The natural park was founded in 1996 on the basis of the Kapchagai hunting farm. The main estate is located in a tiny Basshi village. The distance to Almaty is just over 260 kilometers. The reserve is about 30 kilometers wide (north to south) and about 200 kilometers long from west to east.

The unusual name of the park resulted from the ancient Mongolian term, with a very beautiful translation – the “golden saddle”. There is an amazing about it. It is said that in the first half of 1219, troops led by Genghis Khan passed through the pass and the valley here. And the famous conqueror was fascinated by the mountains at sunset. They reminded him of a saddle cast in gold.

The territory of the reserve is full of various landscapes. Here, you can find sandy deserts, and mountains, and vegetation. And here, various monuments are scattered, which are extremely valuable to history and culture.

Aktau Mountains

These unique Cretaceous mountains of the Cenozoic period are rich in gypsum clay. Here for thousands of years, water and wind have been able to pierce magnificent canyons.

In this place of the Altyn-Emel nature reserve, you will immediately be fascinated by the exposed area. There is no vegetation, which makes the mountains look like the moon surface. They abound in fairly steep slopes. They are also characterized by a visible separation, which is provoked by drakes and heavy rains. The Aktau Mountains are believed to be a world-famous paleontological site. For example, here in lake sediments, the remains of ancient rhinos, crocodiles, turtles were discovered. Moreover, all the bones were found in excellent condition, which enabled scientists to identify the age of the find. The remains are about 30 millions of years old.

Katutau Mountains

They are located near the Aktau Mountains. They are characterized by dry cloves. From a distance, blue limestone sandstones look beautiful with red clay. The mountains look very proud and majestic. It is not surprising that the precise translation of the word “Katuatau” is “Severe Mountains”.

Historians believe that once there used to be two volcanoes. To prove this point of view, they turn to the fact that the mountains’ basis is lava and other volcanic rocks. Researchers have even discovered cracks filled with magma. It was shaped by an earthquake during the tectonic plates’ movement. In the northern part of the mountains, rocks belonging to the ancient Tethys Ocean can be found. Today they have formed rather unusual figures.

The Singing Dune

This attraction of the reserve is located between the two mountains Ulken Kalkan and Kysty Kalkan. The Singing Dune is a huge sand dune, one and a half hundred meters high. It is about three kilometers long. The object got its original name because of the systematic rumbling sounds produced by the dune. If sand pieces just rub against each other, you can hardly hear the hum. But if the wind accelerates the sand, you can enjoy the music of the nature. In this place sand moves quickly. However, scientists noted that the dune is not a “nomad”. It has been in the same place for several centuries.

An interesting legend relates the Singing Dune. It is said that Genghis Khan and his most courageous soldiers are buried in the local sands. And music appears at the moment when the soul of the conqueror begins telling the story of his great campaigns.

Seven-hundred-year-old willow

On the natural park territory, there is a unique place with unusual radon springs. This is where giant willows grow. It is believed that the local waters have healing power and help to get rid of various diseases. In one of the tracts (called “Kosbastau”) the oldest willow grows. Scientists estimated its age – and got about seven hundred years. Its branches, looking like thick trunks, rest on the ground. And one person can’t hug the whole tree. This oldest willow is considered to be sacred; a legend with Genghis Khan is related to it. They say that in the 12th century, during the conquest period, the great conqueror came to rest here. He enjoyed lying down and meditating under the majestic willow.


Besshatyr is a unique archeological landmark. The place’s other name is the Royal Mounds. After all, it was here that the ancient leaders of the Saxons, who ruled in the 7th – 3rd century BC, were buried. This place is surrounded by menhir rings. The stones surrounding the burial a bit resemble the famous Stonehenge. In total, in the valley you can see three dozen tombs. The highest tomb is 17 meters high and 108 meters in diameter. The fact that they contain precisely the royal remains has been proven by scientists.

Seasonality. The climate of the region is extremely continental, winters are very cold and dry, summers are quite hot, but you can visit sights all year round. It rains mainly from April to May. If you come in late spring or early summer, be sure to bring tick repellent. When driving along sand dunes, keep in mind the strongest winds. In summer, take sunglasses and sun screens, drinking water.

The National Natural Park is rich in flora. Scientists have counted about 1.5 thousand different plants. There are rare species that are included in the Red Book. Muslim tar, Alberta tulips, Astragalus Kopalsky, Kahris Herder and other rare plants are especially popular among tourists. It is worth mentioning that the majority of the local flora has healing properties. Many species of plants serve as food for animals, and fruits and seeds are the main food for birds and rodents. Eastern feather grass, shrubby henna, etc. are especially valuable. Medicinal plants, melliferous plants and essential oil species, which have an amazing gentle aroma, are also found in the park.

