Shopan ata necropolis and mosque – Beket ata underground mosque
Beket-Ata is known in the Muslim world as a prophet to whom all Creation was open. As legend says, Beket-Ata lived in the second part of the 18thcentury. He was born in the present-day location of Kulsary village in Atyrau region. When he turned 14, Beket-Ata came to visit the ashes of the highly honored sage, Shopan-Ata, to receive his blessing.
A legend says that Shopan-Ata was a follower of the Holy Khodja Akhmed Yassawi. Acording to the legend, Shopan-Ata had found a staff of Yassawi's and later built a mosque on that spot in present-day Senek region. The staff gave birth to a tree that still grows near the mosque and is 800 years old.
On the third day, the young boy heard an instruction that he was meant to study. Then Beket ata went to distant Khiva, where he studied in a madrasah. When he reached his 40th birthday, he became a Sufi and started teaching the Koran to children. He walked many roads until he one day returned to Mangystau. He healed people, giving them health and long life. Using his wisdom, he was able to settle arguments so that both sides remained satisfied. He preached justice and kindness. A Sage and Holy man, he also was a brave warrior, who performed many feats during battles with the Kalmucks.
Beket-Ata built 4 mosques: one in Kulsary called the White Mosque; the second carved in limestone rocks, 20 km from Beyneu village; the third in Baishatyr region on the Ustyurt plateau and a fourth underground mosque, carved out of a limestone mountain in the Oglandy Valley - the latter is the one we will visit. It consists of seven rooms. They have perfect acoustics. Beket-Ata is buried near the mosque. Beket-Ata Necropolis is a spiritual, historical and architectural memorial.
The Ustyurt Reserve was established in 1984 as a state nature reserve occupying more than 2,200 square kilometres. It is fair to call this area the best-protected nature reserve in Kazakhstan, since its topography and the absence of any infrastructure condemn visitors to travel by helicopter, or hundreds of kilometers by jeep or on foot-something, fortunately, only very few visitors can afford or endure.
The Ustyurt Plateau's chalk escarpments, known as "chinks", are hugely impressive and starkly beautiful. The giant terraces stretch hundreds of kilometers to the north and south, in the east reaching heights of up to 219 meters on the border with the Aral Sea, while those to the west rise up to 341 meters high. Here in particular, fault ruptures, water, wind and sand erosion into a rich and varied landscape have shaped the cliffs. Numerous rock caverns in the central, eastern and southern areas, some very large, have offered shelter to man and animal alike for thousands of years. In spring, large expanses of the plain at the foot of the cliffs lie under water, and the contrast with the bald, oddly colored mountains is otherworldly.
Tuzbair saline land
Tuzbair saline land is located on the east of plateau Ustyurt, on the south of Manat area and the road from Aktau to Beyneu. That place has magnificent landscapes, it is made of white salt, white limestone, white clouds and sometimes when the sky is blue, all that makes Tuzbair saline land look surreal.
Those brown blotches in the mountains there make salt look even whiter. If you drive to Tuzbair saline land from west then the view of it that you will see is much unexpected, suddenly you see something very different from the previous landscapes in front of you.
The view depends on the time of the day when you see it. During the rainy season, the water in it looks like a huge mirror, which reflects the sky in it. At the base of elevation of the land called Kyzylbas you can see a "natural Sphinx", which proudly looks at the impregnable bastions of plateau Ustyurt.
If you climb up on the high point of the plateau, you can find some good viewing spots.
Sherkala and Airakty mountains
Sherkala is a lonely standing mountain, of unusual shape, about 94km to the northeast from the city of Aktau, in the 18km village of Shetpe. If you look at it from one side, the mountain looks like a huge white yurt, but on the other - Sherkala is like a sleeping lion, who laid his huge head on its paws. Therefore, the mountain was named - Sherkala, which in translation from Turkmen means "Lion Mountain" or "Lion Mountain". The lion's mountain is surrounded by a halo of curious legends. Its limestone slopes are steep and only become to the top of the hill, forming a giant tent reminding the top of the yurt. You can climb it only with special equipment. To get around Sherkala, it will take at least an hour. In addition, if you want to look into some of the numerous caves, wander around the site of an ancient settlement, looking for shards, witnesses of old civilizations, then you will not have enough hours. There is a popular belief, if you make a wish, before going around around Sherkala, it will come true.
Mount Airacty-tau is located in a small mountain system called Ayrakty-Shomanay. Mountains of Airacty-Shomanay are like fairy-tale castles with towers, spiers and fortress walls. In the spring in the valley among the mountains of Arakat-Shomanay the Sogdiana tulips grow, mouflons are found from the fauna.
On the eastern side of the Araqta-Shomanay there is a site with deposits of globular nodules. From the south to the top of the main mountain of Arakaty there is a trail. In the mountain, there is a deep cave in which locals are afraid to go.
