Places

If you’re new to Planet Esoterica, have a read of our About Us page to learn more about our motivations and objectives. Right now, we’re focused on researching and writing about Kazakhstan, in particular the western part of the country. Take a look at some places we’ve explored so far, ranging from desert-covered peninsulas, remote Caspian Sea islands, underground mosques, and more. If you have time, we also recommend reading our history of Kazakhstan article.

Rocky shoreline and a blue Caspian Sea in Aktau.

Aktau

History of Aktau Located on Caspian Sea’s east coast, Aktau is a port city in Kazakhstan. It’s the Mangystau Region’s administrative capital and home to

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Photo from space of the Dolgiy Peninsula.

Aktau-Buzachinskiy Nature Reserve

Established in 1982, the Aktau-Buzachinskiy Nature Reserve (Актау-Бузачинский Заповедник) covers an area larger than Greater London. Animals living in the area include the Ustyurt mouflon,

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Aerial view of the Aktolagay Plateau, showing a triangular chalk peak.

Aktolagay Plateau

The Aktolagay Plateau is a cluster of freestanding chalk cliffs rising out of the eastern Precaspian Basin on the Aktobe-Atyrau regional border. It’s 50 km

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Wide shot of grey clouds over the Ural River in Atyrau.

Atyrau

Table of Contents History of Atyrau Tsardom of Russia Era The origins of Atyrau began in the 1550s after Tsar Ivan the Terrible’s soldiers overthrew

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ayrakty-shomanai-landscape-in-sunset

Ayrakty-Shomanai

Ten kilometres north-west of Shetpe town is Ayrakty-Shomanai, or as 19th-century Ukrainian artist-poet Taras Shevchenko preferred to call it: the Valley of Castles. The peaks are

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Rock spires rising above chalk slopes.

Boszhira

Boszhira (Босжира) is Central Asia’s rival to the USA’s Monument Valley National Park, with the added bonus of no crowds. Packed into a 7 x

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Buzachi Peninsula Deserts

The Buzachi Peninsula has five small ‘sands’ (пески), which is a Russian term for a small desert: the Kyzylkum (Кызылкум), Uvahkum (Увахкум), Shulshagylkum (Шулшагылкум), Zhilimshik

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Wide shot of Cape Zhigylgan showing steep cliffs and a giant bowl strewn with boulders.

Cape Zhigylgan

Forty kilometres west of the Aktau-Buzachinskiy Nature Reserve, on the Tub-Karagan Peninsula’s north coast, is the rubble strewn landscape of Cape Zhigylgan. Meaning ‘Collapsed Land’ in Kazakh, the area was

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A man running along a Caspian Sea shoreline near Golubaya Bay.

Golubaya Bay

On the south-west side of the Tub-Karagan peninsula is the half-kilometre-long Golubaya Bay (aka Blue Bay), which is sandwiched between the Uzynkuduk and Tulkili Gorges. Less than a kilometre

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kapamsay-canyon-white-cliffs-with-camels

Kapamsay Canyon

Kapamsay Canyon is four kilometres southwest of Shakpak-Ata. When approaching it from afar, you’ll see the white-sided walls of the chasm peeking up above the vegetated

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High shot from space showing Kaydak Bay, Dead Kultuk and Buzachi Peninsula.

Kaydak Bay

Kaydak Bay is a 15 km wide salt marsh extending for over 100 km along the Buzachi Peninsula’s east coast. A 1–2 metre high depositional

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Satellite view of New Alexander Fort, showing the outline of the old walls.

New Alexander Fort

Overlooking Dead Kultuk Bay is New Alexander Fort. It’s located on the cliff edge of the Western Chink Ustyurt (Западный Чинк Устюрт) and was in

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Satellite imagery of Otpan Tau, western Kazakhstan.

Otpan Tau

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,

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Steep cliffs beside a small, green lake in Saura Canyon.

Saura Canyon

Ninety kilometres north of Aktau is Saura Canyon. It starts 2.5 km inland, runs southwest towards the Caspian Sea and ends in front of the

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Golden-coloured sand dunes with Senek village in the background and chalk cliffs further beyond.

Senek Sands

The Senek Sands, also known as Tuyesu (Туесу), is an 11 x 30 km area of dunes located halfway between Zhanaozen city and Boszhira. Barchan dunes cover the south and

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Entrance to Shakpak-Ata underground mosque, carved out of weather-worn sandstone.

Shakpak-Ata

Situated 4 km south of Sarytash Bay, the 10th-century Shakpak-Ata is one of Mangystau’s most interesting historical-religious sites. Tauchik, a small village, is the nearest

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Rugged cliffs on top of Shalkar-Nura.

Shalkar-Nura

Shalkar-Nura is in the central section of the Irgiz-Turgay Nature Reserve and is a part of the Aktobe Region’s easternmost district: Irgiz. Although the district

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Close-up view of Sherkala's white, pink and brown cliffs.

Sherkala

Sherkala (307 m) is five kilometres west of Ayrakty-Shomanai on the northern side of West Karatau Ridge. In Turkmen, Sherkala means ‘Lion Fortress’ as its western aspect looks like

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Red sandstone sarcophagus, locally known as sandyktases, sit in steppe land near Shopan-Ata.

Shopan Ata

Twenty kilometres north of Senek village is Shopan-Ata, a circa 10th-century underground mosque that is one of Mangystau’s oldest religious sites. It was first surveyed

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Wide view of Sor Tuzbair from the plateau.

Sor Tuzbair

Eight kilometres south of Kizyl-Bas/Say-Utes is Sor Tuzbair, a salt marsh stretching for 15 km along the edge of the Western Chink Ustyurt. Along with

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A cluster of six rock balls sitting in a desolate stretch of Kazakh desert.

Torysh Valley

Eight kilometres east of the Aktau-Kalamkas road is the Valley of Balls. Locally known as Torysh, the valley lies on the north side of the

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Tyuleniy Archipelago seen from space with colourful water and marshes.

Tyuleniy Archipelago

Ten kilometres off the north coast of Tub-Karagan Peninsula is the Tyuleniy Archipelago. Tyulen means ‘seals’ in Russian. The archipelago consists of five named islands. The westernmost

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Rail carriages loaded with giant industrial pipes outside of Zhanaozen railway station.

Zhanaozen City

Founded in the late 1960s, Zhanaozen has a population of 100,000+ people, making it the Mangystau Region’s second largest city. Until 1992, it was called

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