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Sayram-Ugam National Park/Kazakhstan

Introducing Sayram-Ugam National Park

This park abutting the Uzbek border immediately southwest of the Aksu-Dzhabagly Reserve offers similar attractions and biodiversity to Aksu-Dzhabaghy. A recently established community ecotourism programme provides homestays in the villages of Kaskasu and Dikhankol and the town of Lenger, outside the park’s northern boundary. This is a less visited and cheaper alternative to Aksu-Dzhabagly, and you can even combine the two areas via a 60km, two- or three-day foot or horse trek between Zhabaghly and Kaskasu villages.

Good outings into the hills by foot or horse are to Kaskasu Canyon and Ak-Mechet Gorge (day trips), and Susingen Lake (two or three days, camping). Community-ecotourism prices per day are 2000T per guide (English speakers available) or horse, 3000T for homestays or camping including meals. There’s a 200T per person park entrance fee.

Homestays are slightly more basic than at Zhabaghly, with outside toilets (except at Lenger). At Kaskasu and Lenger you can stay in yurts (2900T).

Make arrangements through the Ecotourism Information Resource Centre in Almaty, or contact the local coordinator, Abdeshev Alikhan (300-222 03 28; a3@ok.kz), at Kafe Kara-Kia in Lenger. He speaks little English, though.

Lenger is 40km southeast of Shymkent; Dikhankol is 75km and Kaskasu 100km. The ecotourism people offer taxis from Shymkent to Lenger (1200T, 30 minutes), Dikhankol (2300T, 1¼ hours) and Kaskasu (2800T, 1½ hours). From Shymkent bazaar there are frequent marshrutkas (100T, 40 minutes) and shared taxis (150T, 40 minutes) to Lenger, plus one afternoon bus to Dikhankol (200T, two hours) and Kaskasu (200T, 2½ hours).