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Aktau Mountains Photo: Jérôme Depeille
Altyn Emel National Park
Singing Dune & Aqtau Mountains

Altyn Emel Photo: Jérôme DepeilleAltyn Emel Photo: Jérôme DepeilleFounded in 1961 with 73,300 ha the reserve numbers 137 species of plants, 39 species of animals and 200 species of birds. Referring to rare ones are red bear, snow leopard and Turkestan lynx. In 2000 specialists counted about 7,000 Persian gazelles, 3,000 Teke goats, 700 Central Asian Wild Ass, 200 Urial wild sheep and 200 wild boars in the reserve. The reserve is also home to the endemic Turanga tree which grows up to 20 m high and 1 m wide.

Singing DuneThe reserve proper includes a desert-like section of the valley of the Ili-river known for its “singing sands” 150 m high and producing a loud aeroplane-like sound when one moves along their floaty slopes. Local legend derives the name of the reserve (Golden horseshoe) from Jenghiz Khan.

The Singing dune lies at the centre of the reserve and is about 500 m long. Two more dunes stretch to the south.


The Aqtau mountains are some 48 km (3 hrs off-road) east from the dune. Altyn-Emel nature reserve is partially off-road 180 km from Almaty and can be visited on a day trip or in combination with 1-2 day a trip to Charyn Canyon. Entrance fees to the relatively well guarded park are hefty and it is not recommendable to visit the without guide and permission.Altyn Emel Savannah  Photo: Jérôme Depeille
© 2001-2010 STANtours last modified June 12, 2002