One of the hidden gems you will want to go see while visiting Kazakhstan is the stunning, windswept Charyn Canyon. Located a mere 200 kilometers from Almaty (4 hours by bus, approximately 3 by private car), this Canyon has several nicknames such as Little Brother of the Grand Canyon or Mini Grand Canyon. The terrain and coloring of the canyon is similar to the Grand Canyon, however, at Charyn you are not fighting a hoard of tourists wearing Hawaiian T-shirts and smacking you with telephoto lenses a foot long whenever they turn around. It is a fantastic Kazakhstan vacation spot for this reason – you will usually have the place almost entirely to yourself, especially if you go in the morning.
WHAT MAKES CHARYN CANYON SO SPECIAL?
What makes the canyon so memorable is the painter’s palette of colors that you will witness during the day. The colors of Charyn Canyon are truly spectacular and seem to change constantly as the sun migrates across the sky. In the midst of the canyon there is a popular spot known as the Valley of Castles where the rock formations resemble bright red castles. Of all the places to visit in Kazakhstan, you will get some of the most beautiful pictures here especially if you manage to stay and observe it at night with lots of star cover.
A GOOD DAY TRIP FROM ALMATY
Charyn Canyon is one of the best day trips in Kazakhstan you can make if you are based out of Almaty. The drive to the canyon is largely good roads with the last 20 kilometers or so being dirt road.
Once you reach the parking area, there are 2 trails you can take into the canyon. One of them starts about a kilometer north from where you will park, is steeper than the other, but is prettier. If you hike down into the canyon, expect to be there at least half the day. The trail through the canyon is roughly 2 kilometers long and ends at the Charyn River. Here you will finally find some shade and can picnic next to the river or eat at a small restaurant located nearby. There are also some yurts here that you can rent out if you want to spend the night.
If you prefer to avoid hiking a lot, you can pay an extra fee to take a 4×4 into the canyon. This obviously cuts down on time and many people opt to do this if they find it is too hot outside for them to hike the whole way.
(Motorcyclists be aware that motorbikes are not allowed in the canyon.)
EXTEND YOUR STAY
While a trip to Charyn Canyon is one of the more doable day trips in Kazakhstan, there are also several other things to do there if you find yourself with an entire free weekend in the country of Kazakhstan.
- Rapids: The Charyn River has some class 4 rapids that experienced rafters may want to tackle. If you are not an experienced rafter, but would still like to raft part of the Charyn River, there are tour companies that can arrange for you to take on more manageable portions of the river with a group.
- Camping: If you are visiting Kazakhstan and really want to do some camping, Charyn Canyon is a great place for campers. Just pick a spot and set up your tent; there are no designated campgrounds.
- Endangered Forest: Lastly, one of the more unique places to visit in Kazakhstan is a rare forest of Sogdian Ash trees located downstream from the Valley of Castles. The Sogdian Ash tree is endangered and only grows in large numbers a couple places in the world, one of them being the country of Kazakhstan.
THINGS TO REMEMBER DURING YOUR KAZAKHSTAN VACATION
If you are planning to make Charyn Canyon part of your vacation in Kazakhstan, just remember a few things. First of all, the canyon has no shade except near the river, so you will want a hat, lots of sun cream, and a large supply of bottled water. In addition, wind in the canyon is extremely strong at times, so come prepared to brace yourself against the wind. Lastly, make sure you wear good hiking boots if you plan to explore the canyon on foot. Going with all the necessary preparations, you are sure to have a fantastic time in this natural wonder tucked away in the country of Kazakhstan. Happy travels!
Photos by: almaty-kazakhstan.net, travelblog.org, travellerspoint.com, solis-asia.kz