If you don’t find mountains, museums or nightlife in Almaty exciting enough, take the time to visit the following natural wonders of the region - the majestic canyons of Charyn and the healing hot springs in Chundzha. You can even fit both destinations in a single trip since both are located in the same direction - to the South-East from the city. Take note that you will need at least two full days to visit both, because the trip to Chundzha takes about 5 hours one way.
The Red Canyon (geographical name) or “Valley of Castles” is one of the wonders of Kazakhstan, a unique natural object, where, under the influence of thousands of years of weathering processes of sedimentary rocks, unusual relief forms were formed - remnants in the form of pillars, towers, chapels. "Valley of Castles" - Sharyn Canyon - is a dry gorge washed by melt waters.
The length of the Charyn Canyon is 3 km, width from 20 to 130 meters, depth from 100 m. The length of the canyon is 154 km along the Charyn River, near the border with China and Kyrgyzstan.
Now this is a much more strenuous trip, so don’t attempt it in summer or if you are suffering from heart disease or high blood pressure. The canyons are located in a desert region and have very little shade, so be sure to protect yourself from the sun and the heat. The trip will be more comfortable in early spring or mid-autumn.
You can book this trip from most tour agencies in Almaty, and it will take at least one day. If you want to visit multiple canyons, plan for 2 days. If you can’t speak russian, try to find a tour that offers an English-speaking guide. The canyons are located within 210 kms from Almaty and the typical tour offers a comfortable bus ride both ways. You can also book a more expensive jeep tour if crowds make you anxious. The mountain highway will feature many beautiful views for you to enjoy.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothes, bring protection from the sun in warm seasons and from the cold in winter, and don’t forget to bring plenty of drinking water and some food. The natural park doesn’t have many amenities, so don’t expect to find any shops, cafes or even public toilets.
Comfort level: Low
Cost: from 20 USD
Time needed: at least 1 full day
Pros: unique landscapes, fresh air, interesting tour
Cons: very few amenities
Chundzha hot springs
Chundzha Hot Springs, nestled in the picturesque landscapes of Kazakhstan, are renowned for their therapeutic and wellness benefits. Situated in the Almaty region, these hot springs have been attracting visitors for centuries due to the reported healing properties of their mineral-rich waters. The Chundzha Hot Springs are located near the Chundzha River, surrounded by the scenic Tian Shan mountains, creating a serene and rejuvenating environment for those seeking relaxation and health improvement.
The mineral composition of the Chundzha Hot Springs is believed to include various elements such as sulfur, radon, and trace minerals, contributing to the therapeutic qualities of the water. Many visitors flock to these springs to experience the potential health benefits, which may include relief from rheumatic and musculoskeletal conditions, improved circulation, and skin rejuvenation. The warm waters, often ranging from 30 to 50 degrees Celsius, create a soothing and calming atmosphere, promoting both physical and mental well-being.
Beyond the health benefits, Chundzha Hot Springs offer a unique cultural experience as well. The location has become a popular destination for wellness retreats, spa treatments, and outdoor activities, making it an ideal place for those seeking a holistic approach to health. Whether visitors are drawn to the healing properties of the water or the stunning natural surroundings, Chundzha Hot Springs provide a tranquil escape for those looking to recharge and revitalize in the heart of Kazakhstan.
You can book a room or a small chalet at the hot springs online, and arrange a cheap transport to take you there and back to Almaty in almost every tour agency in the city. The comfort level depends only on how much you are willing to spend. Take some swimming clothes, a towel, a warm bathrobe if you’re going in the cold season, and enjoy a couple days of relaxation. The trip takes 4-5 hours one way, so its better to book 2-3 days of stay to have enough time to enjoy the hot springs in peace.
Comfort level: High
Cost: from 100 USD
Time needed: 5 hours one way trip, 3 days is best
Pros: healing hot water, peaceful landscapes
Cons: long ride, not much to do