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Ustyurt Plateau - Journey across Western Kazakhstan


Private tour in the southwestern part of Kazakhstan, on the shores of the world's only inland sea - the Caspian. This is the land of ancient civilization, an open-air museum, which houses 11 thousand historical monuments under the protection of the state. Archaeological finds show that this region about 1 billion years ago was the bottom of the Tethys Ocean. Traveling through Mangistau, you can find ancient shells of the legendary ocean, and the landscapes here are so unique that sometimes you start to wonder what planet we are on.

Private Tour to the Ustyurt Plateau

(Duration of Tour, 3 Days)


Torysh (valley of spherical nodules)

- one of the most interesting and unusual sights of Western Kazakhstan. Stones of almost perfect spherical shape are scattered along the plateau and its slopes.
The origin of the stone balls is still not clear. There are two versions of their origin.
According to one version, the appearance of stone balls is associated with electric discharges in the earth's crust that occurred in the zone of active tectonic faults. During the displacement of the earth's crust, the shifted rock underwent active rotation, transforming into spherical nodules (nodule is spherical, in some cases oblate or incorrectly rounded, a mineral of radially radiant structure).
Inside the nodule, probably, there was a grain around which minerals were growing, repeating the shape of the grain. The high temperature formed due to electric discharges, as it were, melted the formed minerals, leading to their rounding ...
Another version, in many respects similar to the first, is based on the existence of an ancient sea in these places. Warm sea water seems to be the most favorable environment for the development of marine plankton. Silted clusters of small organisms became the core of these balls, increasing over time, like a snowball.
When the waters of the ancient sea receded, sea salt, sun and air completed their work, leading to the hardening of the bare marine organisms.
Nowadays, the Valley of Balls appears before us as a whole scattering of large and small, round, almost perfect shape stones. The height of some reaches one and a half meters or more.
The external environment, gradually, destroys the structure of stones, leading to their fractures, inside of which, often, you can see a round stone core, of smaller size.

How to get to the Valley of the Balls, GPS: coordinates: N 44º13,222´; E52º 09.245 '.

SHERKALA mount - translation from Kazakh - “Lion Сity”.

 - one of the beauties of the mountains forming the numerous canyons of Western Kazakhstan.
Sherkala is an unusual mountain, with its appearance at the same time resembling a yurt, standing alone in the steppe, and an inverted bowl, and a beast hiding before the jump ...
Sherkala is one of the shrines of Mangistau, revered by local residents.
Access to the mountain is simple and free, but far from everyone dares to climb the mountain ...
Coordinates of Mount Sherkala: N 44º15,560´; E52º 00.638 '. The distance from the Valley of Castles to Mount Sherkala is about 14 kilometers.
After Sherkala we again call in the village of Shetpe, and then we move towards the ridge Northern Aktau.
The North Aktau ridge - chalk mountains, as white as the mountains on the Aktolagai plateau. The height of the mountains of the North Aktau ridge reaches 290 meters.
The mountains are composed of limestones, marls and white clays, which gives them an unusual color for our view (there are no white mountains in the Urals ...). The external environment gave the mountains an unusual look ...
The slopes of the mountain, composed of Upper Cretaceous rocks, clay, sandstones and limestones, blown by the winds and washed away by rain streams for many centuries, appear before us almost impregnable - steep and steep. And in the many caves and grottoes of the mountain, according to legend, the spirits of Sherkala live, not letting a curious tourist go there ...
The access to the mountain is simple and free, but not everyone dares to climb the mountain, although, according to some descriptions, a tunnel leads to the top of the mountain. We didn’t begin to search for the tunnel and climb to the top - it’s scary: some of the ledges of the mountain strive to collapse on a gaping traveler ....
In ancient centuries, along the beautiful Sherkala passed the Great Silk Road. According to some historical data, once upon a time there was also a fortified city, which served as a stone bastion, protecting peace from foreign invaders. On the slopes of the mountain you can also see guard niches, traces of rope ladders, and the presence of a tunnel to the top of the mountain indicates the existence of a city - a fortress.


coordinates: N43°27'16,88"  E54°05'04,98"

is a solonchak (salt marsh) located in the Mangystau region in the southwest of Kazakhstan. Almost the entire territory of this region is covered with saline and deserts, water sources are absent.

This is a picturesque area combining three colors: white – salt, limestone, clouds; blue – the sky; yellow-brown – the color of the soil, which emphasizes the whiteness of salt. Sor Tuzbair is a natural combination of deserts, hills and cliffs. People come here to explore the salt marsh and conquer rocky peaks.


coordinates: N43°35'45,00"  E54°04'50,46"

- Some 285km east of Aktau, Beket-Ata is an important and extremely popular place of pilgrimage for those wishing to visit the underground mosque and final resting place of Sufi mystic and teacher, Beket-Ata (1750–1813). The mosque is near the bottom of a picturesque desert canyon and the journey to Beket-Ata involves traversing some spectacular steppe and desert scenery.

You can get here via an expensive guided tour from Aktau, by hiring a 4WD and driver, or taking crowded pilgrim transport.

Along the walkway down into the canyon, there are numerous shady spots to rest and a sacred spring from which you may drink.

