Otpan Tau (532 m) is the Mangyshlak Peninsula’s highest point. From the summit, you can see unrestricted views of Mangystau’s vast steppe, the Caspian Sea, and endless numbers of weather-worn ridgelines and rock features. It’s in the middle of the West Karatau Range and previously served as a watchtower and fire-signalling point to alert residents to danger. It was also used as a meeting point for clan leaders, religious recitations, and as a symbolic starting point for batyr warriors heading into battle, which is an honorific Kazakh word for ‘hero’.

Satellite imagery of Otpan Tau, western Kazakhstan.
Map Data: Google, © 2021 Landsat / Copernicus

On the summit, there’s a nearly 40 m tall monument to Adai-Ata (Адай-ата), a 15th-century leader of the Adai tribe. Besides the monument, there are two steles erected in honour of Adai-Ata’s sons, Kudayke and Kelimberdy. There’s also a statue of Kokbori, a female wolf considered to be the Turkic people’s ancestor. In front of the main monument stands the 15-metre Mother’s Image statue, built to honour Adai Ata’s wife. Sabyr Adai, a 20th-century Kazakh poet born in Karakalpakstan, encouraged the government to erect the Otpan Tau monuments to celebrate the region’s culture and history.

On the day of Nauryz, Adai’s ancestors meet on the summit for the Amal holiday, where they light a torch from a giant flaming bowl and hand it between clan members. The event symbolises the unification of Kazakhstan’s three territorial tribal divisions (aka zhuzes).

There’s also an eight-room mausoleum, dedicated to Adai Ata’s eight grandchildren, and a history museum. Access to the monument is via a mountain road in between Tushchybek and Zhyngyldy. From the carpark 362 steps lead up to the summit—one for each of Mangystau’s holy places.

Three kilometres south-west of Tushchybek village is the little-visited Sulukapi gorge. The access road is a kilometre from the Otpan Tau turnoff. From Sulukapi’s mouth it snakes its way south for more than four kilometres before finishing near to the ruins of Sarytagan.

Coordinates:

  • Otpan Tau (RUS—ГораОтпан-тау):
  • Road to Otpan Tau: 16188803675628, 51.89479961861324
  • Sulukapi Gorge (RUS—Ущелье Сулукапы) entrance: 44.128928188409745, 51.91122019791793
  • Sulukapi Gorge access road: 44.128928188409745, 51.91122019791793
  • Sarytagan (RUS—Сарытаган): 44.095366475734316, 51.89024859841075
  • Tushchybek (KAZ—Тұщыбек): 44.146954315084876, 51.94106988729412

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