April 29 - May 10, 2018
Akkergeshen, mountain Sherkala, valley of concretions, underground mosque Shakpak-Ata, Caspian Sea, cape Zhygylgan, Tamshaly spring, blue bay, Bozzhira, underground mosque Beket-Ata.
Difficulty of the route:
Duration: 10 expedition days and 2 organizational days
Length of the route: 3020 km
7:30 Departure from Moscow (DME)**
10:45 Arrival in Astrakhan**
11:30-12:00 Reception at the airport/transfer
13:00-14:00 Check-in at a three-star hotel
07:30-09:00 Breakfast at the hotel
10:00 Getting to know the car
** Need to check the timetable for flights from other cities
First you’ll see mount Imankara on the horizon and behind it - a fantastic view of Akkergeshen. The closer the plateau, the whiter the road. It’s chalk dust, once it was a bottom of a sea – there are chalk cliffs everywhere, thousand years old stone pillars stand there like mysterious sculptures covered in sandstone stripes. It’s like you are one a different planet that has nothing to do with Earth. You can find huge chalk castles 10 meters high and small eroded windows in the pillars
Sherkala is also known as “Lion Mountain” – from a certain angle it looks like a sleeping lion with its huge hairy head on its paws. It stands between two ridges of the Karatau Mountains. Just 307 meters high, it is thought to be among the hardest to climb. The mountain is full of narrow caves allegedly inhabited by ancient spirits that should not be disturbed in vain. So-called valley of concretions lies at the base, littered with massive spherical stones.
Valley of concretions
A lot of spherical boulders are scattered around Sherkala, some of them intact, some cracked, some completely broken. If you look carefully, you may find rocks with traces of ancient fish and mussels among the shards. All the rocks have a roundish shape but they are all of differnet size and colour. They primarily consist of clay, sand and crystalline rock and are called “concretions”. Scientists have studied this phenomenon for more than 250 years, but they have yet to come to a consensus about the spherical boulders’ origin.
Underground mosque Shakpak-Ata
A unique landmark, a work of ancient stonecutting art, the underground mosque Shakpak-Ata is cut inside a chalk rock. The entrance is an ogee arch with caves on both sides to bury dervishes. The mosque has four rooms aligned to cardinal directions. In the centre of its dome is round window. The walls are covered in writings from different times, floral patterns, images of rams, bulls horses, horsemen and open palms. Upstairs there’s a platform from which you can see a big necropolis that was formed next to a sacred bridge.
The Caspian Sea is the largest endorheic lake in the world.it is usually called a “sea’ because of its area (more than 37000 km2) and shoreline length (7000 km). Most of the shore is covered with stones and gravel. Over 500 species of plants and 750 species of animals live here. The view of Caspian Sea, especially at dawn or sunset, is astonishing.
Cape Zhygylgan is also called “fallen earth”. Approaching Zhygylgan the prairie ends abruptly with an enormous cavity10 km in diameter and 80 m deep. The edges of the cavity form an almost perfect circle, its walls reach 50m height. At its base there is a pile of rocks, cracked walls and massive blocks. This natural chaos stretches for kilometers to the very shore. It is an incredible spectacular scene.
Tamshaly spring is found in the northern central part of the Mangyshlak peninsula. You can get there through the canyon. Fresh, crystal-clear water flows from under a wide stone platform, that looks like a hovering moulding, and trickles down on the ground. That’s why it is called Tamshaly, “merry drippings” in Kazakh language. This place is very calm and peaceful with wild raspberry, mint and mulberries growing around.
A serpentine dirt road leads to the bay. Remains of a fortress wall from the middle ages appear to the south. Fragments of old multitrack railroads show up to the north. You can spot monitor lizards, tortoises, saigas and goitered gazelles here. The Blue bay is considered one of the most beautiful places on the peninsula thanks to its beaches. Crystal-clear water, mysterious cliffs with grottoes, Devil’s Finger emerging out of water – there are plenty of things you don’t want to miss. Don’t forget your camera!
Bozzhira, a mountain range on the west side of the Ustyurt plateau is hard to reach. It’s on the bottom of ancient canyon, the chalk slopes display rock formations in shape of towers, castles, yurts and chameleon pillars that change their colour. The hallmark of the place is hard to miss as it is two 200 m high limestone pikes that look like fangs
Underground mosque Beket-Ata
The underground mosque Beket-Ata in Oglandy is cut into the mass of a chalk cape. Although it is hard to reach, pilgrims from all over the world have come here for many years. This is where the tomb of a saint sufi is located and many expect miracles and healing from him. It is said that the rooms in the underground mosque are areenged the same way as in the Great Pyramid of Giza. The acoustics here are amazing and there’s never a draft, even with open doors.
16:00 Return of the car
16:00-17:00 Check-in at a three-star hotel
23:00-07:00 Night at the hotel
08:00-09:30 Breakfast at the hotel
10:00-10:30 Transfer to the airport
11:45 Departure from Astrakhan
13:00 Arrival in Moscow (DME)**
** Need to check the timetable for flights to other cities