Ustyurt Plateau National Preserve

Ustyurt Plateau National Preserve

Ustyurt is a part of the cross-border Mangyshlak plateau situated on the Aral-Caspian watershed on the territory of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Ustyurt National Biosphere Preserve was founded in 1984 Kazakhstan and it covers only a small portion of the whole plateau. For centuries, the Ustyurt Plateau has been a crossroad of civilizations and has preserved traces of many cultures. Medieval cemeteries including the majestic mausoleums – mazars – are scattered across the plateau. The most interesting tourist routes in the preserve is the Journey Along the Great Silk Road, extending across the Mangistau region from south to north, extending further to the northwest, to the Ustyurt Plateau and through the Shetpinskie Gates to the Caspian coast.

Ustyurt National Preserve is being promoted to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The reserve occupies the territory of 223 thousand hectares and it is a secures habitat. There are rare species of animals listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan: desert antelope gazelle, Ustyurt mountain sheep, desert lynx – caracal, a distant relative of the badger honey badger, saker falcon, and vulture. 

The Ustyurt State Nature Reserve is placed in a zone of sharply continental climate, which means that there is a rather harsh climate throughout the year. Summer in the area is usually extremely dry and hot, while in the winter occurs storms and strong winds. The air temperature, in the summer months the temperature rises to + 30 ° С, and in the winter drops to -10 ° С.

Ustyurt Geography

The territory of the reserve occupies a part of the western cliff of the Ustyurt plateau which is limited by cliffs – sheer cliffs with a height of 50 meters to 370 meters. The highest point of the reserve is on the Western cliff of Ustyurt +340 meters above sea level and the lowest is in the northern part of Kenderlisor -52 meters.  The Ustyurt natural reserve is a semi-desert land in the south of the Karakiyansky district with unique flora and fauna. A significance of the natural sight is there are no rivers and lakes on the territory of the reserve. The reserve is granted with water through wells and springs, which are fed by ground and surface waters. The soil of the Ustyurt Nature Reserve is gray-brown with an insignificant amount of sodium salts with interlayers of snow-white chalk deposits, which creates a unique landscape of the reserve. 

Ustyurt Sights

Ustyurt Reserve is mainly focused on archaeological monuments. In early times, this was the center of several different caravan routes, such as the route of the Horezm-Sheikhs connecting Khiva with the lower reaches of the Emba and the Volga. Along it lay the ancient town of Shahr-i-Wazir, the caravan station of Beleuli and the Allan Fortress. Old graveyards with majestic mausoleums are scattered everywhere on the plateau. Numerous of them have been studied by archaeologists, but still many undiscovered. 

Ustyurt Routes

Ustyurt reserve has two main tourist routes: Onere and Kokesem. Onere route has walking paths in addition to car routes. The length of the Onere route is 374 km and with hikes takes one day. The route is available from March to October. During the whole day, visitors will visit the city of Zhanaozen, the village of Kulandy, and the village of Akkuduk.

The Kokesem route is a longer one also including hiking and car transportation with a total length of 440 km and lasting two days. During the hike, tourists can visit the city of Zhanaozen, the village of Senek, Beket Ata Gridlerler and the village of Kyzylsay. This route is also available from March to October.


Getting to this amazing nature reserve is not so easy since buses do not run here. You can only get there by car. The way to the reserve lies passes through the city of Zhanaozen, from where you can get to the village of Stary Uzen along the asphalt road, then you need to get to the village of Senek, then to another village of Akkuduk, then to the reserve. 

Ohter sights & destinations near Ustyurt

Page updated 6.11.2021

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