Karagiye is a 132-meter (433 ft) deep trench, the deepest in Kazakhstan and the fifth deepest in the world. It is located on the Mangyshlak Peninsula in the Mangystau Region.
The trench’s name is derived from the Turkic word “karakiya”, which means “a black slope” or “a black mouth”. Locals prefer to name it “batyr” – a warrior. At the bottom, there is a relict lake of the same name. Unfortunately, it has almost dried out and it is impossible to get near it.
Karagiye is a bowl-shaped steep-sloped hollow that is 85 km (53 mi) in length and 25 km (15.5 mi) wide. Its bottom is full of gorges, hollows, ravines, salt marshes, and limestone buttes.
From the East, the trench is limited by the Ustyurt Plateau and the Karasengirek Tract. To the West, the Aktau-Beineu railroad stretches, and in the southwest the trench borders on Ashisor salt marsh.
The hollow was formed thousands of years ago when it was still at the bottom of the Caspian Sea. An attentive traveler can still find ancient fossils there. The cavity continues to expand and change in shape. For your safety, be sure to travel there with an experienced guide. Mind your step, the crevices are very dangerous.
Karagiye-Karakol Nature Reserve
The Karagiye Trench is a part of the Karagiye-Karakol Nature Reserve, which also includes Lake Karakol – the refuge of flamingoes and many other rare birds. The reserve, established in 1986, covers a territory of 180 thousand hectares (695 sq. mi).
At first glance, the landscape seems lifeless. However, travelers can sometimes encounter many rare animals and plants. The trench’s rocks and cliffs are a perfect habitat for caracals and manuls. The area is also home to corsac foxes, mouflons, hares, monitor lizards, scorpions, scolopendras, and Eastern racers. Hawks and vultures can sometimes be seen flying over Karagiye. The trench’s desert part is home to two-tone larks and common redstarts.
Interesting facts and speculations
Besides being the deepest trench, Karagiye is also the driest region in Kazakhstan. Oddly enough, rain clouds often form here. From May to September, when the air temperature reaches maximum levels, hot air rises from the bottom of the trench and forms rain clouds. However, these clouds never produce rain over the trench.
Some people claim to have seen UFOs flying over Karagiye. In the spring of 1979, engineer Valeriy Rozhkovsky noticed an odd red ball flying at a low altitude and with great speed. Since then, visitors have often mentioned strange flying objects. In addition, the trench causes some people to suffer incomprehensible fear, while others feel a surge of strength. A few people even complained about headaches and weakness.
According to locals, the area holds many hidden treasures and undiscovered necropolises, since in ancient times the Silk Road passed near it.
For many years, the area was sparsely populated and deserted. Nowadays, the trench’s bottom is crossed by dirt roads. There you can see camel farms and drilling towers. In the semi-desert area, farmers grow watermelons and tomatoes.
How to get there?
The Karagiye Trench is located 50 km (31 mi) away from the city of Aktau. You can get there by car, an SUV is recommended. From Aktau, drive towards the town of Zhanaozen. After you pass through the village of Mangyshlak, you will see a circular intersection where you need to choose the first exit. After 29 km (18 mi) there will be a turn to the trench. It should be borne in mind that the descent to its bottom is quite steep and rocky. The road there from Aktau will take a little over an hour.
If you don’t have an SUV or find the driving directions confusing, feel free to use the services of travel agencies, which provide safe and interesting tours to the trench.
Other tourist attractions near the Karagiye Trench:
Kogez Ethnic Village
A trip to the Kogez ethnic village guarantees an abundance of me...