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Karatau mountains.

Sightseeing tours on Mangyshlak.

“Nature is wise. You can learn everywhere and from everything”

Leonardo da Vinci.

Trip to Karatau mountains on Mangyshlak.

The area around the village of Shetpe is the most varied landscape on the Mangyshlak Peninsula. About 100 kilometres northeast of Aktau in the direction of Beyneu - the easiest way to get there is by train, since the road takes a detour via Munayshy - are the Karatau (Black Mountains), the highest peaks of which rise more than 500 metres, a considerable height in the middle of this flatland.
This mountain range is known for its unusual geological deposits and bizarre forms of erosion - Kazakhstan's geologists would like to see it turned into a protected area. One of the most spectacular natural monuments is Mount Sherkhala (Tiger Town), a wonderful pinnacle of rock that from one side looks like a white yurt, but from the other reminds one of a sleeping lion.
Its aspect at sunset is particularly impressive, when it appears to be floating over the grey plain. It's called Tiger Town in memory of a town, which in the Middle Ages lay right at its foot, and its inhabitants are supposed to have defended themselves like tigers against conquerors.
Just two kilometres farther on, directly on the Shepte-Shair road, are the excavations of the old caravan city of Kyzylkhala (Red Town), that is assumed to have been the centre of Mangystau in the Middle Ages.
Until now, a lack of money has prevented full excavation and restoration. With suitable funding and scientific care, a fascinating site for visitors could be set up here: an open-air museum, where it could be recounted that Mangyshlak played a far greater role in history than previously suspected.
An hour away by jeep is one of the most beautiful places on Mangyshlak, the Akmystau Mountains, also called the Valley of Castles, after a painting by Taras Shevchenko. Dramatically eroded mountains of almost every colour half surround and lie scattered on a plain, looking for all the world like the pinnacles and towers of a fairytale city.
Northwest and southeast of Shair village are extraordinary collections of huge stones - full globes, half globes and other geometrical shapes with diameters of up to three metres; they look like nothing so much as abandoned toys for giants (see picture overleaf).
Scientists speculate that they are concretions from the seabed, the centres of which consist of fossilized maritime microorganisms, which over the course of millions of years - during the Late Cretaceous period (80 million years go) when the sea level was 170 metres higher than now - formed concentric layers of mineral rock.

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Authority:
The guidebook across Kazakhstan . Authors Dagmar Schreiber and Jeremy Tredinnick. Publishing house "Odyssey".2010.

Photos
Alexander Petrov.