In June 2022, three new regions were formed in Kazakhstan, one of which was Ulytau. Previously, this territory was part of the Karaganda Region. The largest city in the new region is Zhezkazgan, where 85,000 people live.

Ulytau means «Great Mountains» in Kazakh. In fact, these are very old and eroded mountains that happen to be the cradle of steppe civilization. If you look at the map of Kazakhstan, you’ll see that the Ulytau Region is in the very heart of the country. This is not only the geographical but also the historical center of Kazakhstan. This land has seen events that led to the start of the Kazakh nation. The Ulytau Mountains housed the headquarters of Jochi Khan, Genghis Khan’s firstborn son who is believed to be the ancestor of all Kazakh rulers. From here, Batu Khan, the son of Jochi, began his aggressive campaign to the east.

Why is the Ulytau Region worth visiting?

«At least once in a lifetime, every Kazakh should visit here» – this is what people say about Ulytau. It is home to some major pilgrimage sites: mausoleums of Jochi Khan and Alasha Khan, the progenitors of some Turkic tribes. Another landmark is the Dombauyl Mausoleum, one of the most ancient buildings in Central Kazakhstan. Also, in 1391, the great emir Timur, Turko-Mongol conqueror and one of the greatest military leaders in history, stayed in Ulytau during one of his many military campaigns. 

The highest point of the Ulytau Mountains is Mount Aulietau, which translates to «Holy Mountain». Legend has it that Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism, lived in a cave on top of this mountain. The cave isn’t the only reason one should ascend Aulietau. From the top, you can admire a stunning panorama of the endless steppes of Saryarka, the Kazakh Uplands.

There are many other places worthy of attention in Ulytau: necropolises, rock paintings, caves, Bronze Age settlements, and Saka burial mounds. If you want to experience authentic Kazakh culture, learn more about the history of our country, and feel the unique atmosphere of the Great Kazakh Steppe, the Ulytau Region is a must-visit.

updated: 16 january 2023

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