Altyn Emel National Park was created in 1996 to preserve a unique natural park complex, as well as archaeological and historical monuments. Nowadays it is one of the largest parks in Kazakhstan covering about 4600 square kilometers and located between the Ili River and the Ak-au mountain range, near Kapchigai Lake. “Altyn Emel” from the Turkic-Mongolian translated as “Golden saddle” which means “mountain pass”.
To drive to Altyn Emel from Almaty by car for rent you need to start the tour from the Northern Ring, then along the Kapchagai highway: Kapchagai – Shengeldy – Sary Ozek. Then you will get the village Basshi. He distance is a more then 240 kilometers and all this way will took about 3–3,5 hours by rental car. A natural monument – a very huge 700-year-old willow grows on the cordon of Kosbastau, about 30 km south of the village Basshi.
There are a lot of paleontological monuments and Paleogene deposits with fossil plants and animals. The most outstanding sightseeing of the park are the Singing Barchan Dune (1.5 km long and up to 130 m high), Aktau mountains (white mountains in Kazakh), Katytau mountains (composed of volcanic rocks), spring of Chokan Valikhanov in the Kokbastau tract.
Another interesting sightseeing is Besshatyr (means “five tents”), a complex of Saco burial mounds date back to the Iron Age (the VII–VI centuries BC). Besshatyr necropolis is considered to be the shrine of ancient Saks lived on territory of modern Kazakhstan in the VI century BC. Altogether 18 royal burial mounds, having diameter from 8 to 70 meters and height from 2 to 20 meters, are concentrated at the territory of two square kilometers.
The flora of the Park has approximately 1800 plant species, including 21 rare species listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan, about 69 species out of them are rare ones met only in the territory of the Zhungar Alatau, Ili river basin and Balkhash. Most plants in the park have useful properties.
As for the animals living in the park, 56 species are listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan, including 25 species of insects, 3 fishes, 2 amphibians, 1 reptile, 12 birds, 10 mammals, including argali, kulan, Persian gazelles.
So, during the tour or self drive trip to Altyn Emel National Park you can hug a thousand-year-old willow, hear the singing dune, see gazelles as well as enjoy red mountains, yellow sands, green tugai jungle, wild landscapes and unreal beauty of sunsets.