Introduction

This large, the 4600-sq-km Altyn-Emel National Park (Алтын-Эмель) stretching northeast from Lake Kapshagay is worth it if you like beautiful desolation and unusual natural and archaeological attractions. Apart from the striking landscapes, such as the white, red and ochre of the fossil-rich Kakutau mountains, the park is famous for the Singing Dune, which hums like an aircraft engine when the weather is suitably windy and dry. Archaeology fans will be absorbed by the Terekty Petroglyphs and the 31 Besshatyr burial mounds – one of the biggest groups of Scythian tombs known anywhere. In spring and early autumn you can hope to see rare goitred gazelles (zheyran), argali sheep and wild ass (kulan), as well as shy Bukhara deer, lynx and Tian Shan brown bear (bring binoculars!).

Unless you're an adventurous traveller with own wheels and good language skills, the easiest way to visit is via an Almaty agency.