The Singing Dunes in Kazakhstan are called Aigaikum ("singing sand dune" in Kazakh). The Singing Dunes are the main attraction of the Altyn-Emel National Park.

The Singing Dunes look like mountains of pure quartz sand without vegetation, with steep slopes. When dry sand moves, the grains of sand rub against each other, which produces a lingering, loud sound, similar to low singing. That is why they were named "Singing Sands". Such a rare natural phenomenon has been noted in only a few places in the world.

The Singing Dunes are one of the 7 natural wonders of Kazakhstan which were included in the list of nominees for the global competition "7 new wonders of nature" held in 2007-2011. The Singing Dunes have the status of the Nationally Significant Natural Monument (Decree of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated 07.19.05 No. 746).


The Singing Dunes are located in the southern central part of the Altyn-Emel National Park on the right bank of the Ili river, between the Ulken (Big) and Kishi (Small) Kalkan mountain ranges, 46 km from the village of Basshi, about 300 km from the city of Almaty.


The Singing Dunes were formed as a result of geological changes in the Semirechye (Jetysu, Seven Rivers) region. About 200 thousand years ago, a part of the Ulken Kalkan (Big Kalkan) volcano shifted, forming the mountains known as Kishi Kalkan (Small Kalkan).

In this new corridor, like in a wind tunnel, the winds blowing from the southeast to the west-northwest, pulled in the sands, which lay at the foot of the volcano, forming huge dunes about 10-12 thousand years ago.

The mountains of the Big and Small Kalkans surround the Singing Dunes, thus preserving its unchanged shape.

Singing Dune and Kalkans Mountains
Singing Dune and Kalkans Mountains


Singing Dune

The dimensions of the largest Singing Dune are 3 km long and 150 m high. This is the southern dune, which is most popular with tourists. Nearby is the northern dune, about 100 m high.

The total area of dunes is 240 hectares. The absolute heights of the ridges reach 600-650 m.


The sound of the Singing Dune is reminiscent of low throat singing, the low sound of an organ or the rumble of a jet aircraft, which is heard for several kilometers around. It occurs in dry windy weather, when the sand mass moves.

There are various theories about the mysterious mechanism of the singing sand. According to one of them, the sound frequency depends on the shear rate of the sand mass. Other scientists believe that the vibration frequency is related to the thickness of the dry surface layer of sand. Sound waves resonate between the surface of the dune and the surface of the wet layer, increasing the volume of the sound. The sound itself can be caused by the friction between the grains of sand, or by the compression of air between them.

The sound effect is achieved not only with the wind, but also with mechanical action, if you slide down the dry slope of the dune, but scientists have expressed concerns about the stability of this sandy ecosystem. Frequent descents from the slopes of the dune cause the grinding of grains of sand and the accumulation of a dusty fraction, which over time can lead to the loss of the ability of the Singing Dune to produce a sound.

Aigaikum (Singing Dune)

In different places of the world, singing sands sound differently. This largely depends on the size of the sand dune.

Due to its big size, the Aigaikum Singing Dune under certain conditions produces a strong, low and long sound.

Tourist Attraction

The Singing Dune is the main tourist attraction of the Altyn-Emel National Park.

Why does the Singing Dune attract thousands of tourists from all over the world? First, due to its mysterious ability to produce sound. Standing next to the dune during its "singing", it is hard to believe that this sound is made by a sandy mountain, and not by some low-flying aircraft.

Secondly, the Singing Dune is notable for the fact that it does not wander in the desert and never loses its shape, but remains in its place for several millennia, despite the unsteadiness of sand and strong winds. It is the special wind rose in this area that determines the unchanging shape and stability of the dune.

Thirdly, climbing the Singing Dune, especially barefoot, is pure pleasure and the opportunity to hear the sound of the dune under your feet. The ascent is not difficult, and the dune itself is surprisingly soft. Also, a stunning panorama of the national park opens from its top. The large southern dune has three ridges, the last of them comes close to the Ili river.

Singing Dune
Singing Dune
Singing Dune
Singing Dune: Plants

The Singing Dune is incredibly beautiful and is an excellent backdrop for photo shoots.

The local desert flora and fauna is very unusual. In the sands of the Singing Dune, you can always meet nimble lizards.

On the way to the Singing Dune, you can stop at the information plates "Dinosaurs of the National Park" and learn a lot of interesting things about the ancient animals that inhabited the current territory of the national park. Along the way, you can also visit historical monuments - the spring of Chokan Valikhanov and the ancient stone steles of Oshaktas.

The road to the Singing Dune, passing through the steppe surrounded by the Dzhungarian Alatau mountains and the desert mountains of Katutau at some distance, is very unusual for city dwellers. This is a popular route for quad, motorcycle and bike tours.

A trip to the Singing Dune can be combined with a visit to the colorful Aktau mountains. You can stay for the night at a hotel in the village of Basshi - for example, at the Caravansarai Campsite.

Singing Dune: Animals
Altyn-Emel Dinosaurs
Altyn-Emel Cycle Tour

In Popular Culture

The Singing Dune is one of the sacred places where the main character of The Zahir novel by the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho comes to a spiritual revelation.

"It is a pity that your famous Singing Dune, which made a strong impression on me, is not visible or heard from the Alatau mountains," Paulo Coelho said to journalist and writer Zhumagali Ismagulov, the translator of his novel into Kazakh.

In 2005, Paulo Coelho visited Kazakhstan for presenting The Zahir novel in Almaty. One of its central characters is a sage who lives on the shore of Kapchagai. In his letter dated March 20, 2005, Paulo Coelho tells the readers of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper: “After the enthusiastic stories of my friends about Kazakhstan, I began to search the Internet for everything that can be learned about this country. And the longer I searched, the more I fell in love with the Kazakh culture. At the same time, I started writing The Zahir book. And by the magic of inspiration, a Kazakh became one of the main characters. Since then, the landscapes of Kazakhstan and The Zahir have become woven together, and the main storyline pointed to the road in the direction of the steppes".

Due to its extraordinary photogenicity, the Singing Dune is a favorite place for photo and video filming, it can often be seen in various commercials and music videos - for example, in the "Qairan Elim" MV of the famous Kazakh singer Dimash Qudaibergen, glorifying the beauty of the Almaty region natural places.


For many centuries, a considerable number of folk legends have been composed about the Singing Dune.

Singing Dune in Kazakhstan
Singing Dune in Altyn-Emel
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