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 ◦◦ Italy ◦◦ Mauritania ◦◦ Oman

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

In April 2022, I guided a small group of adventurers in western Kazakhstan. After a day in Aktau, the capital of Mangistau Province, we embarked on a jeep safari into the depths of the Mangyshlak Peninsula. The group members and I are all well-traveled people who have seen many unique places around the world. However, when we reached the edge of the deep gorge in front of Bozjyra, we were all speechless for a few minutes. We hadn't expected such beauty, extraordinary scenery, and a breathtaking view. Throughout the trip, we couldn't help but admire the nature and the unique atmosphere of the area.

The peninsula is part of the Ustyurt Plateau, which extends into Uzbekistan. In 2021, I also led a small group to explore the same plateau around the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. While the scenery is beautiful, the Kazakh part of the Ustyurt Plateau is more stunning.


Five million years ago, this place was hidden in the depths of the ancient Tethys Ocean. Its waters created bizarre cliffs and caves of beautiful colors. The area lies between desert and semi-desert, with a harsh, dry continental climate. There are no rivers or 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 is Aktau (formerly Shevchenko). If you intend to explore the region, you will likely arrive in Aktau. Turkish Airlines offers convenient flights from/to Istanbul, so there is no need to go to Almaty or other cities in Kazakhstan.

The peninsula boasts stunning landscapes and is truly unique. Its main attractions include vast clay deserts, salt pans, limestone mountains, and spectacular canyons. It has a special energy, making it an ideal location for shooting space movies featuring 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.