How to get to Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan
Updated January 2021, How to get to Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan was originally written in February 2019
After arriving into Almaty on a whim in late September and meeting some people at a hostel that went in on a rental car, I decided to join the group on a day trip to Charyn Canyon. When we arrived and first stepped foot out the car door I was immediately reminded of the time I went to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
The landscapes around Almaty and the whole southeast corner of Kazakhstan are extremely varied, but yet this wasn’t exactly what I expected to find around here.
I had the chance to revisit Charyn Canyon in August 2019 on an assignment with USAID in Kazakhstan, this time to camp over at Bestamak Canyon and catch an epic sunrise over the Valley of Castles.
Need some inspiration to start planning? Check out 32 Photos That Will Put Kazakhstan On Your Bucketlist
Quick Charyn Canyon & Kazakhstan Information
- Currency: Kazakh Tenge (KZT). Current exchange rate (March 2020) is $1 USD = 406 KZT
- Nearest City: Almaty
- Drives On: Right
- Best Time To Visit: June-September
- Entrance Fee: 730 KZT
- Camping: Yes, 350 KZT per tent
How To Get To Charyn Canyon
The easiest way to get to Charyn Canyon is how I did, by renting a car with other travelers albeit this being the most expensive option. You can make your way out here by shared taxi and even hitchhiking as well.
Rental Car: You can easily rent a car in Almaty and drive it to Charyn Canyon. This will give you the freedom to stop wherever you want and be on your own schedule.
If you’d like to go off-roading it would be wise to rent a 4×4. Depending on the time of year you can find rental cars for as little as 15,000 Kazakh Tenge ($40 USD) per day, but you can expect to pay closer to 30,000 KZT ($80 USD) per day in peak times. Local agencies may be able to rent for cheaper, so if you have the time you could shop around by visiting rental car agencies.
Check out rental cars on Expedia
Shared Taxi: Head to the Sayahat Bus Station in Almaty and look for shared taxis going to Kegen, they will have signs in the windows that say (Кеген) Kegen and usually drivers will be shouting their destinations as well. A ride should cost 2,000-3,000 KZT (6-10 USD) for a one-way trip.
Ask to be dropped off at Charyn Povorot. This is the intersection of the road going into Charyn Canyon National Park from the A-351 highway. From there it is a 10 km walk into the park, though you can try your thumb at hitching from here.
Hitchhiking: The easiest spot to start hitching from is just outside Almaty on the A-351. Many drivers may expect payment so if you are planning to truly hitchhike you will need to convey this to your driver.
Start here: The Kazakhstan Travel Guide
Charyn Canyon Entrance Fees
The entrance fee to go into Charyn Canyon at the gate near the Valley of Castles will set you back about 730 KZT (~$3 USD). You will need to show your passport (and driving documents if driving in). There is an additional fee for those that want to take a car onto the 4×4 tracks beyond the parking lot at the gate and viewpoint (though I didn’t catch what that fee was, oops).
For those that want to camp out here at Charyn Canyon there is an additional 350 KZT fee per tent.
Where To Go In Charyn Canyon
Charyn Canyon is comprised of 5 canyons actually. They are: Valley of Castles, Temirlik Canyon, Bestamak Canyon, Krasny Canyon (Red), and Dzhelty Canyon (Yellow). The Valley of Castles is the most well known of the canyons and easiest to access.
For those with a couple of days or more to explore around, it’s definitely worth spending a couple or more days 4×4 or hiking around the canyons and camping.
Pick up a copy of Bradt Kazakhstan to help you plan your travels in Kazakhstan
Camping At Charyn Canyon
You can camp within the national park for 350 KZT per tent, payable at the entrance gate. The best time to visit Charyn Canyon and camp is June-September, though it can get a bit crowded. Outside these months it can get quite cold at night, especially in winter.
Be sure to pack out all trash with you, there are bins at the entrance gate.
For those that don’t fancy a night (or 3) in a tent you can always rent out a yurt or cabin at Eco Park Tours.
Staying In Nearby Saty Village
The nearest village with plenty of guesthouses is Saty, which is also a base for those exploring Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes. Gostinitsa Saty and Guesthouse Arcabay-Karligash are two guesthouses that do have online booking in Saty.
Explore more of Kazakhstan’s Golden Triangle and visit Kaindy & Kolsai Lakes
Don’t wanna venture out on your own, or just sick of Central Asia logistics? Shop Charyn Canyon tours here. Or check out:
- 1 day group tour to Charyn Canyon
- 1 day private tour to Charyn Canyon
- 3 day group tour of Kolsai Lakes, including Charyn Canyon
- 5 day group tour of Golden Ring of Zhetisu, including Charyn Canyon
Planning to visit Kyrgyzstan too? Check out the two week Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan itinerary
What To Pack
- Enough food and water for your planned stay
- A good hiking boot
- A 3-season tent for those that plan to camp
- A warm sleeping bag as it can still get chilly at night here even in early and late summer
- A lightweight camp cooking set for preparing meals
- A propane tank to fuel your camp stove
- A headlamp for nighttime
Where To Stay In Almaty
Almaty offers a big selection of accommodation options. My favorite place to stay for cheap and meeting other backpackers is Almaty Backpackers.
Heading to the big city? Check out my post Best Things To Do In Almaty
Need To Know More About Charyn Canyon?
Ask your Charyn Canyon questions in the comments below!
Looking For More To Do In Southeastern Kazakhstan?
Check out Fabio Nodari’s Top Things To Do In Southeast Kazakhstan