Charyn Canyon

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Charyn canyon is one of the most popular day-trips in Almaty region. Its located 195 km east from Almaty, near Chinese boarder. Wanna feel yourself western hero? That’s a right place to try!

There are different theories about origin of the name “Charyn”. The most popular that “Char” translates from Turk language as “cliff”, another version is that it’s a word for ash tree from Uighur language (there are a lot of Uighur villages around). The canyon is the part of Charyn National Park from 2004. It stretches along Charyn river from south to north for 154 km and has a lot of hidden stunning spots which you never notice from the main road. Fot three years we discover that magical place and I’m sure we’ll find a lot of treasured places there!

History of Charyn Canyon.

Back in time, about 400 million years ago an ancient ocean Paleo-Tethys was splashing its waters on a whole territory of modern Kazakhstan and far away outside. 20 million later the bottom of this ocean had started to rise because of movement of tectonic plates and 300 million years later instead of ancient ocean the Jungar Sea had formed here, which dissappeared in 50 million years and was replaced by Ili lake, that was washing down the foothills of Ili-Alatau mountains and layers of sediments were formed. These ancient sediments turned into one of the most picturesque areas you can enjoy visiting - Charyn Canyon.

Flora and fauna of Charyn Canyon.

The canyon is a unique place where Sogdian ash tree that survived Ice Age is still growing! It only exists here and in North America. How cool is that, ha? You can literally touch the history! Also, more than 1500 plants and 62 animals are here, part of them are in a Red book of Kazakhstan. If you get lucky, you might see steppe eagles, gazelles, foxes and others. Moreover, canyon keeps remains of fossil fauna such as mastodon, elephants, hyena and more.

Last year in October we were lucky to meet Siberian mountain goat right in the most visited part of the canyon (at that time its rarely visited)! Gosh, that was such a special unforgettable moment!!! The fully matured adult was just in a dozen of meters from us! He was running, but then in one moment he stopped, looked at us for a moment, even posed a bit, and then we saw how graciously this big animal can be, jumping on the rugged rocks.

Weather in Charyn Canyon.

In touristic season, from April until October, inside canyon can be extremely hot (about +35 or even +40 degrees on Celcius), so DO NOT forget your sun cream & hat! However, sometimes in some rare summer days it rains here, and if it rains – it literally pours! In winter, thin snow layer covers canyon and temperature is around -6 C.

Valley of castles

The most visited place in Charyn Canyon is “Valley of castles”. Its called so because of the shape of rocks that looks like castles. Besides “castles”, you can notice “a Soviet car”, a big round rock barely hanging on tiny rock, “a human head” and anything what your imagination will bring. Usually we go down to the Charyn river ( around 3 km), it takes 40-50 mins of unrushed walk with enough time to snap cosmic photos on the way. On the road to the river, you will see an rock arch, some people believe if you touch right part you will be rich, left part – you will find a love, but you can have both.

Upon arrival to the river you will see several tables with benches for travelers to rest and have lunch, but we like to go further to the river, sit on one of many stones, enjoy the view of fast mountain river and enjoy the picnic. On a hot summer day its so good to take the shoes off and enter the cool water and walk around. The river is not deep, but we would tell you to be cautious while swimming in any of the mountain rivers: the flow can be extremely fast in some places and the stones on the bottom are slippery. Also you will see several beautiful yurts (more suitable option for bigger groups – one yurt can accommodate up to 7-8 people) and bungalos (for two people each) on the river bank. Next to the yurts you’ll see the café with nice summer terrace. The way back usually takes around one hour cause we are going uphill, sometimes in hot summer days it can be a bit complicated for some travelers, so in this case we use official taxi of national park, which cost around 500 tg or 1.2 euro.

Camping in Charyn Canyon.

Its also possible to camp at the Valley of Castles but we prefer to camp in other parts of the Charyn Canyon – more private and not so crowded like Bestamak and Temirlik canyons; its such a joy to sit and stare into the sky full of stars! Add the bonfire and scary stories about witches, ghosts and red wolves! Our guides will tell some of them, if you are not scared. In that parts of canyon you can experience an absolute silence without any sound.

We provide all camping equipment, so you can relax and have a good time!

Rarely visited parts of Charyn canyon.

Charyn Canyon has enormous territory and not every piece look like “Valley of castles”. There is a Moon canyon, for instance. It’s relief reminds surface of some planet. Black canyon speaks for itself. Usually, in our programs on back road we visit those places. In addition, we might see some hidden places, come closer to the river and embrace the beauty of the nature.

Please do not hesitate to ask us if you have any questions!

We made a short video about our trips to Charyn Canyon. Enjoy! ;)

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