The area is full of insects – there are about 5 thousand species. Scientists have listed 25 species in the Red Book. Among them, a rare phalanx spider, mantis, dragonflies and other insects.

In the park there are even vertebrates. There are about 20 fish species in the Kapchagai reservoir. Three of them are endemic. In addition, there are reptiles, including a rare Alai hologlaz, snakes, steppe agama, a unique arrow-snake and many others.

260 bird species migrate and nest on the territory, 34 of which have been listed in the Red Book by scientists. Among them we should mention owl, roe, gray crane, peregrine falcon, snake-eater, bearded beak, pink pelican and other rare species.

Altyn-Emel is a place where you can find about 70 mammal species. Unfortunately, some of them belong to an endangered species. For example, red marten, snow leopard, Tien Shan ram. It is on the territory of the reserve that the largest population of mountain goats, kulans and gazelles is concentrated. Here, the famous Przhevalsky horse is bred. Moreover, tourists in the park can see various rare artiodactyl animals.

Partridge and chukars are found in rocky crevices. They are cute birds that enliven a rather boring mountain landscape. Chukars are not used to flying, they prefer to jump from stone to stone or flutter to overcome a difficult obstacle. Tourists need to consider that these creatures are very shy. They hide, when hearing a slightest noise.

And in these places, you can find the most beautiful mountain swallows. Some travelers manage to see the climbers on steep cliffs with their own eyes. These are beautiful birds that flutter like butterflies. They have unusual wings of raspberry and black shades. Looking at them, you remember about exotic moths.

Higher in the mountains is the Himalayan vulture. In Kazakhstan, it is called differently – kumai. This bird is considered one of the largest predators in the world. The bird world is very rich here, due to the fact that in the park there are very different natural objects, ranging from desert plains to mountains.

Year-round. The climate of the region is extreme continental, characteristic to the steppe, with cold dry winters and hot summers. The highest rainfall is experienced in April and May. While traveling there in hot seasons, it can be sensible to equip yourself with a sunscreen, a hat and a protection against mites. In any season, the region of the parks might experience cool weather, which requires appropriate clothes. Strong winds are frequent in the region of Sandy Barkhan.
Floral world of the sanctuary comprises about 1.5 thousand plant species, which include several unique ones that are the part of the Red Book. The most careful attention need such species as silene of Muslim, tulips of Albert, kopal astragalus, cachrys of Gerder, aquilegia (ranny’s bonnet or columbine) of Vitaliy.

Many plants in the park have healing properties. Additionally, some of them are the valuable food for animals (eastern stipa, atraphaxis, absinthe, etc.): seeds and fruits – for rodents and birds, green parts – for hoofed animals.

The number of insects species exceed 5000, 25 of which are included into the Red Book – solifugae spiders, grasshoppers, mantises, dragonflies and others.

Vertebrates of the park are versatile as well. Kapshagai Lake, which resides adjacent to Altyn-Emel, hosts approximately 20 aquatic species, 3 of which are known as endemics of this place.

Reptiles are represented by 25 species: halys viper snake, ablepharus lizard, steppes ratsnake, steppes agama, snake-arrow, etc.

From 200 birds that inhibit this region, 174 nest here, while 18 are included in the Red Book (ferruginous duck, black stork, grey crane, berkut, short-toed snake eagle, bearded vulture, eagle-owl, Pallas’s sandgrouse, houbara bustard, brown pigeon, etc.). There is an abundance of different species of partridges and kekliks that acquire bright colouration. However, they are not very fond of flying – mostly they hop. The steep rocks are inhabited by wallcreepers – magnificent birds, whose flight resembles the one of a butterfly. Himalaian vulture is another famous bird of these places, being one of the biggest within predators. It lives at the highest points of the mountains.

Mammals are represented by more than 70 species, 7 of which are on the brink of extinction (marbled polecat, red marten, otter, snow leopard or ounce, argali, kulan). Even-toed are represented by a diversity of argalis, djeirans, arhars and roe deers. People are keeping the Przewalski’s horse.

Duration: Duration:Two days and more, if the trip to Zharkent is included.
Cost: Cost:130 000 KZT per car (independent of the number of people).

Meals and accommodation are payed for separately.

Costs for guest houses differ.

Tour includes: Tour includes:

Payment: Payment:Payment should be made not later than 24 hours prior to the trip-time.
Payment available by cash, credit card or bank transfer.
In case of refusal 24 hours before the trip start, 100% of amount already paid will be refunded; later than 24 hours before the trip start, 50% from an initial cost is retained by the company.