Charyn Canyon

This weekend I took part in an organized trip to Charyn Canyon.  With the weather starting to cool, this is most likely one of the last outdoor hiking excursions I’ll be doing during my remaining time here.  The canyon is located to the far southeast of Almaty, about 200 km away.

The canyon was formed by the very fast flowing Charyn River and is about 80 km in length.  The deepest part of the canyon goes down about 900 feet.  It is often referred to in the guide books as a miniature Grand Canyon.  While it does look somewhat similar from the top, it doesn’t have the jaw-dropping effect that the Grand Canyon tends to create.  Regardless, it was a really nice hike and the weather was perfect.

View of the canyon from the parking area at the trailhead

Hiking down the canyon

No shortage of interesting rock formations

You can see a man at the top of the canyon for perspective

Continuing down into the canyon

One of many precarious looking formations

Makes you wonder how long ago this formation toppled to the ground...

Lots of interesting sedimentary layers

More interesting outcrops and formations

After a while, we reached the bottom of the canyon and stopped for lunch along the river in an area known as the Valley of Castles.  This pic below gives you an idea of why it has this name.

Valley of the Castles

View from our lunch spot

Our picnic shed

The very fast moving Charyn River. Our guide reported that it's too dangerous to raft, with many Class V+ rapids.

Charyn River

Charyn River

After a relaxing lunch, we packed up and headed back out of the canyon.  On our way out, we stopped to talk to two Kazakhs with a golden eagle who were doing a demonstration about eagle hunting.  Our tour guide stopped to pose for a picture.

Our tour guide posing with a golden eagle

The timing of our visit was perfect.  As we hiked back out, we kept passing scores of people heading down towards the Valley of Castles from which we had just come. We joked that someone had opened the floodgates.  Turns out, when we got back up to the top of the canyon to our parking area, there were NINE tour buses parked there. No wonder we passed so many people!

On our way back, we stopped at a small eagle hunting museum.  While interesting, it looked as if it had seen better days.  The eagles and hunting dogs looked very malnourished.  When this question was posed to the director, she explained that both the eagles and dogs were fed less just prior to hunting season (starting in two weeks) so their hunger and lighter weight would make them faster.  I’m not sure how ethical it seemed, but it was certainly not my place to question their long-held traditions or practices.

Eagle Hunting Museum

Copies of area petroglyphs decorated the compound walls

Golden Eagle. Their feathers look a bit disheveled because they are molting this time of year.

Traditional Kazakh hunting dog

Spoils of the hunt

Part of a photo gallery of various official functions where eagle hunters participated

Another official function

After finishing our museum visit, we loaded up and headed back into Alamaty.  We did stop at a village market to take a break and check out some local produce, but nothing was really picture worthy there.  Till the next update…

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