Katon Karagai
National Park

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. 

Austrian Road

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. 

Mount Belukha

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.

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

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