Are you planning to go to Kazakhstan? This means you might already be interested in the off-the-beaten-track travels. Even more so, will be the Western region called Mangystau. Believe me, you will not regret your decision, though be warned, this area is not touristy so either be prepared or courageous or best both. If you hike, always bring water and a charged phone with GPS. If you opt for the taxi service or tour companies, you will be able to see more but might be more rushed.
Saura is a beautiful little coastal village, that maybe once counted some hundred people and went down to maybe 3-4 inhabited houses with only a few people living. It can be found on Google maps and Maps.me, but be prepared for a walk that has no real trail, or to be quite honest that has roughly 1 billion trails. There is one main road between Aktau and Bautino. Check your GPS, at some point you will have to stop and just turn left into the Desert. Always heading towards the West, you will most likely run in some wild camels and horses. These animals are truly amazing, though distance should be kept for safety.
Hopefully, you checked your GPS because trails aren’t marked and not many people drive around here. Otherwise, you can just do it alone, aim towards the Caspian Sea and stumble on it. If you brought your tent you can walk from here back towards the next beach, which seems to be a trail on some GPS but it’s more a walk on the sand.
To be honest with you, from anywhere between the main road and the Caspian Sea is a good 1.5h walking distance but doable. If you do not find Saura, any other spots along the coastline are truly amazing. The crystal blue water, the almost white sand, and quietness. Some of the beaches can become somewhat crowded by local tourism but the more you walk the fewer people there are.
The valley of Balls – or also known as Torysh
The real origin of these balls remains unknown and leaves you definitely puzzled of what nature meant to tell us with this. It is a valley that is fully covered with round balls, most of which are fairly geometry.
According to one local legend, once the Mangystau region was invaded by hordes of enemies. As the locals started to raise there hands for prayer to help, they were heard by the gods. The heavens opened downpours, thunder, and lightning. The rain eventually turned into rocks that fell from the sky.
Shak-Pak Ata is an underground mosque located near Tauchik. This one is rather hard to find on your own but is well worth the search. Shak-Pak Ata looks like a normal house or concrete square. Many people have certainly already walked by it. If you find the entrance you will have to walk downstairs and inside of the rock awakes you a fresh stone-cold mosque with wonderful paintings and scripts on the walls.
By the way, you might come across the word Ata more than once around this region. It means Grandfather in the local language and is related to any shrine or building from the old times.
Located in the west of the Mangystau region on the road between Shetpe and Sau-Otes, at the point where the road will take a sharp turn left. You will see a parking lot with some shrine, from here you can always walk East and you will eventually arrive in the white salty area (roughly 6km). A white grater with discolored rocks, salt formations and depending on the time of the year it can be fully filled with water. During the rainy season, it appears like a big giant mirror. The photos were taken in September which is the dry season. There might be some jeeps around but you will mostly be enjoying the views alone, as with most of the tourist attractions in Mangystau.