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“Scylla and Charybdis could live here”: guide – about the caves in Aksu Canyon

25 March 2021

Aksu Canyon is one of the most picturesque corners of the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve. Its depth reaches 700 meters, width-about one kilometer. The canyon is a paleontological site with ancient rock paintings, but it attracts not only ancient history, but also beautiful views that open up to travelers.

A little about the history

Aksu Canyon was created as a result of one of the last cataclysms in the formation of the Tien Shan mountain system. This happened about 10 million years ago. The canyon is a tectonic fissure of heterogeneous pieces of pebbles and limestone connected to each other. Its length is almost 30 kilometers.

Фото Петра Мирошниченко

Today, you can see rocks with juniper, apple-juniper thickets and a narrow strip of birch-poplar tugai along the bed of the Aksu River.

Numerous grottos in the canyon

Guide Peter Miroshnichenko leads groups of tourists to the canyon almost every weekend. According to him, the depth of the canyon is from 30 to 700 meters in different areas, and the landscape is diverse throughout its length.

Фото Петра Мирошниченко

“I first visited the canyon as a schoolboy – in the third or fifth grade. I then read books by Nikolai Kuhn with ancient Greek myths and imagined caves, canyons and niches where the same Scylla and Charybdis could live. At the time, it seemed to me that this place could have been inhabited by some giant mythical monsters. Of course, this is an allegory. The canyon doesn’t make a terrifying impression. On the contrary, all my tourists are delighted that the unique nature can be found within an hour’s drive from Shymkent, ” the guide says.

Фото Петра Мирошниченко

Interesting fact

In fact, this comparison is not accidental. These picturesque places have a rich history. They still remember the dinosaurs. On the territory of the Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserve, fossilized prints of lizards, insects, fish and plants that lived here during the Jurassic Period can be seen in the shale deposits.

Фото Петра Мирошниченко

Many tourists agree that the photos do not convey the beauty of the canyon. It is noteworthy that the crystal clear water formed as a result of the melting of the glaciers of the Talas Alatau turns turquoise in June and July.

“The first time I saw a photo of the canyon, I had the idea:” I want to go there, ” and we signed up for a tour. It was then that we learned how many beautiful grottos there are here. I can’t say exactly how many times I’ve visited the canyon, but I won’t get tired of going back. This is an uncut diamond, and only the river knows how many interesting places it still holds, ” says Daria Bunina, a resident of Shymkent.

As the guide notes, these places are very rich in flora and fauna. Here, more than anywhere else, there are many endemics and relics, you can see red book plants and animals. Ferns grow in the grottos, and mosses and lichens can also be seen.

How to get

It is not difficult to see the unique landscape. The canyon is located 60 kilometers from Shymkent, that is, literally an hour’s drive from the metropolis. And to descend to the amazing grottoes, no special equipment is required. It will be enough to wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

“There are countless grottos here, most of them have no names. There are those that are located on the territory of the Aksu-Zhabagli reserve: to get there, you need to get permission from its management. We go to other places: these caves are not located on the territory of the reserve, and you do not need to take permits to visit them,” the guide explains.

Фото Петра Мирошниченко

Фото Петра Мирошниченко

Note that to get to the caves of Aksu Canyon and fully enjoy their beauty, you should hurry up. In late April – early May, the water will rise, and for the next two months, the places will not be accessible to visitors. But you can see the canyon as a whole all year round.

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