Katon Karagai National Park
Katon-Karagay National Park is the largest national park in Kazakhstan, which is located in the Katon-Karagai region of the East Kazakhstan region. It lies in the high altitude eastern part of Kazakhstan’s part of the Altai Mountains and it remote even by Kazakhstani standards. Katon-Karagai National Park occupies the area of 643,477 ha.
The park was founded in July 2001 the same year Katon Karagai National Park was praised by WWF International as a “Gift to the Earth”, a globally important conservation action that gives some welcome additional protection to the area. In 2014 the park was included in the list of the specially protected heritage of UNESCO due to its attractions, landscape, variety of flora and fauna. Later, in June 2017 in Paris, the park was nominated for the Greater Altai Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. The park covers almost the entire territory between the borders with Russia and China, the villages of Soldatovo and Medvyedka and the northern slopes of the Sarymsaktiy and Tarbagatay. The area is truly the natural treasury of Kazakhstan. Each turn opens up new pictures, and the landscapes seem to try to outdo each other with beauty and unusualness.
Commonly called old Austrian Road located in the remote northeast of Kazakhstan, near the Russian and Chinese borders. It combines 2 sections of the Kazakh Altai, first the valley of Katon-Karagay along with the Valley of Kings, the Mount Belukha and Rachmanov Springs on the northern part, and Lake Markakol on the southern side. The path is a bit is rocky yet impressive in 60 km of the forest. Prepare to torcher your car motorbike or bicycle since the road is not gonna be easy.
Back in history, the Austrian Road was constructed from 1915 to 1917 by Austro-Hungarian WW1 prisoners taken on the Eastern Front. They made a legendary track in the remote wilderness in the far northeast of Kazakhstan just with shovels, saws, pickaxes, and cables under extreme climatic conditions. Within the three years was built a range of about 60 kilometers. Apart from it, there are also Austrian roads in the Kyrgyz Pamir Alay. If you a foreigner in Kazakhstan you must get a permit to come here.
The most recognizable object of the national park is Mount Belukha. The highest point of Altai and Siberia that lies on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia reaches 4506m. Mount Belukha is considered to be a secret spot by Siberian shaman culture as a holy mountain. Buddhists also honor it as the spiritual center of the Earth, or Shambhala. Also, for the followers of the ancient Turkic Tengri cult, rough-looking, sky-piercing Khan Tengri was the home of the chief male god, Tengri, but Belushi’s twin peaks look like the upward-pointing breasts of a goddess, lying on her back. The water of the mountain streams that spring from the mountain’s glaciers foams white-like an ancestral mother’s milk. Belovodye (White Water) is the name of this land of shamans.
Simply getting close enough to gaze is more than enough. You can actually get a distant but good view of the mountain on the track some four km before Rachmaninov’s Springs, at Radostny pass. If you have time you take a two days trek from the Springs to the tongue of the Berelskiy Glacier at the foot of the mountain. By crossing two passes on the way, or from the Greater Yazyovoye Lake over a stance of some 40 km through the stunning landscape.
The lake is located on the way to Belukha Mountain, it lies on the altitude of 1685m above the sea level. Relatively small, the lake is isolated by a coniferous forest extending into the mountains. It is another picturesque mountain lake, 3 km in length, offering excellent views towards Mount Belukha when the weather is right. The track continues northwards, eastwards and upwards to Kokkol mine, abandoned wolfram and molybdenum mine and concentration plant.
Lake Bukhtarma (Lake Shangin) is located on the territory of the Katon-Karagai national natural park, in the mountains of the Kazakh Altai on the northern slope of the Southern Altai ridge at an altitude of 2064.2 meters above sea level. From the east, the lake is bordered by the western slopes of the Ukok plateau, in the north by the Katunsky ridge. About 6 small, nameless rivers flow into the lake, the largest of them is the Shanbage-Bulak river flows in the lake in the western part. The Shandage-Bulak river with a length of 12 kilometers originates from moraine lakes located on the southern slopes of the Katunsky ridge.In the southeastern part of the lake flows the Algyzhak-Bulak river with a length of 6 kilometers, which is the right tributary of the Bukhtarma river. The lake is 5 kilometers long and 960 meters wide.
The lake is located in an intermountain depression. In the southeast, 4 kilometers from the lake lies a mountain Karashangal with a height of 2875.7 meters above sea level with a view of Lake Bukhtarma. In the north-east of the lake, just 2 kilometers stands the border with Russia. The distance from Ust-Kamenogorsk to Lake Bukhtarma is 523 kilometers, of which 58 kilometers are not an asphalt road. The distance from the village of Uryl to Lake Bukhtarminsk is 78 kilometers from the village of Arshaty, 44 kilometers. There is only one road to the lake from the village of Arshaty. The best time to visit the lake is from June to September. In winter, the road from the village of Arshaty to Lake Bukhtarma is difficult due to snowdrifts.
Katon Katagai Town
Katon-Karagay is an administrative center of the eastern part of Kazakhstan of the Altai Mountains. It is situated in the Narym Valley followed over to the south by peaks. The town is populated with mainly single-story houses and a few decrepit-looking apartment blocks. There is a lovely bazaar of wooden stalls and a few of the larger shops. Additionally, there is an airport where operate straight flights from Ust-Kamenogorsk.
Travel to Katon Karagai National Park
To get to Katon Karagai National Reserve, you will need to get to Oskemen, because it is there that the nearest transport hub and airport are located. Ust-Kamenogorsk Airport receives flights from Nur-Sultan and Almaty every day, and several times a week from Zaysan, Semey, Karaganda, Moscow and Novosibirsk. By rail, there are daily a large number of both direct and transit trains pass through the station of the Oskemen city. And from Oskemen there you can take a bus that operates to the Park. You can check a schedule here.