The best way to see an everyday nomadic life is to come to Asy (Assy) plateau – one of the biggest and most popular dzhailau place (summer pasture) in Almaty area. The Asy plateau is just 100km far from Amaty to the east: you may come via Turgen gorge or from Bartogay lake. The plateau starts after the Asy pass (2600m) and lasts for the next 40km to the east at the height of 2100-2800m above sea level – it ends with a huge Bartogai lake formed by Chilik river.
A great view appears when you reach the Asy pass: an incredibly huge green valley with pearls of white yurtas and remote flocks of sheep and horses. This is a place with rich and long history: the nomads use this plateau for the hundreds of years. Different cultures and époques are closely interwoven and you can see the Bronze or Stone Age dolmens facing the giant burial mound of Saki (Scythe) era. There are places with amazing rock engravings, sacrificial altars made of stones (used in shaman’s rituals) and burial pyramids still wait to be discovered by archaeologists.
Asy valley is a part of a National reserve, and is also famous for its wildlife: Golden eagles, vultures, falcons, foxes and marmots live here protected. Another attraction of Asy is an Astronomical Observatory - one of the biggest in Kazakhstan, huge dome is seen from any point of the valley.
Roads: there is a good asphalt road from Almaty to the upper reaches of Turgen river, Batan place (80km) and from Bartogai to Almaty (170km). The dirt road through the plateau of the Assy is basically passable, but on the ascents and descents there are areas with heavy roads. Required 4-wheel transport (there are 70km in total of ground trail from Batan to Bartogay Lake)
Trails: mostly cattle-runner trails
National Parks: when enter from Turgen side, you pass through the Ile Alatau NP. There is a ranger station located at 6th km after entering the gorge (entrance fee is required: KZT 420 p/p as it was in 2017). Another temporary post (in high season) can be located above Batan, at the entrance to the Asy reserve (required payment of KZT 2000 per vehicle).
Petrol stations: the last one from Turgen side is at the entrance of Turgen village (on the turn to the gorge). Next one is on a way from Bartogai to Almaty, in Chilik town
Shops and cafes: there are no cafes of shops at a plateau, the closest ones are in Turgen gorge.
Water: there is a spring in Batan where you can take clean water for a trip (right of the road). At Asy, the water in the rivers is clean, but because of the large number of grazing animals it is better not to use it as a drinking one. Keep 5-10 liters of water per person per day
Cellular coverage: there is a cellular connection in lower part of Turgen gorge and near Kokpek village after Bartogai. No connection at the plateau.
• in Turgen gorge: Turgen Dacha guest house
• - yurta camping at Asy plateau (near Asy farm) – check in advance, it can be closed
HOW TO GET FROM ALMATY
Drive through the following points from Almaty: Issyk town – Turgen gorge – Batan farm – Asy pass (2600m) – Asy plateau – Bartogai lake – Kokpek village – Baiseit village - Almaty
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Summer activity options:
Winter activity options: ski touring
2-3 days of caravanning over Asy plateau (from Turgen to Bartogai)
The rough plan of such a trip may look like:
Day 1. Come from Almaty to the upper reaches of the Turgen gorge, up to Batan farm: 80km, 2 hours of driving. Batan is a place where Kishi-Turgen River flows into the main Turgen stream. It is a good place for tent camping (nice glades around), or you may accmmodate at a Trekking Club campsite. The remaining daytime you may spend in hiking to the Kairak waterfall (5-6 hours/8km one way).
Day 2. There is a spring near at the entrance to Batan (right on the road), where you can collect water for further trip. The road to the Assy pass starts right after the bridge at the confluence of the Turgen and Kishi Turgen rivers. Here starts the ascent along a narrow ravine leading to the east. In some places the road is very bad and suitable only for SUVs. After 5-6 km of driving up, the narrow gorge becomes wider and the view of the Asy pass and the observatory appears. The road up the pass is good and smooth enough, while a bit steep. You will see a number of parallel ground trails after a pass, and you’d better choose that one traversing the left slope of the broad valley of the Assy River. On this day you can drive a plateau for about 50 km and descend into a canyon, where can stop for a night (tent camping) somewhere near Red Rocks (descent to this place is average rated). Or, you may continue driving further to Almaty.
From Red Rocks point the trail climbs up the slope, until the wide plateau. The Bartogai lake will appear just after the plateau: the road may become slipper after the rain; driving in bad weather can be a tricky task.
All the way along the road you’ll see the groups of mounds of the Scythe (Saki) and the Türkic times: in most of the cases, petroglyphs and rock carvings of the same époques can be found on the rocks facing (or staying parallel to) these necropolis. Some strange paintings in the forms of signs and hieroglyphs can be met in some places. The countless herds of animals, being brought in for grazing for the summer period, will be visible at any time while passing Asy. Shepherds and their families live in yurts and are usually very hospitable.
Since the dirt road from Batan-to Bartogai (70 km) is heavy, consisting of constant ascent and descent, it is advisable to include a reserve time to overcome it.
At a Bartogai lake an asphalt road starts: it leads to Kokpek village (20km).
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