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Astana, Kazakhstan • 08 July, 2022 | 15:42

Katon-Karagay National Park—the Heart of the Turkic World

A sacred place of beauty, healing, history and music

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Katon-Karagai National Park is the largest in Kazakhstan, located in the Katon-Karagay district of the East Kazakhstan region, in the Southern Altai Mountains. It is included in the UNESCO list of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Qazmonitor presents the wonders of the national park, with reference to Tengri Travel. World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Birthplace of the Turks

Katon-Karagay is considered the heart of Altai. Historians say that this place is the cradle of the Turkic civilization. It was proven to be the origins of the Hungarian people as well.

The features of the park are rich and varied. The picturesque landscape is decorated with majestic mountains, dense green forests, and bodies of crystal clear water.

Natural Health Resort

Nature is the best medicine. Katon-Karagay's forests grow an array of medicinal plants and the water of the rivers and lakes is said to have a mystical healing effect.

Lake Rakhmonvskoe is a "dead" body of water - it hosts no fish nor any kind of living creature due to the water having a a high concentration of radon. The "lifelessness" is what rejuvenates the body, helping to alleviate the symptoms of certain musculoskeletal diseases.

Katon-Karagay happens to be the only place in Kazakhstan where people breed red deer for its antlers, which have high concentration of biologically active substances greatly valued on the global market.

Sound of the Past, Ethno-music

The historical significance of the location also inspires the creative spirit. In recent years, various festivals have been organized to gather different traditional musicians and poets, including aytiskers [improv poets] from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, to perform. 

"The development of our country has followed the principle of 'economy first, then politics'. But, in my opinion, there is something more important: the preservation of the cultural identity of the people. Economy and politics should follow after. Holding ethnic music festivals and aytis in one of the most beautiful and sacred places in Kazakhstan - Katon-Karagay - promotes the knowledge of our culture. Altai has a special place not only in the history of Kazakhstan but also in the formation of the entire Turkic civilization."

Serik Tolukpaev, organizer and founder of the Foundation for Sustainable Development of Rural Areas

"Balkaragai Tunes" ethnic music festival has participants like ODUCHU from Tuva, Kazakhstan's leading ethno-musician, Yedil Khusainov, and progressive performers of modern ethno-jazz direction, Steppe Sons. 

Tourism potential

Though the region is popular for its natural products - honey, pine nuts, pantocrine and kumis - and the music festivals, it is quite a feat to actually reach the national park. It takes about five hours to get there by off-road car from Ust-Kamenogorsk to Katon-Karagai village. 

Travelers who brave the difficult journey are rewarded with en-route scenery as they cross the Bukhtarminskoye reservoir. 

For mountain climbers, Altai's Belukha Mountain is a coveted destination. Many confess that one day there is enough for them to want to come back - again and again.

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