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Dolina Zamkov Photo: Jérôme DepeilleCharyn Canyon

Commonly referred to as Dolina Zamkov (Valley of the Castles), Charyn Canyon is one of Kazakhstan's finest nature spots. With fantastic Grand canyon-style rock sculptures and multi-coloured gorges, the 80 km canyon has excellent canyoning, rafting and hiking and is best visited on a 2-day trip from Almaty or en-route from China.


Dolina ZamkovCharyn Canyon by rain

The Charyn has some of the world's finest rafting - mostly of the highest level of difficulty, which should only be attempted with professional equipment and accompany.

The trekking and hiking in and around Dolina Zamkov is easy; other routes are easier done with professional guidance. A visit to the canyon is also possible in a day-trip from Almaty. Unfortunately at present we cannot recommend camping at the bottom of Dolina Zamkov which has become an all-too-favourite weekend hangout for local tourists.

Geological Background:


The Charyn River is running through the deep canyon with bizarre rock monuments reminding in shape of castles and towers on top of steep rocky walls. The Torajgir Mountain have got elevations of more than 2000 m and are one of several southeast Kazakh mountain ranges north of the Tian Shan.

The walls of Charyn Canyon in Dolina Zamkov area show rock storeys of different ages and different origin. Dark rocks at the bottom of Charyn Canyon and in the lower part of Dolina Zamkov are volcanic lava rocks. Dolina Zamkov Photo: Jérôme DepeilleThese are the oldest rocks in this area. On top of these rocks are layers of much younger rocks. These red cliffs (i.e. the walls of Dolina Zamkov), consist of solid gravel which was deposited by debris flows. The plains around Charyn Canyon are covered with grey gravel which was deposited by rivers, and dust which was deposited by wind. Sand and gravel on the bottom of Charyn Canyon was deposited by Charyn River. Some gravel on terraces above Charyn River is evidence of Charyn's former river bed.

Upper Charyn Photo: Jérôme DepeilleThe rocks of Torajgir Mountains are of about the same age as the old volcanic lava rocks and also of volcanic origin. They consist of solid lava and depositions of material thrown out by volcanos eruptions. These rocks were later lifted up along a fault plane (as geologists call it). In western Dolina Zamkov are volcanic rocks of different colours which have about the same age as the other rocks of volcanic origin. They consist (like the rocks of Torajgir Mountains) of ashes and stones thrown out by volcanos. Later these rocks were bended up so that they are at the surface today.

This information has been compiled by Stefan Lang. Click here for more geological information on the Charyn River region.
© 2001-2010 STANtours last modified June 15, 2002