Mangistau-born Beket-Ata studied in Khiva (Uzbekistan) and later founded four mosques and a Sufi school in the Mangistau region. Note that a day trip to Beket-Ata is very doable with your own 4WD and driver, but it's a long day. Descent into the canyon to visit the mosque happens either in the morning (for pilgrims who've stayed overnight) or in the afternoon, after around 2pm. From Beket-Ata, it's around five hours' drive to Aktau.

Whether you're coming with your own wheels or sharing a cramped minibus with pilgrims, most stop at the Shopan-Ata underground mosque and 10th century necropolis en route. Even if you're not a pilgrim, you're expected to dress respectfully (headscarf for women) and sit quietly if the others engage in prayer. It's also customary to bring food to share with other pilgrims. In Beket-Ata, a lamb is often sacrificed in the evenings to feed the pilgrim crowd.


a rocky ridge in pink - white chalky tones, more like an unearthly landscape, is located in the western part of the plateau and also occupies a fairly large area.
The Boszhir tract is a mountain of various bizarre shapes, from an inverted bowl to the fangs of an ancient monster ...
there is practically no vegetation on the Boszhir natural boundary: just like the main part of Kazakhstan, the natural boundary is formed by sandstone and chalk strata. It is necessary to move around the tract with caution, periodically there are scours that impede passage.
Of course, you need to travel around the Boszhir natural boundary in a suitable car. Ideally, it makes sense to inspect the tract from above and below, from the Plateau.


stands in the midst of dried litter. Litter is a special type of soil, one of the varieties of solonchak. Sor is characteristic of deserts in the central part of Asia. This layer of land on the north side is bounded by the Golbansche hill.

About 25 kilometers from the mountain are the sands of Tuyesu. They stretched from southeast to northeast for almost 30 kilometers.

The cliff rises at around 8 meters above sea level. The height of the mountain itself is 165 meters. Bokty is a remnant mountain formed at the bottom of the ancient sea. Exogenous factors such as weathering and erosion contributed to the formation of this natural object. A mountain of chalk rocks is composed.

Some tourists compare this natural monument with an inverted boat, others with a pie. The multi-layered south side, which is replete with different shades, became the reason for such a nickname of the mountain.

Ustyurt Plateau - map



START POINT:  AKTAU City southwest Kazakhstan 

Best Period:

April-May, September-November




  • Hiking in the SOR TUZBAIR






TOUR DURATION:   3 Days / 2 Nights

TOUR COMPLEXITY:   Light / medium

MILEAGE:  860 km


ROUTE:​  Torysh valley - Sherkala mountain -Kok Kala- Sor Tuzbair-Beket-ATA-Ustyurt Plateau- Bokty Mountain - "Tuyesu" Dune-Karagie Bassin

​Schedule of Day

Road length per Day : 335 km 

07:30 Departure from your hotel/hostel/ apartments Aktau City
9:30 Arrival to the Torysh (valley of spherical nodules)

You will visit the “Toryshskaya” valley, consisting of huge round fossils of unusual nature.

We take a memory photo, enjoy the views, inhale the delicious aroma of the steppes and move on.
11:30 Departure to
SHERKALA mountain
13:30 Arrival to the SHERKALA mountain
14:00 Tasty lunch with great views
15:00 Departure to the Sor TUZBAIR​

18:00 Arrival to the Sor TUZBAIR​
18:30 Hiking on the Plateau/ Photographing a Sunset
20:30 Cooking dinner / Overnight stay in a Yurt Camp


Road length per Day :180km - Difficult Plateau Road

07:00 Breakfast

08:00 Hiking / Photographing
10:00 Departure to the Beket Ata Underground mosque

14:00 Stop in the middle of a plateau / delicious lunch
15:00 Arrival to the Necropolis complex Becket-Ata
16:00 Departure to
Ustyurt Plateau
17:00 Arrival to Ustyurt Plateau
18:00 Hiking on the Plateau/ Photographing a Sunset

20:30 Cooking dinner / Overnight stay in a tents


Road length per Day : 340 km 
07:00 Breakfast
08:30 Go hiking to the rock "Dreadnought".
11:30 Departure to the Bokty Mountain. The red color of the chalk is what really sets this mountain apart.
12:30 Arrival / hike 1hr
13:30 Delicious Lunch at the Bokty Mountains
14:30 Departure to Karagian depression
15:30 stop  in the "Tuyesu" Sands /hike 40 minutes
16:30 Arrival to The Karakiya Basin/ hike 1hr

19:00 Arrival to The Aktau City / Hotel / Hostel



Travel Taxi option: Suv (max. 4pax): 870 USD
Including: SUV-driver-fuel.


  • •     1 Traveler -   1200 USD
    •     group of 2 Travelers - 1300 USD 
    •     group of 3 Travelers - 1380 USD
    •     group of 4 Travelers - 1480 USD


Included: SUV + fuel + experienced English speaking guide -meal,

  • First Night at Yurt Camp

  • Second Night in a Tent (all gear included)

  • Tickets to the National Parks, 

  • Bottled water per person/each day


Domestic flights

  • accommodation in * hotel in Aktau

Surcharge for single occupancy (26 US dollars)
Visa support and registration in Kazakhstan, if necessary
All personal and other expenses



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