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Natural beauties of Central and Northern Kazakhstan

Journey does not have to be to faraway places. In Kazakhstan we have places amazing for their beauty. You only need to open them for yourself. In this article I will talk about the amazing places of Central and Northern Kazakhstan.

Karkaraly National Park

Karkaraly is an amazing mountain and forest oasis in the middle of the great steppe in central Kazakhstan, Karaganda oblast. It is located 230 km to the east of Karaganda. Relatively young Karkaraly National Park (arranged in 1998) consists of vast Karkaraly Mountains and Kentish massive with dense coniferous and deciduous forests. There are several mountain peaks with a height of over 1 000 meters.

At the foot of the mountains cozy Karkaraly village spread where you can meet houses with patterns of solid wood architecture of 19-20 centuries. Around here there is an office of the national natural park and a nature museum.

National Park is ready to offer a variety of hiking trails with various distances. Most tourists visit two main attractions. The first is so-called lake-pool. The unique character of this natural reservoir is that it is in almost rectangular stone bowl surrounded by mountain walls. Pond is fed by groundwater and rainwater. From the rock face magnificent panoramic views of the mountain valley can be seen.

The second point of interest in Karkaraly is Lake Shaitankol. The lake is surrounded by mysteries and myths. Legend has it that in ancient times young lovers died near the Lake, and their friend, after he had learned about it, committed suicide as well. Since then, local people tend not to stay near the Lake for a long time, especially during hours of darkness. Some people say they saw strange beings or phenomena over the Lake, others heard sounds. Mystery of the Lake is that the scientists have not being able to determine its depth yet. Dark Waters run deep down, thus not everybody will have the heart to swim in these waters.

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Bayanaul National Park

Bayanaul State National Natural Park is located in Pavlodar oblast, north-east of Kazakhstan. The Park includes Bayanaul Mountains that are part of the Kazakh hills and several lakes.

Nature of Bayanaul will touch feelings of everyone. In these places the Rocky Mountains merge into the picturesque valleys, and around one can view pine forests and pure lakes. The highest point is Akbet Mountain (altitude is 1026 m) which is visible from almost any part of the Park. You can choose any hiking trail and start on your journey to explore the local beauty. For example, rocks of bizarre and the most incredible forms, 30 meters cave Auliye-tas and local lakes.

You can relax and gain strength near the Lakes Sabyndykol, Zhasybay and Toraigyr and in the summer the swimming season is open. The most pictorial is the Lake Zhasybay. Surrounded by mountains and forests, this freshwater Lake creates an ideal place to relax. Especially for travelers sandy beach is equipped with necessary infrastructure such as rental boats, sports equipment, services, restaurants and shops.

Bayanaul land is famous not only for its natural beauty, but also for the outstanding personalities of the Kazakh people born in these parts. For example, the poet Sultanmakhmut Toraigyrov, the first Kazakh academician Kanysh Satpayev, the writer and philosopher Zhusup Kopeyev, the first Kazakh film director Shaken Aimanov and others.

Now the road from Astana to Bayanaul takes 8-9 hours. However, at the present time reconstruction and construction of the Republican highway Astana-Pavlodar is in progress. Construction is planned to be finished in 2017. After that, it will be much easier to get to this picturesque corner of Kazakhstan.

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Bektau Ata

Bektau Ata is a small mountainous area, 60 km north of Balkhash in Karaganda oblast (Central Kazakhstan). Mountain is visible from the highway, yet it does not attract special attention. But the closer you drive up to the mountain along a back road, the stronger your senses arose.

The area strikes with its unusual landscape. Bektau Ata is an unborn volcano. Rock formations have developed in the form of cake, many stones and rocks have a bizarre shape. While there, you feel the unearthly reality. Perhaps the planet Mars looks exactly that way. The mountain itself is massive enough, with a height a little more than 1000 m. According to legend, one cannot climb up the hill. Bektau Ata is particularly picturesque after rain, when small holes are filled with water and create a unique landscape.

