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  Kyrgyzstan » Kyrgyzstan » Geography » Caves


CavesKyrgyzstan is rich in caves and grottos, (”Unkur” in Kyrgyz), which are scattered througout the Republic and they attract a number of “speliologists” – “pot-holers”, or cavers. Although many of them are easily accessible, they have not been developed as tourist attractions as in other parts of the world.

Many of the caves provide evidence of early habitation by man in the region – such as cave paintings and archaeological finds of domestic implements.

Most notable are the caves, in terms of spectacular beauty is Chil Ustin, located in the South, close to the village of Aravan and the Uzbek border, in the limestone hills that make up the foothills of the Ak Bura and Aravan river basins. The Chil Ustun cave system that is named after the stalactites that can be found here, (“Chil Ustun” is Tajik and means “40 columns”). There are other systems which riddle the hills around here. The entrance to the main cave system, (which is 380 meters long), is in the vertical southern slope of the mountain and this leads into three spacious halls connected by narrow, winding corridors.

The "Gothic" cupolas of the halls are propped up by many sparkling light pink columns, which produce an impression of having been made by a skillful craftsman. The third chamber is over 100 meters long, 20 meters high and at its widest point over 50 meters wide. From the ceiling hang stone “chandeliers”, the walls are covered with tinted crystals, and numerous ancient drawings and inscriptions in a variety of languages including Sanskrit. The crystals react by producing different sounds when the wind blows or they are lightly touched. It is thought that the caves have curative properties.

List of the largest caves in Kyrgyzstan:



Length (m)

Depth (m)



Over 3000


Victory (Pobednaya)


About 1500


Kara Unkur




Sporting (Spotivnaya)








Chil Ustin












Besh Unkur




Large Baritovaya (Bolshoi Baritovaya)




Nearby there are many other caves, and although they seem alike, each is actually unique. There are several dozen large caves that are more than 100 meters long: Sasyk-Unkur (about 140 m.), Suvli- Karnar (120 m), Chil-Mairam (130 m), Teshik-Tash (180 m), Serpent (180 m), and Bosh-Unkur (I00m).

To the South of Chil-Ustun is the Dangi Canyon , which is dissected by the fierce torrents of the Aravan River . In the canyon are a series of caves. The main one is Azhiadar-Unkur, on the southern slope of Tuya-Muyun Mountain . This cave consists of a large tunnel which goes more than 120 meters into the limestone mountain and is notable for the fact that it is home to Kyrgyzstan ’s only colony of bats. It is possible to hear their twittering and movement long before you have approached their habitat.

Two hundred meters from Azhiadar-Unkur, on the same southern slope, is a cavity 60 meters deep and which descends in impressive onyx steps. The cave has two entrances: a natural entrance, in the form of a karst well 20 meters deep, and a manmade one, which provides easy access to the lower, more beautiful section of the cave.

The Fersman cave consists of both natural and man-made passages of various lengths. It is one of the deepest caves in the Republic. The natural tunnel winds 240 meters down into the rock, to rich a thermal lake.

The 450 meter long “Surprise” cave is on the right side of the canyon. A small round opening in the wall of the canyon leads to an underground gallery decorated with crystals and stalactites.

The “Victorious” cave is 1200 meters long (although some estimates put it at 1500) and lies further to the East along the northern slope of Hoschan Mountain . Barely visible, the crevice at the watershed of the range leads to a maze of underground passages and cavities created by the rising flow of thermal springs.

Further to the South-East is Abshir waterfall which emerges from a cave about 2 meters in diameter, and cascades over a cliff wall.

Other cave systems of note include:

  • Ak Chukur – in the Sary Jaz valley (in Issyk Kul oblast) where there are cave paintings dating from the Stone Age.
  • Akturpak village of Kadamjay district in Batken oblast, said to be very beautiful with walls displaying a variety of colors, as if crystal. The air in the cave is considered to be for the treatment of bronchitis, asthma and allergies – although there is no actual scientific research to support this claim. The local people decided to build a sanatorium nearby for those seeking treatment utilising the power of this natural remedy with the help of local akims, deputies and local entrepreneurs. The cave has been fitted with electricity and water. The sanatorium, which is not yet complete, has a capacity for just 20 people – although plans exist to double this.
  • Ala Myshyk – a 45 meter long cave in Naryn oblast.
  • Kan-i-Gut is located in the extreme South-West of the country. This is a huge karst cave intermingled with an-made labyrinths – the result of silver mining over a century ago.
  • Katvan , in Batken, which has a number of cave paintings.
  • Ortok in Djalal Abad.
  • Sol Unkur in Batken.
  • The Tar Canyon which has a 910 meters cave system.

Several of the smaller caves – such as at Issyk Ata and Arslan Bob – have also served as grottos for hermits, shaman and other holy men.

Please remember: speliological tours, (i.e. “caving”), requires special conditions including the proper training and equipment.

All rights reserved. 2007