Altyn-Emel National Park

Route length: 800 (770) km

Travel time: 3-4 hours to the village of Basshi, 1 hour to the Singing Dune, 1.5-2 hours to theAktau mountains.

Seasonality: all year round

The best time to travel: April, May, September, October.

Tour duration: 2 days.

Altyn-Emel national Park is the largest and most famous nature reserve in Kazakhstan. It is located 300 km from Almaty, in the valley of the Ili river. This is a unique natural complex of archaeological, historical and cultural monuments, rare and endangered species of plants and animals.

First day of the tour:

Arrival in the village of Bosshi, check-in at the hotel, lunch, departure to the Park.

The stones of Genghis Khan or of the stele “Oshaktas»

There are two versions of their origin and purpose. The first is a giant hearth made of two-meter stones for a large cauldron, for the purpose of cooking food for the soldiers, because during the invasion of Genghis Khan’s army, a camp was organized here. Another version is a signal point from which smoke was sent to warn of the appearance of an enemy.

Chokan Valikhanov’s Spring

Right at the foot of the “Singing dune” is the famous spring with crystal clear water. Among the people, it is famous as a Saint with healing water that cures many diseases.

The famous traveler and scientist Chokan Valikhanov stopped for a rest in this place, traveling from Russia to Kashgaria.

So, the amazing oasis was included in his notes, and later received the name Valikhanov.

Singing dune.

This 150-meter sand dune, about 3 km long, rises near the river Ili between the two ridges of the Dzungarian Alatau-Small and Large Kalkan. The stony desert, overgrown with saxaul and small bushes surrounds this place. There are three questions popin up in the head when you look at the dune: from where is the sand here? Why hasn’t it blown away yet? And how does it sing?

There was a dune thanks to the wind, called Shilik. For thousands of years, it raised clouds of sand dust from the shallows of the river Ili and persistently carried it in one direction. But there were Large and Small Kalkans standin on its way  – and when the wind hit this barrier, it got weak  and dropped sand… a huge sand dune grew here.

The second question is more complicated, nobody really knows why the dune is standing still. Because the fluctuation of the sand, and the slope of the plain, and constantly blowing strong winds, should make  the dune roamed. But no, Barkhan is a “stay-at-home”dude.

As for the singing of the dune, everything is simple, pure physics. In dry and hot weather, grains of sand move (from the wind or walking on a dune) rub against each other and make a variety of sounds – from a barely discernible “squeak” to a frightening roar that is carried for many kilometers around. They say if you are lucky, you can even hear the “organ concert”, which is performed by the wind, moving a lot of sand.

Return to Bosshi village, dinner.

Second day:

Breakfast, departure to the Park.

Katutau mountains or volcanic mountains.

In prehistoric times, this area had plenty volcanoes, equal to Vesuvius. Then the volcanic activity subsided, and a large reservoir was formed. But time did its work and  the water was gone, and the wind remained dominant! It blew out the muddy remains, exposing the vents and lava flows of long-forgotten volcanoes.

Aktau mountains-chalk mountains.

Aktau is translated from the Kazakh language as “white mountains”. These mountains have, in fact, different colors — red, yellow, maroon, green, blue shades, but the main color is white. Here you can find picturesque and rare landscapes.

The age of mountain is about  60-70 million years, the length is 30 km. These mountains, like other mountains of the Northern Tien Shan, are still growing.

There is a documentary with Ed Stafford on Discovery channel about this place – A game of departure. Kazakhstan (2 episode, 1 season). Watch it and there is 100% you may want to visit it!

Hashtags / keywords to search for:


National Park Altynemel