Aral Sea and Barsa-Kelmes Tour3 Days | Barsa-Kelmes, Urga, Sudochie Lake, Ustyurt Plateau, Aral Sea, yurt camp, Kurgancha Kala, Muynak Ship Graveyard, Muynak Regional Studies Museum, Mizdakhan Necropolis, Gyaur-Kala Fortress

Aral Sea and Barsa-Kelmes Tour

Aral Sea and Barsa-Kelmes Tour is a three-day adventure in remote Karakalpakstan which gives both a sobering look into the region’s environmental tragedy and a glorious glimpse into the sheer beauty of the Ustyurt Plateau. Trip highlights include overnighting in a real Karakalpak yurt, visiting the famous Muynak Ship Graveyard, driving among the rugged cliffs of Ustyurt Plateau and searching for ancient shark teeth in the salty expanse of Barsa-Kelmes.
The recent transformation of the Aral Sea into a desert has given rise to many theories and legends. Yet it is the Barsa-Kelmes salt marsh, whose ominous name means "If you go, you won't come back", that holds a record number of secrets which our guides are eager to share with you! Stories will continue to unfold at a regional museum, abandoned village and several ancient fortresses on this unforgettable tour.

Tour itinerary:

Day 1: Nukus – Kungrad – Barsa-Kelmes – Sudochie Lake – Ustyurt Plateau – Aral Sea
 
Depart Nukus in a 4WD vehicle for the Ustyurt Plateau, passing through the town of Kungrad on the way. We will follow a well-marked road before veering off onto a dirt path to get closer to Barsa-Kelmes Salt Marsh. Admire the surreal white surface as it stretches beyond the horizon, stopping for many amazing photographs along the way.
After a picnic lunch we will pass by the ruins of a lighthouse and the abandoned village of Urga on the way to Sudochie Lake, a nesting place for a huge number of migratory birds. Continue driving through the endless Ustyurt Plateau to reach the yurt camp near the shores of the Aral Sea, where you can relax over a hot meal and trace constellations in the clear, starry sky.
Overnight in the yurt camp.
Meals provided: picnic lunch, dinner
Day 2: Aral Sea – Ustyurt Plateau – Aral Sea
 
We recommend waking up at dawn, when the most gorgeous photographs of the Aral Sea landscape can be captured in the gleam of the rising sun.
Depart for the Ustyurt Plateau after breakfast, stopping on the way to see the ruins of the 13th-century Kurgancha Kala Fortress. Continue driving several dozen kilometers through the salt flats, admiring many stunning, jagged cliffs along the way. Our excursion will end at the shores of the Aral Sea where, weather permitting, you can go for a swim before returning to the yurt camp.
Dinner and overnight in the yurt camp.
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 3: Aral Sea – Muynak – Khojeyli – Mizdakhan Necropolis – Nukus
 
After breakfast, begin the return drive to Nukus. On the way we will stop in Muynak to visit the "ship graveyard", a former port where the skeletons of abandoned ships now rust in the desert sands. You will also visit Muynak Regional Studies Museum (Muynak Aral Sea Museum) to discover some curious artifacts related to the history of the Aral Sea.
Closer to Nukus we will visit Mizdakhan Necropolis and Gyaur-Kala Fortress, which are situated next to one another on several hills just 3-4 kilometers south of the town of Khojeyli. Stand amazed before the ten-meter-high fortress walls which continue to guard the ruins of two citadels, believed by archaeologists to have once been a palace and a Zoroastrian fire temple.
Return to Nukus. End of Aral Sea and Barsa-Kelmes Tour.
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch
  • All transfers by 4WD vehicle (maximum 3 people + 1 guide per car);
  • Accompanying guide;
  • Full board (2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners);
  • Accommodation in a yurt camp near the Aral Sea;
  • Entrance fees to the Muynak museum and Mizdakhan Necropolis.
  • Travel insurance;
  • Air tickets for Tashkent-Nukus-Tashkent domestic flights;
  • Gratuities are not included but are left to customer discretion.

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