At the foot of the mountain there is a sacred cave. According to legend, once upon a time there lived an old man Beck who had a gift of treatment. Once the mountain village was attacked by the enemy and people scratched gravel. On their way people came across a powerful river and there was no any other way. Then the old man put to a stand the river with a wave of his hand and people crossed safely to the other side. The river continued to flow and the enemy could not get rescued people. The elder blessed the people and went to live in a cave. These mountains have been called Bektau Ata ever since.

The cave is on a small hill. Pilgrims come there to pray and take some healing water. The cave itself has a long corridor. Be careful, because in some places there are small holes and you can just stumble. Take a good flashlight. In 15-20 meters water becomes available. According to the same legend, the saint Bektau Ata asked the Almighty some water to drink and since then fresh water has been available in the cave.

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Korgalzhyn Reserve

Korgalzhyn State Natural Reserve is one of the largest in Kazakhstan which is located in the endless steppes, 130 km south-west of Astana. The main area of ​​the reserve is occupied with two large lakes Tengiz and Korgalzhyn, and dozens of small ponds. The reserve is of particular interest to fans of wildlife, particularly bird watchers. After all, in the territory of the reserve one can find 349 species of birds

Such a variety of birds is attributable to unique ecosystem of the lakes Tengiz and Korgalzhyn. It is believed that in ancient times the lakes were one big sea. Now, the lake Korgalzhyn is a flow-through lake with fresh water, while the lake Tengiz is salty one. Water salinity in the lake Tengiz exceeds salt content of the world ocean more than 5-6 times. This lake is home to various species of small crustaceans. For this reason the famous pink flamingos like to fly here. By the way, flamingo gets its pinkness from eating these small crustaceans. Season of flamingos in Tengiz lasts from May to August. Besides flamingos you can also find here ducks, cranes, pelicans, swans and other birds. It is worth coming to the reserve in May for another reason. Schrenk tulip blooms here a few days a year and the whole steppe becomes a red-yellow carpet. The unique ecosystem of Tengiz-Korgalzhyn lakes was assessed at international level and in 2008 the territory of the reserve was included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

The starting point for a visit to the reserve is a village Korgalzhyn where the Science Center of the Reserve and Museum is placed. Access to the reserve is possible only if accompanied by employee of the center, whose services cost something around 5 thousand tenge. The territory of the reserve is huge, thus, you’ll travel by car moving from one body of water to another in search of birds. You will not be able to drive closer, so it is much better to have binocular, but if you do not, you can rent it in the center. On the way, you can also meet other animals such as marmot, fox or gopher.

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400 km away from Astana, in North-Kazakhstan oblast there is a place marvelous in its beauty — the lake and the mountains Imantau. The lake is partially surrounded by pine forests and small mountains that are stretching further towards the lake Shalkar.

There are not so many tourists in Imantau, and for this reason it is good. It is quiet and peaceful in this place. Pine forest is so dense that it flits before eyes. Along the lake there are several leisure areas which operate in summer. By the way, in the waters of the lake you can find crayfish, so taste them. Adventure travelers will enjoy several hiking trails.

Easy route will bring you to one of the peaks, from which you can see an island in the shape of a heart. You can spend the night in a tent in the woods, where having awaken in the morning you will see the beauty of the forest.

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Burabay National Park

And of course, the pearl of North Kazakhstan is Burabay. Located 220 km north from capital Astana city, it is a vast and beautiful land with forests and lakes. In the summer, the park is very popular for locals and tourists from Russia. Tourists enjoy the water activities in the lakes such as Borovoe and Shebachie, hiking, biking, and fishing.  Please be aware, that it’s prohibited to climb the Kokshe mount without the authorized guide, the highest peak of the area, around 900 m above sea level.

There are plenty of hotels from 5* star Rixos Borovoe to budget hotels and guest houses. The entry to the national park is 280 tenge per person (less than 1 USD).

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