The swift Charyn (Sharyn) River has carved a 150m- to 300m-deep canyon into the otherwise flat steppe some 200km east of Almaty, and time has weathered this into some weird and colourful rock formations, especially in the branch canyon known as the Valley of Castles (Dolina Zamkov). This is no Grand Canyon, but it’s worth a trip.
You can take a long day trip from Almaty for around 40,000T per carload through the less expensive agencies, or 4000T per person on weekend bus trips through the Ecotourism Information Resource Centre. April, May, June, September and October are the best months to come: it’s too hot in summer. There’s a 600T-per-person national park fee to enter the canyon area, which is not always enforced.
Getting here by public transport is possible, but you may not be able to get back the same day. Take the morning minibus from Almaty’s Sayakhat bus station heading to Kegen, and get out at the signposted turn-off to the canyon about 190km from Almaty, just before the road starts descending into the Charyn valley. From here it’s 10km east along a fairly flat dirt road to a parking area and then 3km (about one hour) down through the Valley of Castles to the river. If you’re lucky you might get a taxi or a lift to the parking area; if not, it’s a walk!
Don’t try to swim in the river, which is deceptively fast.
28 March 2017 1850 views