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Shepherds of Djailiau and the Singing sands. T-6
Tours to Kazakhstan

Duration: 15 days
Accommodation: 2 nights in hotel, 13 nights in tents
Category of difficulty: AA
Season: June 20 - September 10
Group size: no more than 10

Day 1. Arrival in Almaty. Meeting at the airport, transfer to hotel "Otrar" ****. Accommodation. Breakfast. City sightseeing before lunch: Park in honor of the 28 Panfilov guardsmen, the Cathedral, museum of national musical instruments, Medeo gorge, Republic square (4 hours). Lunch and dinner in a local cafe. Transfer by car: Almaty city - Issyk village - Turgen village- Batan forest - Oi-Zhailau River (95 km). We will pass a number of small villages lined up along one long street all the way to Turgen village. At Batan forest, the asphalt road ends and mountain dirt road begins. Crossing a number of bridges over Turgen river and view of the Oi-Zhailau River valley ahead. Dinner. Night in tents on a glade near the river.

Day 2. Breakfast. Horse ride: Oi-Zhailau River - river valley - pass Oyzhaylau (2521m)- Assy River (12 km). From the night's camp we will ride horses through a narrow valley. A small river which begins on the eastern slopes of the valley flows along the valley bottom. On the banks of the river there are number of yurts and shepherds' tents. Women are busy with household chores, the men graze cattle. Gradually we ascend a low pass, from where the Assy-Turgenskaya observatory is well seen. Lunch en-route. The pass commands a panorama of a high-altitude plateau - locals call such places "dzhailiau" (an open pasture high in the mountains where shepherds graze horses, sheep, cows). We continue to the east, where the plateau is lost on the horizon. We descend from the pass to the Assy river valley, ans set up camp. Dinner. Night in tents.

Day 3. Breakfast. Horse ride: Assy river - mouth of Kumbel River (22 km). Our route follows along the riverbed of the Assy river, then we will ford the river to the left bank and ascend the left slope of the valley. We continue on to the east. Lunch en-route. Stop at the first shepherd's yurt, meet the family. They offer us their simple treat: tea with milk and kumys (a refreshing drink made of mare's milk). We will meet a number of yurts on the way to our next camp. Dinner. Night in tents.

Day 4. Breakfast. Horse ride: Mouth of the Kumbel river - Assy village - Bulankaz gorge (23 km). Shortly after we start our ride we see another yurt where we meet a young Kazakh woman who is milking a mare. The mare's milk will be used then to make kumys. Here we can take a look into the nomadic life. There is a colt near the mare. As a rule, a mare gives birth to her colt in the middle or end of the spring. For some period it feeds on the mare's milk, after which shepherds begin milking the mare. The colt should be always stay the mother, otherwise she will not give milk. The young woman will show us how to make kumys (actually it is a fermented beverage), and we will be also offered some to try. We will also have a look at the inside of the yurt. Lunch en-route. Assy village consists of three houses, which shepherds use for their needs. During cattle drives a veterinarian lives there. A year-round weather station operates nearby. We continue to move along the bed of the Assy river until we reach a narrow gorge into which the river flows. From here, we ride on a highway to the night's camp. Dinner. Night in tents.

Day 5. Breakfast. Horse ride: Bulankaz gorge - Assy forest - Red rocks - Canyon gorge (21 km). Today our route follows the highway on the right slope of the gorge, sometimes far beneath. The Assy river is seen to the left. We meet fewer and fewer yurts and shepherds as this area has fewer grasslands. But the landscape is perfect: the surrounding mountains, Assy valley which we leave behind, the canyons of the Assy river and another valley up ahead. Lunch en-route. From here, we descend to the narrow Assy valley. Soon we reach the Assy forest, which consists of a number of houses and structures. After approximately one kilometer, on the right we see fascinating Red rocks, formed of red clay and stones. Here we take pictures and continue down the road. Dinner. Night in tents on the river bank.

Day 6. Breakfast. Horse ride: Canyon gorge - Bartogai reservoir (22 km). Continue ride to the east and soon reach a wide highland valley with a number of shepherds' houses to the northeast. Descent into a narrow gorge, on the bottom of which is a highway. Gradually, the gorge becomes wider and again we are in a valley, which ends up at the Bartogai reservoir. Lunch en-route. From here, far ahead we see the watery expanse of Bartogai. Gradually, the road turns to the southeast and follows the left bank of the reservoir. We reach a bridge over the Chilik river, which flows into the reservoir. Above the bridge, on the glade of the right bank of the Chilik river, set up our camp. Farewell dinner with horse-breeders and guides. Night in tents.

Day 7. Breakfast. Transfer by car: Bartogai reservoir - Zhalanash village - Saty village - Kolsai river (150 km). From camp, drive along the right bank of Bartogai, in 12 km we reach the paved road. Short stop to take pictures of the "Bartogai fountain" - where water bursts forth from the locks of the dam. Lunch en-route. We pass the small village of Baiseit and turn to the southwest from the main highway in the direction of the Kolsai lakes. Our road passes by a number of Kazakh villages, and soon we are on the lower glade of Kolsai Lake. From here to the lake, five kilometers of hiking along the right bank of the Kolsai river. Our camp will be on the left bank of the river. Dinner. Night in tents.

