Turgen is a lovely place: don’t miss a chance to explore its wonders even if you have only few days for Almaty!
What is Turgen and why is it the “must visit” place for any traveller? “Turgen” is a local name of a huge river valley. Being a part of the Northern Tien Shan mountains, the gorge of Turgen is as long as 45 km: it starts as a wide green valley and turns into a deep rocky cliff that leads to the foot of Asy pass. And it seems to be the only place where you can see the life of real nomads, wild spruce forests and great waterfalls, enjoy trout fishing, try white-water rafting and dive deep into the Scythe history…Meanwhile, the gorge is located just 80km to the east from Almaty: it takes 2 hours to get there by car via famous Issyk town (where a Golden man was found).
Wonders of Turgen: waterfalls
There are 7 big waterfalls in this area but 2 of them are most popular: a Bear waterfall (30min of hiking from AkBulak café) – is 30 meters tall and located a height of 1450asl, and Kairak waterfall – the gem of Turgen collection. It will take 2,5-3 hours to reach Kairak from Batan place (upper reaches of Turgen gorge, end of asphalt road). You start at confluence of Kishi-Turgen and Turgen rivers and follow up the Turgen bank by pictorial earth road, without essential ascent. The old road stops at a big glade, at a confluence of Turgen and Kairak streams. Another kilometre up by a good path through the spruce forest, and a great view of a majestic 55-meter high Kairak waterfall appears (2210m asl).
Wonders of Turgen: Asy plateau – highland pasture used by Kazak nomads
The best way to see an everyday nomadic life is to come to Asy (Assy) plateau – one of the biggest and most popular djailau place (summer pasture) in Almaty area. The plateau starts just after the Asy pass (2600m) and lasts for the next 40km to the east at the height of 2100-2800m above sea level. A great view appears when you reach the Asy pass: an incredibly huge green valley with pearls of white yurta and remote flocks of sheep and horses. This is a place with rich and long history: the nomads use this plateau for the hundreds of years. Different cultures and époques are closely interwoven and you can see the Bronze or Stone Age dolmens facing the giant burial mound of Saki (Scythe) era. There are places with amazing rock engravings, sacrificial altars made of stones (used in shaman’s rituals) and burial pyramids still wait to be discovered by archaeologists.
Another attraction of Asy is an Astronomical Observatory - one of the biggest in Kazakhstan, huge dome is seen from any point of the valley. The observatory is located on the Assy-Turgen plateau at a height of 2750 meters above sea level. It was build by Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute, and observations began to be performed since 1981. By 1991, two telescope towers and hotel facilities were raised, and a 1-meter telescope was launched. By 1990 it was planned to set up a 1.5-meter AZT-20 reflector telescope. The dome and the building were constructed, but since the beginning of 1990s the construction was suspended due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Currently, the construction is resumed, and the launch of the 1.5-m telescope is expected to occur during 2016-2018.
Wonders of Turgen: spruce forests, relict mossy grass and amazing wildlife
The upper part of a gorge is famous for its relict Chin-Turgen spruce forest that still keeps the secrets of the last Ice Age inside the mossy grass that covers the slopes in the thicket. The moss can be up to 1-meter-thick and keeps inside 0C degrees temperature in any season!
A deep spruce forest is a home to many animals like Tien Shan brown bears, Siberian ibex, Asian lynx, marmots, local deer “elik”, wolfs, golden eagles and blue birds.
You need at least 2 days to discover the attractions of Turgen and enjoy a great variety of activities inside a gorge:
…trekking by the forests, meadows and glaciers
…climbing (there are peaks over 4.000m ASL in the upper reaches)
…biking by the Assy plateau
…trout fishing (you can catch a rainbow trout called “Osman” at a Turgen trout farm)
…ride the Kazak horse
…meet the nomads and visit yurta
For the night you may camp at a pictorial riverbank or stay at a Trekking Club campsite known for its “glamping” service!
About the Trekking Club campsite: it is a beautiful spot in the upper reaches of Turgen River, in immediate proximity of Big Kairak waterfall. The river is a natural barrier that isolates a private camp territory from the road, but Trekking Club guests may always use private bridge to cross it. In spite of apparent privacy, a camping site is an easy place to find – you just need to follow main Turgen road up to Batan. There are about 20 km from National Park entry gates, and 70 km from Almaty itself. The road is fully asphalt-paved. Trekking Club safari-camp is an outdoor hotel offering comfortable accommodation in big two-room tents and marquees located in the virgin forest. Here you may rent a bicycle, ask for rafting or rock-climbing course. Skiff sauna is open 24 hours, as well as rich buffet is always waiting for the demanding customer to taste safari dishes.