Since I have yet to start seriously doing any sort of research, I’m making good use of my free time this month to become better acquainted with Semirechye and the Almaty area. Thus, last weekend I traveled with two new friends about 200km east of Almaty to Charyn (Чарын) Canyon 200km to the east of Almaty (the opposite direction from Tamgaly, introduced in a post below).
Although my trust Lonely Planet guidebook says “it’s no Grand Canyon,” referring to the fact that Charyn is much smaller both in depth and length. At it’s deepest its only 300m deep and is not nearly as wide. However, in many respects it is similar, and I found it preferable to the Grand Canyon (from what I remember of it when I visited with my family years ago). For one thing, it’s peaceful and nearly empty. Even when you travel to the canyon as part of an organized Russian excursion from Almaty, it was easy to escape from the group and catch a quiet minute among these towering rock spirals.
Our tour guide told us that the canyon was formed (and continues to be formed) by the quickly-flowing Charyn (or Sharyn) River. While this is undoubtedly true, I also see the canyon, which forms a deep and sudden gash in the middle of what is otherwise almost entirely flat steppe, to be further evidence of this area’s seismic activity.