The Aral Sea Discovery Tour from BesQala started back in 2005. Back then, Founder Tazabay Uteuliev, was operating trips using one Soviet-era 4x4 and setting up tents at the shore of the Aral Sea. Now, BesQala and the Uteuliev family have established a guesthouse in the centre of Nukus, the Aral Sea Yurt Camp, a fleet of 12 off-road vehicles, 5 sedans & 2 minivans, and team of expert drivers and guides.
The Aral Sea represents one of the most tragic ecological disasters the world has ever seen. Once the world's fourth-largest lake, the Aral Sea within a few decades has shrunk to 90% of its original size. The Aral Sea and historic Ustyurt Plateau attracts travelers, scientists, professional photographers and artists from around the world.
Our itineraries were developed with the advice and recommendations of various international experts, consultants, and professional travelers.
All of our guests, without exemption, note the clear night sky with the bright spread of stars from horizon to horizon, featuring the magical Milky Way. That's why our guests have named our camp the "Hotel of a Million Stars".
Duration: 2 days / 1 night
Travel distance: 800+ km
Duration: 3 days / 2 nights
Travel distance: 1,100+ km
Option 1 breakdown:
|8:00||Departure from Nukus.|
|9: 00-10: 00||Visit to historical and sacred Mizdakhkan complex (IV-II BC, XIII-XVI AD), a necropolis with several mausoleums: Nazlumlhan Sulu, Khalifa Yerejep and Shamun Nabi as well as the Gyaur Kala fortress from the Zoroastrian epoch (IV-III BC).|
|11: 00-12: 00||Kungrad to the Ustyurt Plateau.|
|13:00||Visit to abandoned village, Urga, and to Sudochie Lake (which is a fresh water reserve for a great variety of fish, different birds, and other wildlife).|
|17:00||Visit to Kubla Ustyurt settlement (a small city built in Soviet times in the middle of Ustyrt Plateau).|
|19:00||Arrival to BesQala Yurt Camp at the Aral Sea (dinner made by the fire, staying overnight in the national Karakalpak yurt). Guests are welcome to swim in the salty water of the Aral Sea (shower with fresh water is available at the camp). The camp area is a nice place for hiking, observing endemic wildlife and truly unique landscapes.|
|5: 00-7: 00||Watch the sunrise over the Aral Sea, a must-see observation, followed by breakfast.|
|8:00||Departure of BesQala Yurt Camp.|
|8:30||Excursion to Kurgancha Kala (XII-XIV), fortified trading center of the Great Silk Road in early medieval period.|
|9: 00-11: 00||Observation of abandoned nomadic cemeteries and great canyons of Ustyurt Plateau. Then travelling offroad along what was the bed of the Aral Sea to Muynak.|
|12:30||Arrive in Muynak. Visit the "Ship Graveyard" and the local history and Aral Sea museums.|
|13:30||Lunch at a local family's house.|
|18:00||Arrive in Nukus.|
Option 2, includes the above, as well as a:
A visit to “Barsa-Kelmes” natural salt deposit (a borderless salty flats, akin to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in USA) on the first day.
Then the following day is dedicated exploring the abandoned port located 60 km to the north of our Yurt camp, where travelers can enjoy swimming in the sea, observe beautiful views of wild nature, otherworldly canyons of Ustyurt Plateau, and visit some ancient cemeteries of nomadic tribes.
Both itineraries include full board (3 meals per day) and depart and return to the centre of Nukus.
The BesQala Yurt Camp of is located on the south-west coast of the Aral Sea. Our system of 12 large, native Karakalpak yurts can host 50 guests per night. By the end of 2021 we have plans to make that 15 yurts. Each yurt comes equipped with fresh bedsheets and blankets.
The site also includes a mobile home which houses our camp steward, Danyar, who takes care of our the camp year-round. Facilities also include shower cabins, toilets, a kitchen, dining room, tapchans, umbrellas, tables, benches and a camp fire. For travellers who might prefer, there is also the option to camp with a tent and sleeping bags.
Meals are organsied and prepared before departure. Dishes include native Karakalpak favourites such as beshbarmak, manty, and sama. We are happy to do our best to accommodate differing dietary requirements - just let us know in advance!
We look forward to welcoming you to our one-of-a-kind BesQala Yurt Camp!
See just how remote our yurt camp is:
The story of the Yurt Camp
When we started organising tours to the Aral Sea back in 2005 we would camp with tents. Over the years we dreamt of setting up a yurt camp on the coast of the Aral Sea. Finally, in 2017, we trialled with 2 yurts. Now, we have a settlement of 15 yurts!
The use of collapsible trellis-walled felt yurts emerged in Karakalpak tribes between the 15th and 16th centuries. The yurt then remained the predominant dwelling for Karakalpak families up until the Soviet era, during which time it became a centrepiece of Karakalpak culture and folk lore.
The fascinating tour on 4WD vehicles passes through the Kyzyl-Kum - one of the greatest deserts of Asia .