families and 39 sorts. Three kinds (Ili ferule, desert-rod of Zinaida and marsh-beet of Mikhelson) are relic endems, i.e. kinds which had wider areas in the past, but by present time were kept only in the given territory.
   There are8 narrow-endemic kinds, three of them (oxytrope of Nedzvetskij, sjugaty ferule, rockygalatella saxatilis) are rare and are brought in the Red book of Kazakhstan. Two rare representatives of monotypic (specific) sorts - ikonnikovia kaufmanniana and plagiobasis centauroides are especially interesting. In total, there are 21 red-book kinds. Except for eight already listed, there are following: barberry Ili, jurinea robusta, saw-wort Dzhungar, astragaluse pseudocytisoidess - tscharynensis and dshimensis, oxytrope Alma-Atinskij, Tian-Shan campion, epidolopsis goloskokovii, heliotrope small, an ash, honeysuckle Ili and grey-leaved Asiatic poplar..
   The majority of plants of territory of park possess high decorative qualities. Colorful and unique are kinds of gamada, so name botanists typical for flat sites of region stony desert. Among them - stocky pillow-like, frequently prickly herbs, dwarf shrubs or semishrubs: convolvulus tragakantovii, carline thistle, lagochilus bispinose, marsh-beet of Semeneov, sunrose dzhungarskij. At the end of May these bIossoming small pi 1I0ws are allocated on background of severe deserted landscape by bright white, pink and yellow small islands. Other kinds, especially on slopes of canyon draw attention not by flowers, but by fruits - bright and juicy (? barberry, ephedra) or unusual by the form (bean capers - kegenskij and Rozov's).
The fauna of national park is rich as well. Here there are 36 kinds of mammals from which most usual are the fox, corsac tolai hare, wild boar, mountain goat, caress, weasel, jerboas and gnawer beetles. Five kinds are brought in the Red book of Kazakhstan: dzheiran, stone marten, vormela peregusna, manul and the Central Asian river otter
The world of birds - more than 200 kinds, including 111 - nesting is various. Inhabitants of wood-shrub plantings in ash grove - pigeons (wood pigeon and yelloweyed pigeon), turtle-dove, an oriole, southern nightingale, scops-owl, white-throat (barred warbler and lesser whitethroat), titmices (great tit, grey tit, yellow-breasted tit) - are predominant. During the last years there were found rare on nesting-place in grove long-tailed tit and common tree creeper, and also one of red-book kinds - black stork. In canyon kinds, which arrange their nests on breakages, in niches and cracks of rocks, are numerous: rock pigeon, Eurasian crag martin, chukar partrige, wheaters (pied, desert and isabelline ). Brought in the Red data Book the eagle owl and many day time predators: golden eagle, Himalayan griffon, lammergeier, serpent eagle, Egyptian vulture, saker falcon, barbary falcon, eastern imperial eagle and the eagle - dwarf - live here. Among feathery adjoining deserts most interesting are three red-book kinds: houbara bustard, black-bellied sandgrouse and Pallas's sandgrouse.
   There are 18 kinds of reptiles in refuge. More common lizards are alajskij lidless skink, agama, grey gecko; snakes are - mocassin, Pallas' coluber and mountain racer, and in biotopes adjusting to water-bed - water grasssnake. The basis of its feed is made by fishes, 10 kinds of which live in reservoirs of park. Seven from them - typical natives of mountain-Asian faunas, and (Ili marinka) it is brought in the Red book of Kazakhstan. To category of red-book also belong toad agama and Central Asian frog.
    From all variety of insects which specific structure is practically not investigated; draw attention in the summer bright day time butterflies - small tortoiseshell, large tortoiseshell, admiral, clouded, pale clouded yellow and large metallic-green ground beetle - European ground beetle. Red-book insects in territory of park are not less than 10 kinds, including dragonfly (broad-winged damselfly and emperor dragonfly), acridoid grasshoppers (dark-winged grasshopper, sagapedo), bugs (European ground beetle of Semenov, the woodcutter musky Ili, dotty ladybird) and others.
   In Charyn canyon due to rare combination of some geological factors there were kept interesting sites of the most ancient, nowadays dyed out representatives of fauna and flora. Rich congestions of fossilized bones (mastodon, elephants, rhinoceroses, horse of Stenon, hyena and many others), and also original floristic mplexes are found in breakages of Charyn.
   The territory of national park possesses high aesthetic potential and significant recreational resources. Here automobile, water and foot tourist routes are laid. Activity of this establishment can by directed not only on preservation of unique natural complexes, but also on restoration of number of some rare kinds. For example, the natural boundary Aktogaj is suitable for reconstruction of population of tugai red deer - the subspecies brought in Red books of the International Union of Wildlife Management and Kazakhstan. The valley near settlement Aksaj is very convenient for creation of on cultivation of rare birds - houbara bustard and saker falcon. Such projects can get the international support.

