Kora Gorge &
Burkhan-Bulak Waterfall

Kora Gorge

The strikingly beautiful Kora gorge is located hidden between the mountains of Dzungar Alatau in the Southeastern Kazakhstan. These mountains also provide a natural border with China. Kora gorge extends for a distance of 90 km and it is also the valley where the largest waterfall of Kazakhstan, named Burkhan-Bulak, is located in. Kora gorge is also known as the gorge Karinskoe. From the north, the valley is limited by the Karatau ridge and the Minshukur mountains. 

The main ridge of the Zhetysuiskiy Alatau also reaches here from the south, separating the valleys of the Kora and Koksu rivers. The Zhamankol and Mynzhilka mountains separate the Kora gorge to the middle and lower reaches of the river from the Chizha river gorge. The mountains here reach their maximum height at the eastern end with a height of 3919 in the form of the Bezsonov glacier. The Kora Gorge is fairly deep in the lower parts  and also narrow as well occasionally when the river fills almost the entire bottom of it. It is still possible to hike and trek in the gorge.

While hiking in the Gorge you can see a large variety of flora and fauna. There are more than 3000 species of plants, including edelweiss and sievers apple trees, which are considered being the progenitor of all the apple species in the world. There are also several rare mammals living here like  ermines, foxes, bears, wolves and even snow leopards.

Kora Gorge in Kazakhstan
Kora Valley

Kora River

The Kora River is formed from several rivers originating mostly from the Sapozhnikov, Bezsonov and Tronov glaciers. The Kora river receives the waters from the Southern tributaries of the Shegirbulak and Kaskabulak together with small rivers Tyuite and Tekeshbulak which are tributaries of the Sadyrtas River. One of the largest tributaries of the Kora River is the Burkhan-Bulak tributary. Downstream of the Asylbai tributary, there are 20 minor tributaries, coming from both sides of the gorge, which do not significantly increase the water flow in the Kora River as many of these rivers flowing down from the gorges are seasonal and function only during the snow melt.

Burkhan-Bulak Waterfall

The waterfall is located at the altitude of 2000 m above sea level and consists of four cascades summing up to 168 m height in total. Only three of those with the height of 114 m are visible as the the lower part is hidden from view due to a collapse of soil and rocks that took place in 2009. 

Burkhan Bulak in Kora Gorge
Burkhan Bulak waterfall cascades

Legend about Burkhan and Kora

The grand power and beauty of the waterfall are mesmerizing and an impressive waterfall is a miracle of nature. Therefore it is not odd that waterfall has an interesting legend among the local people. It tells that in ancient times a woman lived here with her only child, a boy named Burkhan. The mother wanted him to choose a quiet obedient girl as his wife. But in spite of her objection, Burkhan fell in love with Kora, a proud and headstrong beauty. 

The mother got angry and decided to prevent this marriage by building a prison of rocks in which she locked Burkhan. But the young man’s heart could not be silenced. His love was so strong that he escaped from his cavity and got back together with the beautiful Kora. Many years passed, but the couple stayed always together and the poor mother mourned the unwise choice of her son and still pours out her sorrow in the form of a  stream, which is located near the Burkhan-Bulak waterfall. The waterfall is therefore named in Kazakh language the “Mother’s Tears”.

Travel to Burkhan-Bulak Waterfall

There no direct road to the Burkhan waterfall from Tekeli, which is the closest town to the Kora Gorge but only a hiking road. Visitors should take the Oskemen road to Kapal village and drive into the mountains. The road from the city of Tekeli to where takes at least 5 hours along a difficult winding mountain road. 

The best times to go to the waterfall are the end of summer and the beginning of autumn since the melting of ice increases the flow of water during these periods. If you come later, the main sources of Burkhan-Bulak will be little only little streams. In winter, the waterfall freezes. Nevertheless, the frozen waterfall is also a vey beautiful sight. 

Other sights & destinations near Burkhan Bulak

Page updated 6.3.2023

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