Korgalzhyn - Photo provided by Stanislaw Warwass

"Saryarka - Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan" is an important site for migratory water birds on the Central Asian flyway because of its wetlands. It also is the habitat of the Saiga antelope and the Siberian white crane. Both are critically endangered.

The site comprises two protected areas:

- Naurzum State Nature Reserve

- Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve, which includes the vast Korgalzhyn-Tengiz lake system

The land consists of 120,000 ha of "virgin" steppe.


Community Reviews

Stanislaw Warwas - January 2017

Visited December 2016.

It is not a good idea to visit Northern Kazakhstan during winter. And especially windy Korgalzhyn with temperatures dropping to -20 degrees when I was there at the beginning of December. But I did, and this state reserve is ticked on my list.

It is possible to visit Kargolzhyn National Park as a day trip from Astana, but you have to arrange everything in advance because there’s no one at Visitors’ Center (they call it museum in the village) who can take to the reserve without prior arrangements.

The first bus from Astana Saparzhay Bus Station, very close to the train station, departs at 10am, and at 9am all tickets were sold out. I wanted to take a marshrutka, but the driver wanted to charge more than other pax in his car, so I waited the next bus (500KZT) at 1130 am. And I was a very good idea, because in the bus I met a young speaking English man (Artiom Yanushevski) who helped me a lot.

Korgalzhyn used to be a small town but after the collapse of USSR most people with German, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian origins left the country. Only the half of the village is Kazakh and everybody speaks Russian. Lots of ruined houses, and at this time of the year everything covered with snow, lots of snow.

After visiting Aksu Zhabagly on an organized tour with a German-Kazakh tour company (that cost me a lot, but it was worth), I decided to visit Korgalzhyn on my own. Well, after arriving to the village Artiom took me to Timur’s house where I spent a night. (There are only two official homestays there in Korgalzhyn.) His wife cooked a lot of tradition food just for me to try; some of it was really delicious. They do not speak English, but some German and Russian of course. They even have a wi-fi! Timur is one of the important workers for the reserve and a photographer amateur, so the whole evening he was showing me his pictures, movies and telling very interesting things about life in the reserve. And he was complaining about the lack of money or any support from the government either UNESCO. He also gave me some of his pictures – so I know how the reserve looks during spring and summer.

Artiom’s father is working as a ranger in the reserve (like most men in the village) and the next day he took me for a 5 hour tour around the reserve. What to see? Well, not much, frozen lakes, some birds, some water animals winter huts and a lot of snow. We visited the viewing platform, the pioneers’ camp, houses where rangers stay while on duty, and at the end we went to see the Tengiz lake where, yes, it is possible even during the harsh winter, I saw some saiga antelopes and volves.

At the end we came to Visitor’s center (no English speaking) where I saw some dioramas and heard sounds of the steppe. On the second floor there’s a board with the info that Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve is a UNESCO WHS.

As my Russing is so-so, I think I missed half of the info provided. And I believe that late spring is the best time to visit this place.

If you need email addresses, phone numbers to Artiom (only two more people are speaking English in the village, both teachers) and Timur or info about the costs, just let Els know and I will send them to her.

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Site Info

Full name: Saryarka - Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan

Site History


The site has 2 locations.

  • Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve
  • Naurzum State Nature Reserve - NSNR Main Area Naurzum - Kargay Cluster


The site has 9 connections.


  • Animal Migrations Important stop-over points for migrating birds from Africa, Europe, and South Asia.
  • Critically endangered fauna species Saiga antelope - "In total, the global population of Saiga is now estimated at ca.50,000, down from 1,250,000 in the mid-1970s, with most animals found in Kazakhstan. " & Siberian white crane - "world population is estimated to be around 3200-4000" (wiki)
  • Dunes a belt of hummocky fixed sand dunes (UNEP-WCMC)
  • Endorheic Lakes Lake Tengiz
  • Gray Wolf 
  • Steppe 


  • Notable lakes two main lakes L.Aksuat (22,000 ha) and L. Saramoin (12,600 ha)(UNEP-WCMC)


  • Late Pleistocene The increase of climate's aridity (in Late Pleistocene - Holocene) led to the break-up of a large (in ancient times) river drainage system and to the creation of a lake chain along the Turgai hollow (nom file)

WHS on Other Lists

  • Ramsar Wetlands Naurzum Lake System, 2009 Tengiz-Korgalzhyn Lake System, (1976) 2007