Bayanaul National Park

Bayanaul is known due to its abnormal and peculiar landscape. In contrast with Borovoe, Bayanaul landscape is a made of strange rock formations and has different types of forests. The park is also well known for the many legends that are related to the different natural formations of it. Bayanaul National Park is located about 450 km east from Astana180 km south from the Pavlodar region in Bayanaul district and about 140 km from the city of Ekibastuz, at the outskirts of the Central Kazakhstan hills. 

Bayanaul National Park is one of the specially protected natural areas of Kazakhstan where the beautiful mountain oasis meet the endless steppes. The park is Kazakhstans best collection of freshwater lakes, unique stones, natural springs, forest-filled mountains and unique caves. Bayanaul park was established in 1985 as the first national park in the country to preserve and maintain the natural flora and fauna in the Bayanaul mountain range. The park’s total area is 68 453 ha and the highest point of Bayanaul is Akbet mountain with the height of 1027 m. 

According to the scholars the world Bayanaul originates from Mongol-Turkic and in Mongolian Bayan-ola means “Prosperous hill,” a place of richness and blessed grazing mountains for the animals. The various legends of the area refer to the indigenous population that once lived in the area. The name of the area can also be related to the name of Bayan-Sulu (Sulu in Kazakh means “beauty”), who is the hero of a popular poem Kozy-Korpesh and Bayan-Sulu.

There are some popular destinations that one definitely must vist when in Bayanaul. To start the list, one should visit the grave of Zhasybai next to the Zhasybai lake, drink healing water from the springs in the gorges, go on an excursion to the Nazaitas and Kempirtas rocks, take a boat to the Island of Love in Zhasybai lake, conquer Akbet mountain and visit the sacred Konyr-Aulie cave to make a wish and many more.

Bayanaul mountain Naizatas called stone spear
Peculiar rock formation in Bayanaul national park, Kazakhstan

Baynaul lakes

There are four large freshwater lakes in Bayanal: Sabyndykol, Zhasybay, Toraigyr and Byrzhankol as well as several smaller lakes, some of which become significantly shallow in the dry season.

The largest lake in the area is Sabyndykol. in Kazakh Sabyndykol, translated as the “soap lake”. The name of the lake comes from the special water quality of the lake that reminds the texture of soapy water. When touching the water in the lake it feels soapy in your hand. According to legend, the beautiful Bayan used to wash her beautiful hair in the lake and dropped her soap into it. A more modern explanation suggest that the water in the lake is alkaline and therefore feels soapy. There is also a sleepy village carrying the name of Bayanaul at shore of the Sabyndykol.

The cleanest and perhaps the most popular lake in Bayanaul is Zhasybai. This second-largest lake of the area is settled in a valley between mountain ranges. According to legend, the lake was named in honor of the Kazakh batyr (warrior) Zhasybay. The surroundings of Zhasybai is well developed with outdoor recreational infrastructures and at the shore, you can find a bunch of hotels, cafes, camps and entertainment centers. 

Toraygir is the third largest as well the highest lake above the sea level. This lake is less popular compared to the Jasybay as its water is not as clean.  But in contrast the lake is rich with fish and you can find carp here. The name of Toraygir came from the Kazakh poet called Sultanmahmut Toraygirov as he spent his childhood in this region. Furthermore, there is also a village with the same name, where you can find a museum  dedicated to the poet.

Last but not least, Byrzhankol is located in the western part of the national park, somewhat apart from the other three. It is the smallest lake of the four, with a width of only about 800 meters. Same as the other lakes, this one also has a village on the shore with the same name but with only about 50 residents. This lake also offers interest for fishermen with a variety of carp. The name of the lake comes from the Kazakh words Byr means”One”, Zhan  means”soul” and Kol means “lake,” which translated means the”lake of one soul.” 

Toraygir lake in Bayanaul, Kazakhstan
Lake in Bayanaul national park

Kempirtas Rock

Rock Kempirtas is one of the most visited sites in the national park. The rock is a truly remarkable and unique creation of nature. The Kempirtas rock is also visible from some high points of the road from Lake Toraigyr to Lake Zhasybay.

The legend of this rock formation tells that a special breed of horses was raised in the village of Toraigyr. The horses were strong, fast and hardy. However one day someone got into the habit of stealing the valued horses. Each night the thief led away one horse, the best of the herd. The residents assigned the strongest horsemen to guard, but as if by magic they inevitably fell asleep at night and did not see the horse thief. One guy nevertheless decided that he would find the one who steals the horses. 

In the middle of the night, he finally saw how the earth itself opened up and a huge old woman Kempirtas rises from its depths. She approached the herd and took a horse to her cave, the doors of which immediately closed and turned to stone. He told the elders about it, so they gathered the best weapons and waited for Kempirtas the next night. 

It all happened again and the horsemen attacked the old woman, they fought all night. Then the thief rushed with her last strength to her cave, but she managed to get into the shelter only with her body. From the first sparks of morning lights, her head froze in stone. So the horsemen managed to save the herd and get rid of Kempirtas. 

Kempirtas rock in Bayanaul national park in Kazakhstan

Akbet Mountain

You can hike to the Akbet (white faced in Kazakh) Mountain from Zhasybai Lake along the beautiful valley. There you will see magnificent views of the lakes, steppes and mountains. It is the highest point with 1023 m among the small Bayanaul Mountains. According to the legend, the mountain was named after a girl who threw herself from the rock when she was given in marriage to a person she did not love. 

Konyr-Aulie Holy Cave

There is a superstition about the holy cave. According to a tale, if someone enters the cave, puts their hand on the wall and makes a wish, then leaves without turning their head around to the exit, their wish will come true. Another belief says, that the cave helps infertile parents to conceive a child, for which there is a special ritual. Even though it may not be totally true, the cave is very popular within the tourists. It is settled at a significant height and requires a walk of more than a kilometer to reach. Recently, a wooden staircase has been established for the last part of the route, which is especially steep.

Flora and Fauna in Bayanaul

The park is very diverse in terms of the flora with about 460 species counted. Bayanaul pine is distinguished by the fact that it grows mainly on rocks, creating a unique combination of stone and vegetation. The variety of plants in the park is especially remarkable, although it is located among a semi-desert steppe with otherwise sparse vegetation. Along with birch, pine, alder and aspen, many shrubs grow in the park, including berries like raspberries, rose hips, currants, hawthorns. In the meadows, thickets of wild strawberries are found in abundance and forest thickets are abundant with mushrooms. The park has up to 50 species of relict plants, including relict black alder and relict stone currant.

There are also about 50 species of birds and 40 species of other animals in Bayanaul. Among them, having a great value to locals, one can distinguish a group of upland game, as well as argali, roe deer, badger and squirrel. The special pride of the park is the argali, listed in the Red Book as a rare and endangered animal species that needs protection. Among the birds in the park, you can find cranes, swans, herons, bustards and predators like golden eagle, kestrel and kite.

Travel TO Bayanaul National Park

You can get to Bayanaul from the nearest three cities of Pavlodar, Karaganda and Ekibastuz. The last one Ekibastuz has the nearest railway connection about 130 km to the south and Pavlodar and Karaganda have the nearest airports. 

You can get to Pavlodar by plane from Astana, Almaty or Moscow. The train also operates to Pavlodar daily from most of the regions of Kazakhstan. Once you arrive at Pavlodar, contact the local bus station for further transportation. There are regular buses that run to Bayanaul every day at 8:00, 14:00, and 17:00. The trip will take 4 hours and will pass through the steppe area.

Other sights & destinations near Bayanaul

Page updated 7.10.2021

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