Kazakhstan: Mangystau

Ancient Underwater Volcano? Karyn-Ustyurt, Mangystau

Southeast of Aktau

Mangystau Region


October 16, 2018


What a day!  What a beginning for my journey in Mangystau!

My driver Vladimir picks me up at my hotel and off we go, out of town.  We detour for a bit of shopping at the “last stop” before the desert.

Always the desert!

But what a desert!

Secret Places




October 17, 2018

My driver Vladimir must have a GPS embedded in his skull. 

We drive across the desert floor. 

No road signs.

No markers assist us along the multitude of dirt tracks that veer off in all directions.

Yet we find our way through the mountains and to Vladimir’s “secret locations.”

Desolate. Not Empty.

Yurt Camp

Ethnoaul Kogez

Shetpe Village

Mangystau Region


October 18, 2018


In the Mangystau Region, 25% larger than France, the desert appears desolate and empty.  


But life abounds.

Three pilgrimage sites built by the Eighteenth Century Sufi mystic, Beket-Ata..

An oasis appears.  Lovely flowers and plants grow alongside a salty stream.  Too salty for fish.

A Yurt Camp provides warm, comfortable bedding and hearty meals. 

Livestock everywhere. 

Paratethys Sea



West Kazakhstan

October 20, 2018


I am standing on the rim that overlooks the ancient seabed and salt basin of the Paratethys Sea.

Even this rim on the edge of the plateau was likely covered by antediluvian waters.

Thirty-five million years ago Paratethys extended as far west as the modern Atlantic Ocean.  The seas covered the land masses east through the areas of the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, across the Caspian Sea and west to the Aral Sea.   Eventually Paratethys flowed into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Chalk Cliffs and Salt Basin

Tuzbair Cliffs

Ustyurt Plateau



October 19, 2018

The Tuzbair Chalk Cliffs of Mangystau extend for twenty-four kilometers as they face the Great Salt Basin.

Nature sculpts and gouges an infinite variety of chalk-limestone cliffs and crevices, carvings and statuary that gleam with intensity and grandeur. 

The salt in the basin crackles beneath my feet.

Valley of Castles

The Peninsula of Mangystau


October 20, 2018

Hello from the Valley of Castles,

Here are excerpts for an official Mangystau publication:

The system of small remnant mountains is known among the local population under the name of Airakty-Shomanay.

In 1851, the great Ukrainian poet and artist T.G. Shevchenko was in exile here. These mountains so impressed him that he made a series of drawings under the poetic name "Valley of Castles."