Besshatyr Mounds


Besshatyr Saka Mounds (Bes-Shatyr is "five tents" in Kazakh) is a complex of royal tombs, dating back to the 1st millennium BC, one of the most remarkable objects of the historical and cultural heritage of the Altyn-Emel National Park and the whole Semirechye (Jetysu, Seven Rivers) region.


The Besshatyr necropolis is located in the western part of the Altyn-Emel National Park on the right bank of the Ili river, in a place named Shylbyr, between the Degeres ridge (Dzhungarian Alatau) in the west and the Small Kalkan mountains in the east, 35 km from Checkpoint 1 (you should enter the park from the village of Shengeldy).

Historical and Cultural Landmark

Besshatyr (bes means "five" and shatyr - "tent, pavilion" in Kazakh) is the necropolis of the leaders of the Saka Tigrahauda nomadic tribe (in the Western world they were called the Eastern Scythians), which inhabited this territory in the 6th-4th centuries BC. 

The age of Besshatyr mounds is about 2.5 thousand years.

The mounds, which look like pavilions from afar, are made of stones. A total of 31 burial mounds were discovered in this area. Of these, 21 burial mounds are with stone cover and 10 are with an embankment of rubble and ground.

The mounds stretch 2 km from north to south and 1 km from west to east. The total area of ​​the Besshatyr burial ground is about 2 km².

The mounds are divided into large, medium and small. For the leaders of tribes and unions, rulers, kings, burial mounds with a diameter of 50-100 m were erected; for famous warriors, heads of clans, nobility - from 30-40 m; mounds from 15-25 m were erected for simple men-at-arms. The largest, the so-called Royal Mound, is 17 m high and 105 m in diameter.

Complex underground passages have been discovered in the large mounds. From the inside, the burial mounds are trimmed with wood from the Tien Shan spruce, which was harvested in the Zaili Alatau mountains, 200-250 km from this place, and floated down the Ili river.

The Besshatyr necropolis was explored by the Semirechye archaeological expedition in 1957, 1959-1961. During the excavations, many historical artifacts were discovered that gave an idea of the Saka nomads lifesyle.

Unfortunately, the royal burial mounds were plundered in ancient times, and from the remaining objects and the grandeur of the structures, one can only guess about the value of the missing things. However, the Besshatyr mounds themselves are of great cultural value as a historical artifact.

The burial mounds of Besshatyr are called Semirechensky, or Saka pyramids.

The name "Besshatyr" ("five tents") comes, apparently, from the number of the largest tombs in this territory. On the way, you can see many smaller burial mounds scattered throughout the territory between the Sholak mountains and the Ili river.

Besshatyr Mound Entrance
Besshatyr Mounds Inside
Inside the Besshatyr Mound


The mounds were not only a burial place, but also a place for religious ceremonies. Altars in the form of circles made of laid down and vertically installed stones (on the eastern side), which could be correlated with the cult of the sun, characteristic of the Saka culture, are of a great historical and cultural value.

The biggest megaliths, or menhirs (from Brittonic languages: men - "stone" and hir - "long"), are installed at the Royal Mound.

Many menhirs are carved with images of animals, symbols of the sun, as well as tamgas of Kazakh clans.

Besshatyr Menhirs

Menhirs in the Altyn-Emel National Park are monuments of the Saka culture and religion.

Oshaktas Steles

About 30 km east of the Besshatyr mounds, at the foot of the Small Kalkan mountains, there are similar structures, the Oshaktas steles.

Scientists suggest that the entire territory between the Dzhungarian mountains and the Ili river was a place of pagan rites of the ancient nomads.

Tourist Attraction

Besshatyr gives you a sense of antiquity with the traces of the nomadic civilization of the Saka, who inhabited the entire territory of modern Kazakhstan in ancient times.

To get to the Besshatyr Saka mounds, you need to drive into the national park through Checkpoint 1 from the village of Shengeldy.

The road to the necropolis of Besshatyr passes through a picturesque valley between the Dzhungarian Alatau mountains and the Ili river. This is the most secluded and protected part of the Altyn-Emel National Park - here you can see kulans and gazelles. For the sake of saving these graceful animals, the through passage from the Besshatyr mounds to the Singing Dune was closed so that the animals could freely descend to the river for watering.

Birdwatchers also appreciate this protected part of the national park - here you can see the birds of the delta of the Ili river and the mountains of Dzhungarian Alatau.

Lovers of mountain trekking can explore the low-mountain gorges, such as Taigak, Kyzylauyz.

On the way, you can visit Tanbaly Tas, the ancient rock paintings in the Sholak mountains. The petroglyphs of Tanbaly Tas date back to the Bronze, Iron and Middle Ages.

Checkpoint 1 Altyn-Emel
Road to Besshatyr
Gazelles in Altyn-Emel Park
Ili River Birds
Partridge, Mountain Bird
Tanbaly Tas


  • Tourist Route 2 (Tanbaly Tas Petroglyphs and Besshatyr Mounds) is open for visiting only during the daytime, during daylight hours.

  • Pass is issued only remotely, in advance through the online cashiers of the national park and payment through the Kaspi Bank mobile application.

  • There is almost no mobile communication in the park and the Internet does not work.

  • Overnight stays, camping on the shore of Kapchagai and fishing are prohibited.

  • Through drive to the Singing Dune is prohibited.

  • The road along Route 2 is very bad, hilly and rocky in places, it is recommended to have a strong and reliable SUV.

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