Bozjyra, sometimes spelled Boszhira or Bozzhyra, is a symbol of the Mangystau region of Kazakhstan. A seemingly endless plain of Moon-like, light grey landscapes, cliffs, buttes and limestone pillars.
1. Ancient heritage
Bozjyra is part of the Ustyurt Plateau, the bottom of the former Tethys Ocean that covered the area millions of years ago. The waves of the ocean, then the sun and wind once all the water disappeared, shaped the landscape into what can be seen today, the arid, light grey scenery making it look like a piece of the Moon on Earth.
“I visited Mangystau in August of 2019. It felt absolutely amazing and otherworldly. The moment I remember the best was when it was night and I was sitting on the cliff alone, watching the moon set on the horizon and the milky way above the Bozjyra rock formations,” Juuso Hamalanainen, a tourist from Helsinki, told The Astana Times.
The limestone peaks can reach over 200 metres in hight, two of them, sitting next to each other being the most sought after for pictures from them all. Their shape and positioning makes many people compare them to the fangs of prehistoric predators, a nod to the plateau’s age. Lucky palaeontology enthusiasts may even spot fossilised shells or bones and teeth from Mesozoic Era sharks at the bottom of the valley.
2. Mythology and symbolism
Although the most famous sight nowadays are arguably the tall formations, especially the “fangs”, an article from Adamdar/CA highlights that the name Bozjyra does not in fact emphasize the cliffs and buttes, but rather the valley between them. The word zhyra (pothole, gully, ravine) refers to the geological processes that formed this valley, while boz (light grey, whitish, ash grey) can also mean “feather grass” or “salt flat”. However, the definition of boz also contains the connotation of “twilight, the middle ground between two states”, for example, bozbala (teenager) or bozalang (greyish, pale, dim – as in pre-dawn).
The name, the analysis demonstrates, is a reflection of the mythological motif of a journey to the underworld from when the Kazakh people first arrived at Mangystau and descended into the valley from the Ustyurt Plateau, the name of which, in contrast, means top, highland, raised place. “For Kazakhs, Mangystau seemed like a magical world and the arrival of the Aday people to Mangystau (the descent from the plateau to the lowlands) was identified with the journey to the otherworld”, the article explains.
3. Getting there
Bozjyra is 300 km away from the city of Aktau and there is no actual road leading to it. Off-road driving skills and very good coordination are a must to reach this mythical place, making the journey an adventure in itself.
Once there, the observation site offers the best views of the cosmic-like landscape of the valley. Alternatively, travel companies organise tours of the entire Mangystau region that often also include visits to the sacred underground Mosques.