Charyn Canyon. Kazakhstan
Charyn Canyon (or Sharyn Canyon) is a unique natural monument, built of sedimentary rocks, whose age is more than 12 million years. It can be considered as the younger brother of unrivaled Grand Canyon, which is located in the United States, their landscapes are very similar. However, the Kazakhs are very proud of it, claiming that it is no worse than the famous Grand Canyon, allegedly the American brother is just better known and, if I may say so, more touted.
Charyn Canyon is located in Kazakhstan, about two hundred kilometers east of the city of Almaty. The canyon is part of the Charyn National Park and is quite popular among the tourists. Its area is comparable to the territory of such a country as the Czech Republic. This is a very impressive and majestic place. In these places, scientists still find the remains of elephants, mastodons and other extinct animals.
The canyon length is more than 150 kilometers, and its depth in some places reaches 300 meters. Charyn River (or Sharyn River) flows here for millions of years, forming the bottom of the canyon. There are stones with a height of almost one hundred meters. This is truly an ancient and venerable place that still keeps the real relict flora. On the banks of the river in a few places there are unique groves of relict trees – the Sogdian ash tree and Asian poplar. The grove of ash-trees has survived the Ice Age and is now officially recognized as a natural monument. Another similar grove exists only in North America.
Charyn Canyon is one of the most beautiful places of Kazakhstan, which like a magnet attracts travelers and eco-tourists. The landscape is very changeable, and this condition creates a huge biodiversity. More than a hundred different species of birds nest here, and the number of plants reaches a thousand species as well, but mainly it is saxaul. The Kazakhs highly appreciate this plant, as it does not allow sand to spread and the desert wastelands to be formed, linking the ground and preventing its erosion. In general, the conditions are fairly stringent here, so the plants look very ascetic and strict – the stems, the thorns and a minimum of leaves. Everywhere you can see the grazing horses.
Charyn Canyon is a real paradise for fans of hiking and nature lovers. The most interesting place for tourists is the so-called Valley of Castles, the length of which is about 2-3 km, the width – 20-80 m. The valley got its beautiful name because of the similarity of the vertical stone pillars with towers and fortresses. And in fact, it consists of the most impressive giant pillars and intricate stone statues, carved out by the wind. The sand under the rocks was a part of most of these rocks. But the constant winds wash it out of the walls, giving the stones strange shapes and covering the lower part of the canyon by sand. Everything that can engage the attention here are multiple stone figures, incredible poles, sticking out of the sand mountains. Here you can see, for example, the head of Golem, the character of the Jewish mythology, a crashed alien ship or any other creature or thing which your fantasy can recognize.
Besides the cognitive walks on the territory, you can stop on the river bank for the night in one of the guest yurts. There is greenery, saving coolness, several bungalows and cafes, so you may dine in the picturesque national eco-restaurant.