Expedition to the Zhongar Mountains

Expedition to the Zhongar Mountains

Zhongar Mountains in Kazakhstan

Discover a mysterious mountain range at the border with China

Highlights of this two-week expedition in Kazakhstan to the Zhongar Mountains:
– the nature in the Altyn Emel nature reserve- camping in the empty landscapes of Kazakhstan
– hiking and horse riding in various mountain landscapes
– the untouched Zhongar mountains and the chance of seeing wild animals
– relaxing on Lake Alakol, which contains salt water with medicinal properties!

A new program in our offerings since 2019, and a the most adventurous one! The Zhongar Mountains on the border with China were closed due to their sensitive location. As a result few people visited, which benefitted the plants and animals as they were not confronted with human nuisance.

The area has been open to visitors since the 90s. Many foreigners have not been here yet. This adventurous program will introduce you to the Zhongar mountains, but also to the different landscapes between Almaty and Zhongar. Because the journey to the mountain range is at least as important as the destination itself!

This is largely a camping trip as you spend eight times in a tent.

The program can be extended in Almaty, if you want to stay there longer.

You can read more about travelling in Kazakhstan and in Central Asia here. Including much practical advise.

Day 1, leaving for  Almaty

You will head for Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan.
The expedition in Kazakhstan starts from Almaty tomorrow. In case you wish to extend your time in the city, either at the start or finish of the tour, please indicate to us.


Day 2, Almaty-Singing Dune

Altyn Emel National Park in Kazakhstan

Altyn Emel National Park in Kazakhstan

Meeting with a guide in Almaty. Departure for a tour to Tambali-Tas (about 170 km, 3 hours). Tambali-Tas is a cluster of early bronze petroglyphs in the tract in the Chulak mountains. On the rocks you can see inscriptions in Tibetan, Kalmyk and other languages, as well as you can see traces of Buddhists in the territory of Semirechye – five rocks with the image of Buddha.

Then moving to Besshatyr (35 km, 1.5 hours). The burial complex of the Saka era of the 3rd-7th centuries BC. has about 100 mounds. This is the legacy of the great nomads of the Central Asian steppes. In total there are 18 royal barrows with a diameter from 8 to 70 meters and from 2 to 20 meters in height, concentrated in the area of ​​2 sq. km.

After lunch, departure to Singing Dune (40 km, 1.5 hours). The Singing Dune, in dry weather produces a sound resembling the roar of an airplane. While the wind blows from the West, scattering sand, there is a feeling that the organ tube is in the heart of the desert. The Singing Dune is 1.5 km long and 120 meters high. Overnight in tents near Singing Dune. Night observation of the desert fauna, where, if lucky, you will be able to see a schecked gecko.

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 3, Singing Dune – Kakatau Mountains

Altyn Emel Natioal Park in Kazakhstan

Camping in the Kakatau mountains

Breakfast. Departure to the 700-year-old willow (25km, 1 hour), which is a cult object of the Altyn-Emel National Park. Its branches of thick trunks rest on the ground, and only a few people can hold the tree, holding hands.

After the tour, transfer to the mountains of Aktau, Katutau (90km, 3 hours). Color chalk mountains create a quaint scenic lunar landscape. These mountains are known for their unique appearance, which probably was created by small volcanic eruptions, cooled several thousand years ago. Walking tour, overnight in tents.

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 4, Kakatau Mountains – Kora Gorge

Eaglehunter in Kazakhstan, Berkutchi


Breakfast. Departure to the Tekeli village (250 km, 6 hours). Meeting with berkutchi, a demonstration of traditional art and a snack in the Kazakh family. Since ancient times hunting with a hunting bird was not so much a way of trophy hunting, as art and entertainment at the same time. It has not lost its importance even now.

On November 16, 2010 hunting with hunting birds was included in the list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO.

After lunch departure to Kora gorge. (210 km, 3 hours)

A halt on the bank of the Kora river, fishing. The road to the Burhan Bulak waterfall is very difficult, 20km of very bad roads, only specially prepared SUVs go there. The driver and those who wish can go to the waterfall for video and photo shoots. Overnight on the bank of the river Kora.

Meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5, Kora Gorge – Burkhan-Bulak Waterfalls

Zhongar Mountains in Kazakhstan

Burhan-Bulak waterfalls

Breakfast. Departure to Burhan Bulak waterfall (30 km, 2 hours). The Burkhan-Bulak falls are located on the same tributary of the Kora, about a kilometer from it. The height of the three visible cascades is 114 m, the fourth from below is not visible. In total the height is 168 m, which makes Burkhan-Bulak the second tallest waterfalls in Central Asia.

Overnight at the waterfalls.

Meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 6, Bukhan-Bulak – Bayan Zhurek Mountains

Yurt in Kazakhstan


Departure to Buyen river near Bayan-Zhurek mountains. (95 km, 3 hours)

Bayan-Zhurek is the low remnant mountains in the Zhongar Alatau. They are located in the territory of Aksu district of Alma-Ata region. The length is 12-15 km, the width is 8-10 km, the absolute height is up to 2,079 m. The slopes are shallow. They are composed of shales, limestones and sandstones. On the slopes of Bayan-Zhurek, the tributaries of the Buyen River originate. As in other monuments of the Semirechye, in the Bayan-Zhurek there are Saki sketches of the Early Iron Age. Overnight on the river bank.

Meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 7, Bayan-Zhurek Mountains – Tentek 2 River

Zhongar Mountains in Kazakhstan

Breakfast. Transfer to the river Tentek 2 (270 km, 7 hours). On the bank of the river is the Uigentas barrow of the era of the Turkic Kaganate. The monument is a unique funerary complex, characterizing the level of social structure and culture of the ancient and medieval nomads of the Zhetysu. Overnight on the river bank.

Meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner




Day 8, Tentek 2 River – Atapkan

Zhongar Mountains in Kazakhstan

Breakfast. Transfer to the Atapkan Pass (25 km, 1.5 hours). From the Atapkan Pass you can see a picturesque view of the valley of the Tentek River. Photo-hunting in the evening and in the morning. If you are lucky you may spot bears, ibex, marals, etc.

The Zhongar mountains are unique, the northern slopes resemble Altai, and the southern slopes look like the Zailiysky Alatau. Only in these parts you can find a virgin nature, animals that are not afraid of people, and passes that are rarely ever passed. Overnight in tents.

Meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 9, Atapkan – Koktuma

Alakol Lake in Kazakhstan

Lake Alakol

Breakfast. Transfer to Koktuma (140 km, 5 hours). Koktuma is a beach area on the shore of Alakol Lake. Bathing and fishing.

Alakol in Kazakh means a multi-colored lake. Alakol is a saline drainage lake located on the Balkhash-Alakol lowland. To the south-east of Lake Alakol is the Zhongar Gate Pass.

It is known that many years ago the famous Great Silk Road passed by water “cups” called Alakol. Already in those days the caravanners, unable to give up after a tedious journey from refreshing in the waters of the lake, noticed: salty waves miraculously restore strength and strengthen health. By themselves skin deformities on the body disappear, wounds on the body heal faster, those suffering from sciatica forget about the pains in the lower back, even quarrels and grievances aside.

Also, modern medical research confirms the medicinal qualities of water of lake. Sea breath of Alakol in combination with the dry, hot air, refreshed by the aroma of the steppes favorably affects the environment.

Overnight in the guesthouse.

Meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 10-11, Koktuma – Tastau Base

Zhongar Mountains in Kazakhstan

Breakfast. Transfer to the Tastau base (160 km, 5 hours). The tourist base of Tastau is located in the wild and picturesque area of Zhongar Alatau not far from Sandyktas Peak. Around the base there are many wild animals. Radial horse, pedestrian and automobile excursions can be organized from the territory of the base.

About 600 species of plants grow here. From an altitude of 1200 m above sea level grow apple orchards, overgrowths of apricots, then above grow aspen trees, and from about 1500 m begins the belt of spruce forests, reaching up to 2800-2900 m, then thickets of shrubbery to Alpine meadows.

This is a strikingly beautiful corner of the earth. The unique natural conditions of the territory – a favorable climate and a significant aesthetic appeal of the mountain landscape – are complemented by the richness and diversity of the plant world, especially the picturesque coniferous forests and a significant number of species of animals that live in this region.

Horseback riding tour at the surroundings.

2 overnights in the guesthouse.

Meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 12, Base Tastau – Koilik Settlement

Zhongar Mountains in Kazakhstan

Excavations nearby Koilik

Breakfast. Departure to home. So that you won’t get tired, we will make a stop to the settlement Koilik (300 km, 6 hours). Koilik is the capital of the Karluks state. For the time of archaeological research, the Buddhist and Manichean temples, as well as the objects of Muslim culture of the 12th-14th centuries appeared to the gaze of scientists: a mosque, a complex of mausoleums and a khanaka. Overnight.

Meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 13, Koilik Settlement – Almaty

Breakfast. Departure to Almaty with stops for lunch (470 km, 6 hours).

Meal: breakfast, lunch


Day 14, Almaty – Home

In the night or early morning, depending on your departure time, you will be transfered to Almaty Airport. end of your expedition in Kazakhstan.

The price of this expedition in Kazakhstan at six people is €1,430 per person, at four people €1,850 per person and at two people €2,720 per person. For other group sizes, please write to us. Prices are indications.

Included in the offer are:
– 13 overnight stays, of which twice in a 4* hotel in Almaty, three times in guesthouses and eight times in tents on the basis of stay in double rooms and incl. breakfast
– all transfers in Kazakhstan by 4WD car or van, including from and to the airport
– services from an English-speaking guide and a cook during the entire trip
– entrance tickets for museums, monuments and nature parks according to the program
– 12 lunches and 11 dinners

Not included are the international plane tickets, meals in Almaty, all other services not mentioned. Finally, we withhold €15 per booking for the GGTO Guarantee Fund.



    Almaty Province, Zhongar Mountains




    indication €1.430-1.850-2.720 p.p. at 6,4 and 2 persons


    14 days