Lovers of mysterious, remote ruins should venture out to Akyrtas – Kazakhstan's Stonehenge – on the steppe 6km south of Aksholak village. What you'll find here is a rectangular precinct about 180m long and 150m wide with the low remains of massively thick perimeter walls built from 1.5m-long sandstone blocks, the bases of equally massive columns, jumbles of stones from around 100 rooms around a central open space, and evidence of an ingenious water supply system.

It's a place for the imagination, with no certainty about when it was built, whether it was completed, or even what it was for. The weight of opinion is that it was built as a summer residence for a local Arab or Karluk Turk ruler between the 8th and 11th centuries, but some believe that the stones here possess great powers, and come here to embrace them and tap into their energy.

Ashkolak is 35km east of Taraz on the Almaty road. Merke (Merki)-bound minibuses from Taraz bus station (6am and 6pm), can drop you at Aksholak for 400T, then you'll need a taxi from there.

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