Kazakhstan’s Mangystau Province is called the “Treasure Peninsula” for its natural oil and gas reserves, and other raw materials such as ores and minerals. These important natural resources were discovered during the period of the Soviet Union. Drillings took place and the province was practically established on its petroleum industry. Mangystau’s total land area is 165,600 square kilometers. The Mangystau region is now considered a leading tourism and recreation area with rich cultural heritage. Kazakhstan has a relatively young tourism industry, and regions like Mangystau significantly help in promoting the country’s tourism for three important reasons.
The first reason is the historic Silk Road. The Silk Road is the most popular trading route of ancient merchants from China, Central Asia and Europe. Traveling back and forth in caravans, the brave traders mainly sold silk but included other important commodities, and eventually even religions and ideologies. The caravan trade gave rise to new towns in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries. The towns of Sarytash, Ketyk, Kabakly, Sherkala and Alta in Mangystau still exist today. A popular tour package in the province is called a “Journey along the Great Silk Road”, which runs from the southern to the northern regions of Mangystau, and extending to Ustyurt Plateau, Shetpinskie Gates and the Caspian Sea coast.
The second reason includes the many unique land formations that cannot be found elsewhere in the world. The first of these attractions is the lowest point in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, the Karagiye Depression, also known as “The Black Mouth”. It is 132 meters below sea level, and acknowledged as the 5th lowest portion in the world. (The planet’s lowest point is the Dead Sea Depression in Jordan, 413 meters below sea level.) The other leading attractions in the province are the Tamshaly Springs (aka “Jolly Droplets”), the sacred Mount Sherkala, ruins of the fortress of Genghis Khan’s son, Lake Saura, Mangis Tau Mountains, Karazhao Canyon, Kulandag Mountains, Zhosaly Hill, Samal Gorge, Sazanbai Gorge, the ancient town of Kzyl-Kala, Ustyurt National Biosphere Reserve, Kaplankyr Natural Reserve (famous for its population of cheetahs), Karagiye-Karatol Nature Reserve and “Devil’s Finger”, an odd-looking rock formation along the Blue Bay. Another eerie attraction is an ancient graveyard that is believed to date back to the 5th-century BC. Researchers discover that the graves belong to the ancient nomadic peoples of the Sacae-Massaget Age.
The third reason to visit the province is Aktau, the capital city of Mangystau Province. It is a bustling city that began as a tiny town in 1963. It is still known by many by its old Soviet name, Shevchenko. It is one the leading cities in southwestern Kazakhstan primarily for its gas and oil reserves. The only nuclear power station in Kazakhstan is found not very from Aktau. Places of interest within the capital are underground mosques that date back to the 10th century, a necropolis flanked with several stone statues, mausoleums and Kuskuduk excavations. Total population of the seaport city of Aktau is 154,500 (2004) and more than 373,000 for the entire province.