Turgen gorge and waterfall

Where is it

Turgen gorge is located 80km to the east from Almaty: being 45km long in total, it starts near Turgen village and ends at a foot of Asy pass. It takes from 1.5 to 2 hours of driving from Almaty. There is a regular bus connection between Almaty and Issyk, and you may take a taxi (or taxi-bus) from Issyk to Turgen.
Kairak waterfall: 43.1861, 77.73337

What to do

- trekking and camping in wild Turgen!
- mountain biking: one of the best routes via Asy highland pasture
- rafting by Turgen River
- meet the nomads and see living yurta, as well as explore the ancient settlements, altars and burial mounds

How to get there

By Kuldja road to the east from Almaty, then turn right in a direction of Issyk town. Follow the main road through the center of Issyk, it will finally lead you to Turgen village. 100m before the Turgen village turn right (at a gasoline station) and enter the gorge. Follow the road up: after 10km you will see The National park entry gates (need to pay for entrance).


Summer season starts here in May, when the semi-nomads come up to the highland plateaus (dzhailau) with their yurta and animals. Normal day temperature in July is +18…+25, night +10…+15. June is a rainy season: it is raining almost every day. August and early September are perfect months to trek and climb in Turgen. November through March is a winter season: much of snow (up to 3 m), cold up to -30C.

What's interesting

Turgen waterfalls, deep spruce forests with mossy grass up to 1 meter thick, trout farm where you can catch local rainbow salmon “Osman”, Asy highland plateau where nomads live in yurta, Saki (Scythe) altars and burials, wildlife: ibex, deer, golden eagles and marmots.


- Trekking Club campsite in Turgen
- Turgen Dacha (next to Trout farm)
- Tau Turgen guest house
- Royal Fish hotel

The best way to come to Turgen gorge from Almaty is to drive via Issyk town that seems to be a perfect place to spend some 2-3 hours to explore the Skiff burial pyramids and pictorial Issyk lake! First of all, stop and take 30-minutes excursion by a new open-air Saki museum (you’ll see it on your right when drive in a direction of Issyk). The museum is built in the centre of king’s necropolis, just between the huge burial mounds. In 1969, the Kazakh archaeologists under the supervision of K.Akishev began excavations of a huge burial mound – they named it “Issyk” just to characterize it among a number of neighbouring structures, piercing the sky and forming a great complex of 45 earth pyramids, stretched out at a distance of 3km. And “Issyk”, having such impressive neighbours, does not stand out in any way – it rises only 6,5m above the ground. We say “only”, as the other burial mounds measured 15m in height. As other burials, it was raided back in the ancient times. Fortunately, the raiders neglected a side burial, which was not even a main one, where the remains of a man laid. This man entered the history as the “Golden Man of Issyk” and became one of the national symbols of Kazakhstan.

This is how researchers describe the burial: a man was dressed in parade clothing and placed inside the tomb, the walls of which were lined with log construction and the floor was “paved” with wooden blocks. He was dressed in short jackets and silk shirt underneath the jacket, narrow pants from red velvet, and high boots. Wide belt was worn on waist, it was adorned with casted metal plates in a form of fantastic deer and elk head. Tall kulakh was placed on his head: its from was decorated with protomai of winged horses, on top – images of birds in the tress and leopards over the mountains in background. Trumpet-like two-piece hryvna with leopard heads on its ends decorated his neck. Two rings were worn on his right hand: one with a smooth plate and the other with an image of Sun God Mitra. From the left side, an iron dagger with a knob in a shape of two griffon heads was attached to the belt. Its blade was incrusted with golden plates with images of beasts. The jacket was completely covered with triangle tins in a shape of shamrock and tiger/leopard heads. The boots were also decorated with triangle golden plates. That is how Saki viewed the surrounding world filled with gods, symbols and metaphors. In the museum, you will be invited to see how the ancient Skiff (Saki) rulers lived and died.

Saki or Scythe burial Scythe culture

Your next stop on a way to Turgen is Issyk Lake, which is located at an altitude of 1700m above sea level. One theory coming from geologists says that a landslide that occurred more than 10.000 years ago formed a natural dam of about 300m, which stopped the flow of a river thereby gave birth to the lake. There are just 40 minutes from the centre of Issyk town by a good road: do not miss the stunning view of a deep-green lake nestled among the rocky slopes in a wild and beautiful landscape! 

Issyk lake Turgen waterfalls

There are 15 kilometers more to the east from Issyk, and you enter famous Turgen ravine. Turgen is one of the most beautiful gorges in Zailisky range. While you’re moving further by the road that stretches deep into the canyon along the overflowing Turgen River, you feast your eyes on the richness of the luxuriant vegetation. Here, in the beginning of the gorge, a well-known trout farm is located: you can catch the royal fish (rainbow salmon called “Osman”) and get it fried for lunch. Turgen valley is also known for its waterfalls: there are 7 big waterfalls in this area but 2 of them are definitely “must visit” places: a Bear waterfall (30min of hiking from AkBulak café) – is 30 meters tall and located a height of 1450asl, and Kairak waterfall – the gem of Turgen collection. It will take 2,5-3 hours to reach Kairak from Batan place (upper reaches of Turgen gorge, end of asphalt road). You start at confluence of Kishi-Turgen and Turgen rivers and follow up the Turgen bank by pictorial earth road, without essential ascent. The old road stops at a big glade, at a confluence of Turgen and Kairak streams. Another kilometer up by a good path through the spruce forest, and a great view of a majestic 55-meter high Kairak waterfall appears (2210m asl). 

Turgen waterfalls Turgen wildlife

The canyon of Turgen is as long as 45 km: it starts as a wide green valley and turns into a deep rocky cliff that leads to the foot of Asy pass. The upper part of a gorge is famous for its relict Chin-Turgen spruce forest that still keeps the secrets of the last Ice Age inside the mossy grass that covers the slopes in the thicket. The moss can be up to 1 meter thick and keeps inside 0C degrees temperature in any season! The Turgen forest is a home to many animals like Tien Shan brown bears, Siberian ibex, Asian lynx, marmots, local deer “elik”, wolfs, golden eagles and blue birds. It is interesting to note that this area is used by the nomads for the thousands of years: there are many places along the gorge where you can meet the burial mounds dated from Saki to Turk period (from VII BC to Middle Ages), altars made of huge menhirs and Bronze Age settlements

Turgen camping Asy plateau

You need at least 2 days to discover the attractions of Turgen, so the Trekking Club campsite seems to be the best place to stay for a night inside a gorge, with “glamping” service! The campsite is a beautiful glade in the upper reaches of Turgen River, in immediate proximity of Big Kairak waterfall. The river is a natural barrier that isolates a private camp territory from the road, but Trekking Club guests may always use our bridge to cross it. So, no any vehicles or passersby will disturb. Though, in spite of apparent privacy, a camping site is easy place to find – you just need to follow main Turgen road up to Batan. There are about 20 km from National Park entry gates, and 70 km from Almaty itself. The road is fully asphalt-paved so seems to drive smooth and fast. Trekking Club safari camp is a quite new project offering comfortable accommodation in big two-room tents and marquees located in the virgin forest. Here you may rent a bicycle, ask for rafting or rock-climbing course. Our Skiff sauna is open 24 hours, as well as rich buffet is always waiting for you to taste safari dishes.

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