Tamshaly and Meretsay Canyons

The rugged Tamshaly and Meretsay Canyons are 15km west of Cape Zhygylgan and 30km east of Fort Shevchenko. Their names are used interchangeably. However, officially the 3-kilometre-long Meretsay is a tributary canyon to the 10-kilometre-long Tamshaly. Where the two ravines meet is a clear freshwater lake, with steps leading down from the west side of Meretsay. A few hundred metres south-west of the steps are the ancient Shiaulie and Aktam Necropolises.

Satellite view of Tamshaly Canyon and Meretsay Canyon.
Map Data: Google, © 2021 CNES / Airbus, Maxar Technologies
Tamshaly Canyon lake surrounded by lush vegetation.
Tamshaly Canyon's freshwater spring. © Kaikups

From the lake, the canyon continues north for another 2km before terminating onto a wide plateau overlooking Karagan/Kanga, which is a disused Soviet-era fishing village now home to a couple of residential buildings. Dotted around the canyon are a handful of brackish, but potable, springs that are used by herders as a watering hole for their livestock. Surrounding the area are a few small groves of nettles, raspberry, mint, and mulberry trees.

According to local legend, a young woman named Meret was married to an old and sick khan. Together they lived in a nearby aul (a Turkic word for ‘village’). One hot summer, her husband died, and a drought hit the village. Remembering a spot where water welled up from behind a rock, Meret set out with a group to carve a channel to its source and save her people from dehydration.


  • Tamshaly Canyon (Tamşaly Kanony/Каньон Тамшалы) starting point: 44.5484, 50.6773

  • Steps to Tamshaly’s freshwater lake: 44.5885, 50.5923

  • Meretsay Canyon (Meretsai Kanony/Каньон Меретсай) starting point: 44.5797, 50.5694

  • Fort Shevchenko (Fort-Şevchenko/Форт-Шевченко): 44.5070, 50.2526

  • Cape Bagardzhik (Bagarjik Müiısı/Мыс Багарджик): 44.6326, 50.5981

  • Kanga/Karagan (Qanğa/Qarağan, Канга/Караган): 44.6202, 50.5865

  • Shiaulie Necropolis (Şiauli Qorymy/Некрополя Шиаулие): 44.5868, 50.5874

  • Aktam Necropolis (Aqtam Qorym/Некрополя Актам): 44.5845, 50.5867


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