Day 8. Breakfast. Hike: Kolsai river - Kolsai lake 1 - Kolsai lake 2 (14 km). From camp we ford the Kolsai river and ascend to the lake on the right bank of the river. We pass a dam and see one of the most picturesque places of in Kazakhstan - Kolsai lake. Then further we hike on the right shore of the lake and admire the beautiful landscape. Lunch en-route. Soon our path gets steeper, then flattens out. Ascent to Kolsai lake 2 is a bit steep. We cross the river which flows out of the lake to the right shore, into a wide Alpine glade. Dinner. Night in tents.

Day 9. Breakfast. Hike: Kolsai lake 2 - Kolsai lake 1 - Kolsai river (14 km). Return descent to our old camp on the Kolsai river. Lunch en-route. Dinner. Night in tents.

Day 10. Breakfast. Horse ride: Kolsai river - Kurmenty village (15 km). From the camp on the Kolsai river we ride horses to the southwest, gradually ascending a low pass which commands a panorama of the Chilik river valley that lies to the north. Lunch en-route. From here, ride in the direction of Kurmenty village. Soon we see Kurmenty village from a bird's-eye view. The village stretches along the river. Ride down to the village, to one of the first houses. A yurt stands nearby. The wife of the shepherd will make Kazakh tea for us and we can help her with the cooking. We stay for the night in this yurt. Dinner with home made bread. Night in yurt.

Day 11. Breakfast. Transfer by car: Kurmenty village - Saty village - Zhalanash village - Charyn canyon (105 km). Following the same route as Day 7, we return to the main highway and turn in the direction of Charyn canyon. A short stop on the way at the edge of the canyon to see the Charyn river flowing beneath. We turn from the highway again and after 11 km of dirt road we are at the grandiose Charyn canyon. Hike into the canyon: we go as far as the Charyn river to the Castles glade and then return the same way. Lunch. Transfer by car to the place of our next camp on the banks of the Charyn river (35 km). Dinner. Night in tents.

Day 12. Breakfast. Early transfer by car: Charyn river - Chundzha village - bridge over Ili river - Aidarly village - National Natural park Altyn-Emel - White mountains - Singing dunes (180 km). From camp to Aidarly village drive on paved roads in the direction of the Kazakh-Chinese border. We leave Chundzha village behind, where mostly people of Uigur ethnicity live. Crossing the bridge over the Ili river, we turn to the north and in 10 km enter the territory of Altyn-Emel national park. The White mountains are seen to the right. These old, colorful rocks appeared millions of years ago. The Moon-like landscapes and wide and narrow gorges of these mountains leave a deep impression. Short trek to the mountains. Lunch. Transfer to Singing dunes. Dinner. Night in tents on the banks of the Ili river.

Day 13. Breakfast. Transfer to ascent of Singing dunes. On the hot sand we ascend the peak of the famous Singing Dune, a sandy hill which is more than 200 m high and more than 500 m long. There are two smaller hills to the south. Transfer by car: Singing dune - Besshatyr burial mounds - Shingeldy village - Tamgaly-Tas gorge at the Ili river (140 km). Visit to the Besshatyr burial mounds - the tomb of Sak king Tigra Khauda (7th-4th c. BC) on the way. There are 31 burial mounds, from 45 to 105 m in diameter. Lunch. After visit to burial mounds, drive to the Ili river via Shingeldy village. At Ili river, view petroglyphs of Buddha, pets and inscriptions in ancient Tibetan and Kalmyk on the rocks, situated 20 km below Kapchagai hydroelectric station. These drawings symbolize the peaceful nature of the people who inhabited the area of Semirechie (Seven rivers), the northern part of the Great Silk Road. It was necessary to live in peace for mutual cooperation between Asia and Europe. Dinner. Night in tents on the right bank of the Ili river, two kilometers below Tamgaly-tas gorge.

Day 14. Breakfast. Transfer by car: Tamgaly-Tas gorge - Kapchagay city - Almaty city (120 km). Our road follows the ancient Iliskyi tract. In the 19th century, it was the main trade road from the Semirechie region to Western Siberia via Semipalatinsk and Omsk. The road was opened in 1855 to connect the Vernyi fortification (now Almaty) with the former center of the Alatau region, Kapal village (now Kapchagai), so the road also has another name - the Kapalski tract. In 1827, a bridge over the Ili river was built. In 1885, post stations and were built. In 1940, the road was covered with gravel and in 1948 with asphalt. Transportation of passengers and mail began in 1927. Dinner and Lunch at a local cafe. Accommodation in hotel "Otrar" ****. Free time. Night in hotel.

Day 15. Departure from Almaty.

Additional information

1. It is advisable to bring mosquito repellent for the nights at the Charyn and Ili rivers.
2. There will be Hiking from Kolsai lake 1 to Kolsai lake 2 and back. Camping equipment and clients' personal gear will be transported by the horses. Each client is allowed up to 15 kg of personal gear.
3. Clients will ride horses on Days 2 - 6 and on Day 10.
4. All cars used during the program are without air-conditioning.

  • All rates for tours are valid until December 31, 2011;
  • The above rates can be changed without prior notification.

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