Twenty-five photos from the eerie Mangistau in Kazakhstan

Twenty-five photos from the eerie Mangistau in Kazakhstan

adventure travel & photography

Destinations: Pakistan ◦◦ India ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan ◦◦ Japan ◦◦ Hong Kong ◦◦ Greece ◦◦ Ukraine ◦◦ Syria ◦◦ Morocco

Type: Photo stories ◦◦ Places ◦◦ Documentary ◦◦ Black and White ◦◦ Fine Art Prints ◦◦ Seascapes ◦◦ Urban

In April 2022 I led a small group of enthusiasts in western Kazakhstan. After a day in Aktau, the capital of Mangistau Province, we went on a jeep safari deep inside the Mangyshlak Peninsula. The group members and I are all very well-travelled people who have seen countless unique places worldwide. However, we were all speechless for a few minutes when we reached the edge of the deep gorge in front of Bozjyra. We just did not expect such beauty, extraordinary scenery and breathtaking view that was presented to us. Actually, during the whole trip, we could not stop admiring the nature and the unique atmosphere of the area.

The peninsula is part of the Ustyurt Plateau, which continues further into Uzbekistan. In 2021, I also led a small group in Uzbekistan to explore the same plateau around the Aral Sea. Although the same stunning scenery can be seen, the Kazakh part of the Ustyurt Plateau is much more spectacular.


Five million years ago, this place was hidden in the depths of the ancient Tethys Ocean, whose waters created bizarre cliffs and caves of beautiful colours. The area lies between desert and semi-desert and has a harsh, dry continental climate. There are no rivers and no freshwater springs. Geologically, the Mangyshlak Peninsula is part of the Ustyurt Plateau.

Administratively, the peninsula belongs to the Kazakh province of Mangystau. The province's largest city and capital are Aktau (formerly Shevchenko). Most probably you will arrive in Aktau if you intend to explore the region. Turkish airlines have very convenient flights from/to Istanbul, so there is no need to go to Almaty or other cities in Kazakhstan.

The peninsula, with its breathtaking landscapes, is unique. The main attractions are the vast clay deserts, salt pans, limestone mountains and spectacular canyons. It has its own energy, a perfect place for shooting space movies with aliens and other planets.

As mentioned above, the Tethys Ocean covered this land millions of years ago. Its remains, fossils of long-extinct species, are easy to find today. We spent hours searching for fossils.

The chalk mountains of Bozjyra (also Boszhira) are two pointed peaks, from the foot of which you can admire the picturesque castle wall. Another area is the "Valley of Spheres" - a valley with spherical rock formations, striking for their eerie appearance. Other places worth seeing are Mount Sherkala, a snow-white rock that changes its appearance when you walk around it and the Kapamsay Canyon. You can also visit Jygylgan - "the fallen ground", the valley of Ayrakty-Shoman, the salt lake Tuzbayyr, the Ustyurt plateau itself, of course, the colourful mountains Kyzylkup (Tiramisu) and many others. You need at least a week of time and well-equipped jeeps to visit all the exciting places in the region. If you decide to take the effort to reach this remote region, it could be the trip of your dreams come true.