The Charyn Canyon consists of 5 different canyons: The Valley of Castles, the Yellow Canyon, the Red Canyon, the Temirlik Canyon and the Bestamak Canyon. Charyn Canyon is located 200 km from Almaty. The canyon is 154 kilometers long. The height of the rocks in the canyon reaches 150-300 meters.
About 1,500 different types of plants grow there (17 of them are rare and listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan), 62 types of different mammals, 103 species of nesting birds, 25 species of reptiles.
The formation of the canyon, by historical standards began not so long ago - only 12 million years ago. Then most of the territory that we call Charyn today was occupied by the large Ili lake. After it dried up, the mountain river Charyn remained in its place. A powerful stream of water gradually washed away the rock, the bottom became deeper and wider and the wind squeezed soft rocks, carving fantastic figures out of them.
The easiest way to get to the Charyn canyon is to look at the nearest travel agency and buy a weekend tour to Charyn. They will take you to a place and an experienced guide will guide you through the most important places of Charyn and tell you ancient legends and stories. In the end they will take you back to Almaty. The whole tour will last about 13-15 hours. The average price per one person is about 5500 tenge. This price includes transportation, guide and environmental tax.
If you are on a budget or you don’t want to spend your money on tours and guides, you need to go on to the Sairan bus station and take tickets for the bus that goes to Narynkol or Kegen. Ask the driver to drop you off at the turn to Charyn Canyon (all drivers know where it is) and then walk for about 10 kilometers to the canyon itself.
Before the Valley of Castles there is a kiosk where you need to show your documents (passport and car documents if you are driving). The cost of entrance is about 3 $ and if you are going to spent night there you will pay additionally; the price is changing depending on a season. Also, there is additional fee if you want to drive into the canyon with your vehicle, if not, you can park your car near the entrance of the park.
Experienced people that have been there for many times advise to visit Charyn Canyon in the spring (from mid-April to early June) or in the «golden» autumn (the end of August and September). Because in spring and autumn Charyn becomes more colorful. The river is full-flowing and bright green in the spring and golden in the fall. In the summer the average temperature is about 36-38 degrees. You will get heatstroke from staying there for too long. Also, plants dry out and river becomes shallow because of the heat. In winter time, Caryn is cold, damp and windy, the average temperature is -10 degrees Celsius and below.
If you decided to visit Charyn please bring water and food with yourself. Of course there are shops and cafés, but they are not opened for 24/7 and you will probably spend a lot of money, because everything is overpriced there. Also, wear comfortable hiking shoes and do not forget to take a camera or mobile phone with a good camera. The canyon looks amazing in the rays of the setting sun. Charyn Canyon is beautiful and the impressions that you receive there will remain in your memory for a lifetime.