This is one of the most spectacular natural wonders of Mangystau.
Sor Tuzbair encompasses salt flats, chalky hills and limestone cliffs. “Sor” is Kazakh for the type of salt marsh which forms hollows with distinct shoreline ridges. After rain, the salt flats turn into a mirror reflecting the sky and the surrounding snow-white cliffs. This view can stun even those who are not easily awed. In summer, the water evaporates and the salt marsh becomes covered with a dense crust of salt on which you can walk (although driving there is not recommended).
You can admire the view from the “shore” or hike down to the bottom of the hollow and marvel at white cliffs and see the buttes up close. Some of the buttes resemble figures, with the most famous of them being the “Sphinx,” which does look like its Egyptian prototype.
Video about Sor Tuzbair
Useful tips for 2020-2021
The best time to visit the Ustyurt Plateau, and in particular Sor Tuzbair,is the end of April and May, when wild tulips and steppe flowers begin to bloom. In summer, the temperature reaches 45 °C (113 °F). Be sure to take sunglasses with you, as snow-white surroundings can cause glare and impair vision.
How to get there
Sor Tuzbair is located 250 km (155 mi) away from the city of Aktau in Mangystau Province. A good paved road leads there from Aktau, so your trip will be comfortable. If you’re not going to drive down to the bottom, then you can hit the road on any crossover.
If you’re driving from Aktau, take the Aktau-Beineu highway. After 243 km (151 mi) exit the highway and follow the field road, which will take you to the observation point from where you’ll see the “Sphinx” and other buttes. Driving down to the salt flat without a guide (or experience with driving a car on a salt marsh) is not recommended. The flat’s surface may seem solid, but under the upper crust there is often a swamp.
Food and accommodation
As Sor Tuzbair is very remote from any settlements, be sure to carry food, water, gas, and everything you may need on the road with you. About 100 km (62 mi) away from the observation point, tourists can enjoy the Kogez Ethnic Village, which is a great base for exploring the Ustyurt Plateau. Obviously lodging books out quickly, especially in the high season, so be sure to book your stay in advance.