Autor: Stefan Lang (Germany)

The Charyn Canyon / Dolina Zamkov area is situated in southeast Kazakhstan about 200 km east of Almaty on the north edge of Torajgir Mountains. Charyn River is running in a deep canyon with bizarre rock monuments in shapes of castles and towers on top of steep rocky walls. Dolina Zamkov and other dry side canyons run down to Charyn Canyon. The Torajgir Mountain have got elevations of more than 2000 m and are one of several southeast Kazakh mountain ranges north of Tjan Shan.

Geologic Map of Charyn Canyon / Dolina Zamkov area.


The walls of Charyn Canyon in Dolina Zamkov area show rock storeys of different ages and different origin. Dark rocks at the bottom of Charyn Canyon and in the lower part of Dolina Zamkov are volcanic lava rocks. These are the oldest rocks in this area. On top of these rocks are layers of much younger rocks. These red cliffs (i.e. the walls of Dolina Zamkov), consist of solid gravel which was deposited by debris flows. The plains around Charyn Canyon are covered with grey gravel which was deposited by rivers, and dust which was deposited by wind. Sand and gravel on the bottom of Charyn Canyon was deposited by Charyn River. Some gravel on terraces above Charyn River is evidence of Charyn's former river bed.

The rocks of Torajgir Mountains are of about the same age as the old volcanic lava rocks and also of volcanic origin. They consist of solid lava and depositions of material thrown out by volcanos eruptions. These rocks were later lifted up along a fault plane (as geologists call it).

In western Dolina Zamkov are volcanic rocks of different colours which have about the same age as the other rocks of volcanic origin. They consist (like the rocks of Torajgir Mountains) of ashes and stones thrown out by volcanos. Later these rocks were bended up so that they are at the surface today.

Geologic   sketch of Charyn Canyon

Geologic sketch of Charyn Canyon / Dolina Zamkov area.

Charyn Canyon


1. About 280 million years ago volcanos erupted in Southeast Kazakhstan. Lava flows flooded the area. Volcanic particles like "bombs" and ashes were thrown out of the craters and deposited. Sometimes hot clouds of gas and dust came down the slopes of the volcanos and were deposited.

2. Millions of years later, the Tjan Shan Mountains were built by the force of the collision of India with Asia. Erosion began in the mountains. Debris flows came down the valleys and were deposited in the plains of Southeast Kazakhstan.

3. Later braided rivers crossed the plain and deposited gravel. Dust was blown there from the deserts by the wind.

4. Some 1000 years ago the Torajgir Mountains were (like the other mountain ranges in Southeast Kazakhstan) lifted up North of the Tjan Shan still by the force of India-Asia convergence.

Charyn river started to erode its Canyon as a result of lifting of the whole area. Gravel deposits on terraces are remainings of former river beds. Dolina Zamkov and the other valleys were eroded by episodic rivers after rainstorms. Rock Monuments and Castles are remainings left by the erosion.

More about geology of Charyn Canyon (about geologic mapping in this area).

Map of Central Asia about 280 million yearsago
Map of Central Asia about 280 million yearsago redrawn from Zonenshain et al., 1990: Geology of the USSR: A Plate-Tectonic Synthesis. In B. M. Page [Ed.], 1990. Geodynamic Series 21.).
Square: Charyn Canyon / Dolina Zamkov area.

Sketch about geologic history of Charyn Canyon
Sketch about geologic history of Charyn Canyon
Dolina Zamkov area.

Photo:  Stefan Lang


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