A Unique Valley and a Ghost Town in the Karaganda Region

Several interesting spots to see in Kazakhstan

The pandemic, which hit the entire globe, has changed many facets of people’s life. For example, the pandemic boosted internal tourism because it’s hard to plan a summer vacation abroad when you are stuck in your own country due to restriction measures. Kazakhstanis just have no clue whether or not the state borders will be opened or if they have collected enough money to travel abroad while the economic crisis is still ongoing. 

Kazakhstanis are lucky – there are a lot of wonderful places in the country to visit. However, many do not know about them. A Real Kazakhstan project by the Kursiv edition and Chevron shows what tourists have to see in the Karaganda region.


Karkaraly National Park is included in the list of territories under state protection. The landscape of the park is diversified. There are forests, rivers, lakes, valleys, gulches, and mountains (at just 1,403 meters above sea level). Such a landscape is rare for Central Kazakhstan, so its significance for the country is massive. 

Moreover, Karkaraly National Park is well known for its developed infrastructure. Since the Soviet era, there are a lot of hotels, recreational compounds, and guest houses, which used to serve as children’s camps. 

unikalnoe-urochishhe-i-gorod-prizrak.-chto-posmotret-v-karagandinskoj-oblasti (2).jpg The small mountain lake in Karkaraly © qazaqstan3d.kz

In Karkaraly you can always find something to see. This area has habitats dating back over 9,000 years. 

There are many historical monuments of different ages in the territory of Kent Mountains: 

•    The Kent settlement (bronze age). You can find here ancient shelters, worship buildings, and even a primitive metallurgic complex (Wikipedia). 
•    Kyzyl Kent Palace – These are ruins of an old Buddist monastery from the seventeenth century. 
•    Taldy II burial ground, a site where archeologists found various golden pieces, is located near Kent Mountains.
•    Enbek-Suygush is a burial site of the bronze age and early iron age. Dongal settlement of Bronze Age and Domalaktas, the settlement of the Neolithic Age and Bronze Age.

Those who live close to Karaganda can commute to Karkaralinsk by bus or car. Others can use train or air travel via Karaganda. 

unikalnoe-urochishhe-i-gorod-prizrak.-chto-posmotret-v-karagandinskoj-oblasti (3).jpg The lake in the Karkaraly Mountains. Photo credits: Alexander Shatalov 

This is a good choice to travel to Karkaralinsk. Everyone can find something interesting, whether they are young people who travel with friends or adults with families. Prices and quality of service are also good. If you are going to spend several days in the mountains, you have to pay: 

  • $10 per day for accommodation 
  • $3.50 for food per one person
  • $2.50 for transportation (by bus from Karaganda) 

unikalnoe-urochishhe-i-gorod-prizrak.-chto-posmotret-v-karagandinskoj-oblasti (4).jpgThe East coast of Balkhash Lake. Photo credits: Alexander Vlassyuk 


This is the most popular destination for Karaganda residents, who want to relax on the shore of Balkhash Lake. 

The Balkhash is a landlocked brackish lake in the Balkhash-Alakol basin in the Southeast part of Kazakhstan. This is the second-largest perennial salt lake (Caspian Sea is the first) and 14th among the biggest lakes all over the world. The lake is divided by a very narrow peninsula. The phenomenon of the lake is its chemical compound: the lake’s water is fresh in the Western part and salt in the Eastern part.
*Source: Wikipedia

unikalnoe-urochishhe-i-gorod-prizrak.-chto-posmotret-v-karagandinskoj-oblasti (5).jpgThe wild beach on the lake. Photo credits: Askarlson 

If you dare to try something more active, you can do whatever you want:   

  • Sailing, 
  • Canoeing, 
  • Sportfishing, 
  • Gastro tourism (fish is a popular source of food in the town of Balkhash).

Also, there is a unique riparian woodland in the Balkhash area. It can be found only in Central Asia. Those who prefer mountains can enjoy the gulch of Bektau-Ata with a peak of 1,214 meters. 
From Karaganda to Balkhash, people can commute by car, buses, or train. Given the popularity of the lake, newer routes are available for travelers. 

unikalnoe-urochishhe-i-gorod-prizrak.-chto-posmotret-v-karagandinskoj-oblasti (6).jpgThunder on Balkhash. Photo credits: Oleg Sibirkin 


Once you travel to the South from Karaganda, you can find pine forests, cozy lakes and giant granite rocks. This mountain oasis in the middle of the steppe has existed for more than 3,000 years. 
The highest spot of the Kyzylaray Mountains is the peak of Aksoran (1565 meters). This gulch is the only place in Kazakhstan where a big population of wild sheep lives and a pine forest is bordering the desert. 

Tourists can see how Kazakhs used to live here and try some traditional food such as kymyz, shubat and kurt. They also can visit an amazing Begazy burial monument; see rock drawings of the Bronze Age, stone monuments of the Turkic age, and mausoleums of the age of Kazakh-Dzungar wars.

unikalnoe-urochishhe-i-gorod-prizrak.-chto-posmotret-v-karagandinskoj-oblasti (8).jpgThe old stone monument. Kyzylaray monuments. Photo credits: Erlan Ospan 

Kyzylaray is located 90 kilometers from Karaganda. Visiters can commute by bus or car to spend several days here in guest houses in the village of Shabanbay Bi or just in a tent in the open air.

unikalnoe-urochishhe-i-gorod-prizrak.-chto-posmotret-v-karagandinskoj-oblasti (9).jpgGiant granite stones in the mountains. Photo credits: Alexander Kuznetsov

Kyzylaray is the most underestimated place in terms of tourism in Kazakhstan. However, experienced tourists can take advantage of this. There are no people around for dozens of kilometers and no infrastructure. Nights in the open air, long talks at the fire spot, morning dew – would you need anything else to relax and reset your mind?  

Abandoned Town (RTI)

There is a ghost town of RTI just ten kilometers from the town of Saran. Currently, there are 2,000 residents instead of the 25,000 people who used to live here 20 years ago.

unikalnoe-urochishhe-i-gorod-prizrak.-chto-posmotret-v-karagandinskoj-oblasti (14).jpgDestroyed apartment building at the entrance point of RTI. Source: youtube.com

Even though the abandoned town is scary, it looks amazing. At the moment you arrive in the town, you see its dark buildings and a lot of small trees and grass, which is everywhere. It seems that nature is going to reconquer this place. The town is not big; you need 30 minutes to walk from end to end. Its biggest enterprise is the rubber plant, which used to be the biggest in the Soviet Union. Now it uses just 1/10 of its capacity.

unikalnoe-urochishhe-i-gorod-prizrak.-chto-posmotret-v-karagandinskoj-oblasti (15).jpgTown of RTI landscape. Twitter.com 

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