Mount Sherkala, Mangystau

Mount Sherkala, Mangystau

Sherkala is a solitary mountain and a symbol of Mangystau. Its shape, depending on the angle, resembles a Kazakh yurt or a sleeping lion, and some even compare it to the “face on Mars” or the “Martian Sphinx”. This place has an inexplicable magnetism. The name Sherkala translates from Persian to “fortress of the lion”, attributed to a local legend.

According to the legend, there was once an impregnable fortress on Mount Sherkala, accessible only through a cave. An army from a distant country besieged the fortress, trying in vain to find the entrance by climbing the slopes. Eventually, they discovered the well shaft that supplied water to the fortress inhabitants and blocked it. The defenders had to surrender, but their bravery and endurance led the conquerors to name the fortress "the fortress of lions".

This story, however, is just a legend with no historical documents supporting the existence of a siege or fortress on the mountain. Sherkala was likely a landmark for caravans crossing the barren lands of Mangystau. Nearby, ancient ruins and the Akmysh oasis have been discovered, suggesting that merchants and travelers might have stayed at the mountain's base.

Mount Sherkala is located 95 km northeast of Aktau, but the road distance is 180 km. You can reach it in 3 hours by car, though an off-road vehicle is necessary to drive around the mountain or reach its base. The highest point of Sherkala is 332 meters above sea level, with a length of 1000 meters and a width of 650 meters. It takes about an hour to walk around the mountain. Climbing to the top is impossible, but the northern part has niches and places where you can climb to a small height.

Today, Sherkala is an iconic landmark of Mangystau, included in almost all tours. Nearby attractions include the Kok-kala Tract and the valley of Airakty castles. Just 5 km from the mountain, there is a yurt camp with facilities where you can stay overnight during an extended tour of Mangystau.