Colorful Charyn

One of the most famous jewels of the Kazakh natural world is Charyn. The canyon is situated 200 km east of Almaty, and is 5km long with 100–300 m high walls, chiseled from sedimentary rocks over 100 million years ago. It looms over its namesake river, which is assigned the sixth (and highest) complexity grade, it is dangerous both to swim and raft there. This canyon is widely known as Valley of Castles or Red Charyn.

However, this is not the only canyon in the floodplain - it’s possible to see at least five more.

If one goes straight down the Kulzhinskaya highway and passes by the Valley of Castles towards Kegen, then crosses over a small mountain pass, he will arrive in Zhalanashskaya Valley. A road to the right runs to the Kolsay Lakes, and shortly afterwards you will see Black Charyn - a deep, dark mountain split by a babbling river and which seems absolutely harmless when seen from these heights.

If you turn left, you will see a chain of canyons outside Aksay village.

The Grand Canyon is not all that “grand,” as it is not very high, but it is outstandingly nice looking thanks to colorfulness of stones and plants.

Further along the path you will find an absolute terra incognita - Moonscape. It is hard to believe that there are people living somewhere nearby.

Adjacent to it lays Moon Valley, or, as it is sometimes called, Yellow Charyn. It’s a beloved site for filmmakers, and more than one film was shot in this uncanny valley. To be honest, reaching the river is not at all easy, the terrain is really rough here.

Temirlik Canyon, where the Charyn River meets its tributary, closes our canyon tour.

All these extra-terrestrial and dramatic names, as well as the folktales you will hear during the tour, were made up by Soviet tour guides to attract tourists.

It is commonly said that there was no sex in the USSR, but marketing has always been there.

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