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Ecological & Trekking

Kugitang Mountains Trekking

6-day trekking tour

Kugitang Mountains WestThe Kugitang is one of the most fascinating mountain and trekking areas in Central Asia. The ridge and the soft western slopes of this 50 km mountain range with Turkmenistan's highest peak provide excellent hiking and camping opportunities with a spectacular and rare wildlife and vegetation. On our 6-day itinerary we spend 4 days hiking the ridges and canyons of the Kugitang Mountains and watching extraordinary wildlife in its native habitat. We further explore one of the caves and the famous dinosaur footprints that made the area well-known and join with pilgrims from all over the country at their holy shrine in a beautiful Grotto and Gorge.

Day 1
Kugitang Dinosaur Tracks, Kyrk Gyz Gorge

Our Trekking Expedition starts off with a 1-hour domestic flight from Ashgabat to the Kugitang mountains in the Uzbek-Afghan country-triangle in the far southeast of the country. After lunch we continue on a 3-hour car-ride from the airport in Atamyrat (Kerki) into the foothills of the Kugitang. Passing picturesque mountain villages we climb the Dinosaur Plateau on the same day. The extremely well preserved (in total 438) dinosaur footprints on the steep rock belong to some of the most spectacular raptors of the prehistoric age. After descending we picnic in the nearby Kyrk Gyz Gorge, the most important pilgrimage site in the region. Here we trek through the spectacular canyon to the holy 40 Maiden Grotto where after the tale 40 maidens are said to have turned into stone before their opponents. The grotto and nearby trees are covered with the prayer strings and talismans left by the pilgrims who come here from all over the region for prayer and sacred meals. We build up our first camp in Gozel Gyzer Canyon some 40 km south in the foothills of the Kugitang mountains and refresh with fresh spring water.

Day 2
Kugitang Reserve - trekking & wildlife

Markhor Watching in Kugitang  MountainsAfter breaking camp in the next morning we set off on our 3½-day hike through the colourful canyons and across the breathtaking ridge of the Kugitang range. Driving to the starting point of our trek by our 4WD vehicle we make the final climb further up to the Maydan base camp by foot. The base is located in the heart of the Nature Reserve close to which we set up our tents and relax during the noon hours.In the late afternoon hours we go wildlife watching, trekking through the nearby gorges characteristic for Kugitang's landscape the plateaus and valleys of which are cut into hundreds of such up to 200-300 m deep canyons. We stop at dawn with view of the water place and with some luck will have a good chance to see some of the endangered Ibexes. Unlike internationally published information the number of these rare mountain goats have very well recovered since the establishment of the Nature reserve on the Turkmen side of the mountains in the mid 80's and actually increased to over 500 animals by recent counts. Apart from the Ibexes, called Markhor in Turk-Languages, and the similarity protected about 300 Urials (Arkhar - mountain sheep), Russian scientists counted 2 pairs of brown bears, about 50 pairs of Karakal wild cats and there have been occasional sightings of (Persian) leopards. We return to the camp for dinner.

Day 3&4
Climb Araybaba via Oydzha Murat and Navparak Canyon

On the second day of our Kugitang Trekking Expedition we start our ascent to Ayrybaba, with 3,137 m the highest peak of Turkmenistan, with light baggage. We hike across the flower-covered meadows of Oydzha Murad Canyon up to the ridge of the Kugitang Mountains, with fascinating 200 m cliffs on the (Uzbek) side, giving the impression the mountains had been pushed out of the earth like a giant plate. We watch out all the time for the Ibexes and the eagles that majestically soar the nearby peaks. Along the ridge we continue with view of the peak and spend the night in the steep Navparak Gorge before the final ascent. The hiking in Kugitang does not require any special equipment and if done at the right hours of the day is feasible for anybody with normal condition. We climb the peak the next morning and descend afterwards on a different route in the direction of Gozel Gyzer Canyon close to which we spend the next night.

Day 5
Gözel Guzer Canyon, Kopetang cave, Koytenkol Mineral Lake

Koytentang Cave After our final descent in the morning, after lunch we continue on a drive to the famous Kugitang Caves where we take off on an expedition into Kopetang Cave. The Kugitang caves are considered the most important and fascinating caves of the former Soviet Union. With flashlights we go on a three-hour trek through the entirely dark cave that is open for visitors and the most important parts of which, such as the Mosaic-Hall are located deep inside the 60 km system. Back in daylight we continue to the nearby mineral water lake Koytenkol, where we camp and wash off the dust. In our final evening we have a big good-bye dinner in the camp.

Day 6
Train ride to Turkmenabat

On a 2-hour car car-ride we return to Atamyrat (Kerki) from where we comfortably continue by train to Turkmenabat (Chardjou) and let the dunes go by at the sides of our train.
© 2001-2010 STANtours last modified October 7, 2001