Sayram-Ugam National Park
This young national park, set up only at the start of 2006, covers the slopes of the Kazakhstan side of the Ugam range of the western Tian Shan Mountains, running along the border with Uzbekistan. The park lies immediately to the southwest of the better-known and longer-established Aksu Zhabagly National Nature Reserve, and the interesting range of flora and fauna on offer in the park is broadly similar to that at Aksu Zhabagly
This park abutting the Uzbek border immediately southwest of the Aksu-Zhabagyly reserve is less well known and cheaper to visit, but offers similar attractions and biodiversity. Ugams head office, and the gateway to the park, is the former coal-mining town of Lenger, some 40km southeast of Shymkent. Ugam offers guesthouse accommodation run by local families in Lenger itself, and in the villages of Kaskasu and Dikhankol, closer to the park in the Kaskasu Valley. Dikhankol is 35km from Lenger, Kaskasu is 60km. Full board is provided, with host families encouraged to serve traditional Kazakh dishes. While the accommodation in Lenger is slightly smarter, with inside toilets, Lenger itself is perhaps a little too urban an experience and too far from the mountains, and the other villages make better bases for trips into the park. A stay in a traditional Kazakh yurt can also be arranged in both Kaskasu and Lenger.
You can combine Aksu-Zhabagyly with Sayram-Ugam via a 60km, two- or three-day foot or horse trek between Zhabagyly and Tonkeris or Kaskasu. Good outings into the hills by foot or horse are to Kaskasu Canyon and Ak-Mechet Gorge (day trips), and Susingen Lake (two or three days, camping).
Lenger is 27 km southeast of Shymkent; Dikhankol is 47 km, Kaskasu is 57km and Tonkeris (close to the western boundary of the Aksu-Zhabagyly reserve) is 70km. Marshrutkas (30 minutes) and buses to Lenger both leave about every half-hour from Tole-Bi near Shymkent’s Central Bazaar. For Dikhankol, Kaskasu and Tonkeris there are marshrutkas (one to 1,5 hours, every two to three hours) and buses (around 1,5 to two hours, three or four times daily) from Tashenov near the Central Bazaar. Shared taxis leave from the same stops.