Guide-book: Altyn Emel National Park

Altyn Emel National Park

Altyn Emel National Park was established in 1996 with the aim to preserve a unique natural complex on the right bank of the Ili River. The total area of the Park is about 520,000 ha, which makes it the biggest park in Kazakhstan. Its territory includes western ridges of Djungarsky Alatau Mountains, Aktau chalk hills, Katutau volcano, Bes Shatyr sacred area with prehistoric dolmens and a famous Singing Sand Dune. The Park is an extraordinary combination of various natural landscapes like deserts, mountains and rivers, which results in versatile vegetation and wildlife. Flora and fauna of the Altyn Emel is rich and diverse: about 200 species of plants, 78 species of animals, 230 species of birds, more than 10.000 species of insects and other invertebrates. Such rare animals like Przhevalsky horse, kulan (Turkmenian donkey) and Persian gazelle “djeiran” can be met here.



  • April: +15°...+25°C daytime; +2°...+12°C in the night
  • July: +33°...+43°C daytime; +15°...+25°C in the night
  • October: +5°...+15°C daytime; 0°...+10°C in the night
  • January: -5°...-15°C daytime,  -10°...-20°C in the night

Snow cover:

  • April --------
  • July ---------
  • October ------
  • January 0.2-0.5 m


Roads: there is a good asphalt road from Almaty to Bas'shi village (260km). Inside a park there are only ground trails. Distances: Bas'shi - Dune 40km, Bas'shi - Aktau 70km, Shengeldy - Bes Shatyr 80km. Limp salt marshes, found in some places, can make the ground roads impassable in/after the rain.

Trails: all trails are cattle-running, there are no specially marked hiking routes.

National Parks: there are 2 official entries to Altyn Emel NP: northern from Bas'shi village, and western from Shengeldy village. Permissions are issued only in the central office in Bas'shi or in Almaty branch office. You cannot buy tickets in Shengeldy, when enter. Both entries have posts, where permissions must be shown.

Petrol stations: last big one is in Saryozek village

Shops and cafes: there are few shops in Bas'shi village. No cafes.

Water: there are no any water sources inside a Park, so pack enough for the whole before entering the desert. The last point on a way where can take drinking water before going to Aktau is Araltobe village (9km to the south from Bas'shi)

Cellular coverage: is good along the asphalt roads and in villages. Connection inside a park is unstable, but there are points where it can be (in particularly, near the upper shelters in Aktau)


Guest houses

• there are guest houses in Bas'shi village and in the forester's post on a way to Singing Dune.


• there are good places for tents in Aktau mountains. Separate permission for tent camping is not required.


To the western entry: Almaty - Kapchagai town - Shengeldy village - Altyn Emel NP western entry

To the northern entry: Almaty - Kapchagai town - Shengeldy village - Saryozek village - Altyn Emel pass - Bas'shi village (NP main office) - northern entry


Natural and cultural attractions: Aktau colorful hills, Katutau volcano, Bes Shatyr scythe burial mounds, Oshaktas dolmens, Singing Dune, rock carvings, 700-year-old willow tree and oasis. Wildlife: herds of kulans and Persian gazelles "djeirans" are often met here.

Activity options:


In rainy weather, mudflows sometimes happen in the clayey gorges of Aktau hills - it is a serious danger. Limp salt marshes, found in some places along the ground trails in the Park, can make the road impassable in/after the rain.

Activity options:

The territory of the Park is really large: there are 200km from the west to the east, and 30km from the north to the south. It is better to plan at least 2-3 days for the Altyn Emel trip, so to see most of the attractions. Overnight staying is available both in tents (tent camping) and in guest house located in Bas'shi village. It is impossible to pass through the Park from the west to the north, where there are official entry points: to see Bes Shatyr area you need to enter from the west, and you cannot then go directly to Singing Dune or Aktau (way is blocked). So, need to get back and re-enter the Park from the north if want to reach Dune and Aktau hills. You should consider it (along with distances) when planning the route by Altyn Emel.
Aktau area and Dune sand ridge provide great opportunities for hiking.

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Altyn Emel National Park map

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Altyn Emel National Park map