Close to the town of Shetpe in Western Kazakhstan lies the Valley of Balls – or Torysh, as it is known in Kazakh. It consists of numerous ball-like rock formations strewn across a wide range of steppe land. The balls range in size from tiny marble-like rocks to huge boulders the size of a car.
The phenomenon is poorly researched, but there could be a number of geological explanations from megaspherulites - crystalline balls formed in volcanic ash and then revealed by weathering - to cannonball concretions - a process where sediment accumulates around a harder core - to spherical weathering wherein the conditions are just right to erode rocks into spherical form. In this case due to the range of sizes the most likely explanation is that of spherulite formation.
Visible from the Valley is Sherkala (Lion Rock), a stunning 332m white and ochre chalk outcrop with numerous fissures along its rim and even more rock formations at its foot. Close by are also the scant ruins of the Silk Road town Kyzylkala.
Shakpak ata Rock Mosque
Shakpak-Ata Rock Mosque is considered one of the most striking Sufi monuments of Mangistau. In the old days, this place was considered difficult to access and even benign. Now there is a grader road laid out, and this place is marked in navigators. Inside the cave everything is absolutely white - and the floor, and the ceiling, and the walls, because the mosque is cut in the chalky massif. Even a small window that barely perceptibly fills the interior with light. In the cave mosque there are several rooms connected by walkways. In addition, up the spiral stone staircase, which goes to the flat top of the rock, where the pavilion is built. At the foot of the rock there is a necropolis dating from the 12th-20th centuries.
Nature itself created this temple, and the master-stone-cutters who came here only adapted it for their purposes, giving it a final look.
Legend of the warrior Kapam, Kapamsai canyon
Natural landmark Kapamsay – is one of the most amazing places in Kazakhstan. This natural canyon, of course, merits attraction of travelers. Its value is in a snow-white beauty, thanks to which it seems to you that you are in a snow kingdom. Long time ago there was a long, narrow and deep enough river at the bottom of the canyon which in due course has over dried. Here, at great depths, among the centuries-old siliceous rocks there is a complex of trees, which even in a strong heat gives a shade and coolness.
Many travelers prefer to collect silicon stones, which can be used not only as a souvenir from colorful Kazakhstan, but also for purification of drinking water. The terrain here is truly amazing. Against the background of a snow-white stone landscape, you can take beautiful pictures, which will please you long after visiting the canyon.
According to the legend, more than five hundred years ago the Kapam batyr (hero) lived in this area, famous for his services to people. His strength was so great that over time, Kapam had many enemies trying to wipe him from the face of the earth. Villains found out from Kapam’s wife that his weakness - is his heels. Next morning during the religious ritual, batyr was performing, his legs were cut off. Gravely wounded warrior could magically fly to another edge of the gorge and did not allow mocking his own body. Just there, in the depths of the canyon, Kapam was buried. So, the warrior is still living in the hearts of local people and his spirit protects them from all misfortunes.
Sultan epe necropolis
Sultan-epe is a unique monument of antiquity of the 9th-12th centuries. Unlike the mosques of Becket-Ata, Shopan-Ata, Shakpak-Ata, it is not a city of the dead, a burial place for people. There are single graves in the neighborhood, but they are not indicative. There is no burial place here and the Sufi Sultan-epe itself. The pristine beauty of this corner of Mangyshlak, located thirty kilometers from the village of Tauchik, is admired: picturesque slopes, thickets of mulberry and hawthorn, a well with fresh and very tasty water. Almost at the slope of the gorge, there is a large burial. It is a rounded stone fence, inside which is a stone mound. In the embankment seven steep poles were stuck, twined with white scraps. Since ancient times, the pole symbolizes a tree that connects the world of the dead, the world of the living and the eternal sky. The mosque consists of 9 rooms. The entrance to the underground part of the mosque leads from a closed narrow room located in the southwestern part of the riverbed. The central gallery leads to almost all rooms, except one, which is located separately.
Wild beach, beautiful colour of the water there, spearfishing... Make sure you visit both right and left bank of the 'Blue Bay". You might get a chance to see a rock which looks like face in profile which is hidden somewhere on the right bank of the bay.
There are variety of blossoming flowers there during Spring, there you also can pick up berries and plants. You can meet turtles, lizards, snakes, grazing horses, goitered gazelle, saiga antelope, flying swans, geese and ducks in the neighborhood of "Blue Bay".
The cost is :
840$ per tour (from 1 to 4 pax)
The price includes transport ( 280$ per day), all camping equipment (tents, dishes, gas etc).
Products should be bought separately (extra payment) at the local supermarket (you choose the products) and the driver cooks for you taking into account your preferences.
The driver speaks russian.