KazTourism
Museum / Memorial site

Kalakai Sanctuary

Some believe this place to be an ancient observatory, while others call it the first sundial created by man.
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Almaty province

Kalakai Sanctuary

Some believe this place to be an ancient observatory, while others call it the first sundial created by man.

The Kalakai Sanctuary stands on a small plateau in the Biyen River Valley. It is surrounded by the Bayanjurek Mountains, which are also home to settlements, burial mounds, and petroglyphs of the Bronze Age.

Some researchers assume that Kalakai Sanctuary may have been used to calculate the time of day, equinoxes, and the arrival of new seasons. It is a circular alignment of standing stones 97 meters (106 yd) in diameter. In its center stands a massive boulder, which most likely was transported there by a glacier and then left behind after the glacier melted. On this boulder, one can see carvings made by the nomadic Saka tribes depicting an argali (a mountain sheep). Within the circle, several large stones have been placed to resemble a sundial, pointing to the four cardinal directions. From bird’s eye view, the sanctuary resembles a circle with the cross in its center. This symbol exists among many ancient civilizations and is assumed to represent the sun.

The monument dates back to the first millennium BC. According to historical data, the development of the sanctuary coincided with the formation of the Saka tribal unions.

Useful tips for 2021–2022

How to get there

The sanctuary is located in theAlmaty Province, about 370 km (230 mi) away from the city of Almaty. First, you need to take the Almaty-Taldykorgan highway. After 300 km (186 mi), turn east and drive to the village of Kapal (on some maps – Qapal). After another 23 km (14 mi), turn onto the dirt road. You will have to drive another 55 km (34 mi) along the dirt road that will eventually lead you to the sanctuary. The biggest settlement in the area is the village of Jansugurov, where you can find help if something happens on the road. During your trip, be sure to visit Burkhan Bulak Waterfall, which is located nearby.

Food and accommodation

We recommend taking food, water, and a tent with you on the road. However, there are also small shops in the villages of Jansugurov and Kapal. For the night, you can return to the hotels of the city of Taldykorgan or set up a camp on the banks of the Bien River.

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Tourist attractions