Backpacking in Kyrgyzstan: Touring Burana Tower and the Lost City of Balasagun with I’m Nomad

Im Nomad Tours backpacking Kyrgyzstan

Im Nomad Tours backpacking Kyrgyzstan

On my return to magnetic Kyrgyzstan, I set about checking out some more sights in the country now that the visa applications were over for a while and next on my list was Burana Tower. I teamed up with local company I’m Nomad, thanks to my friends at Silk Road Explore for getting me in touch.

Backpacking in Kyrgyzstan: Touring Burana Tower and the Lost City of Balasagun with I'm Nomad

Backpacking in Kyrgyzstan: Touring Burana Tower and the Lost City of Balasagun with I’m Nomad

Organising a Tour to Burana Tower
In terms of getting to Burana Tower, most tourists base themselves in Bishkek and go to Burana on a day trip, or just as feasible, a half day trip. Burana Tower and the lost city of Balasagun are situated near Tokmok, east of Bishkek. To organise your trip, book through Silkroadexplore.com or I’m Nomad. My guide was a local guy called Akai, a great lad.

On route to Burana Tower

On route to Burana Tower

Passing through Tokmok

Passing through Tokmok

Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan

Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan

What Exactly is Burana Tower?
The Burana Tower is a large minaret in the Chuy Valley in northern Kyrgyzstan. It is located about 80 km east of the magnetic capital of Bishkek, near the town of Tokmok. The tower, is part of a lost city known as Balasagun, along with grave markers, some earthworks and the remnants of a castle and a mausoleum hat-trick. Balasagun was established by the Karakhanids at the end of the 9th century.

Chilling out at the top of Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan

Chilling out at the top of Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan

The tower was originally 45 metres (148 feet) high. However, over the centuries a number of earthquakes caused significant damage to the structure and it is now just over half the height it once was. The last major earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the top half of the tower, reducing it to its current height of 25 m.

Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan

Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan

In the early 1900s, Russian immigrants to the area used some of the bricks from the tower for new building projects. A renovation project was carried out in the 1970s to restore its foundation and repair the west-facing side of the tower, which was in danger of collapse. You can notice that repair work at the tower’s base and perhaps the most telling thing of all is – that the tower tilts!

The leaning tower of Burana...

The leaning tower of Burana…

Three Main Sights at Burana Tower
Once you get to Burana Tower, there are three main sights to check out, each quite different and you should aim to do all three. You pay 60 Som to go into and up to the top of Burana Tower and 50 Som for the Burana Tower Museum. Touring the graveyard is free. Tickets are issued for both.

Tickets for Burana Tower

Tickets for Burana Tower

1.Burana Tower
The tower itself is the main attraction. This Minaret has survived an earthquake however it is now shorter than it was. The tower is open year round from 9am to 5pm with a few exceptions.

Opening Hours

Opening Hours

Once inside the grounds, a lady that does the tours meets us and I get my tickets from her. As I have my guide with me, Akai, she gives him the key for the tower and we can open the lock and go in ourselves. There were no other tourists here, but this place is amazing, so please come and check it out!

I've got the key, I've got the secret

I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret

We get the key and open the door and Akai and I walk the narrow steps to the top of the tower. Views are sensational and Akai tells me a few legends and myths, stories from the history of Burana Tower. One of which was that Gengis Khan came here and at the top of the tower his hat blew off and he felt the tower was sacred so ensured it was never destroyed.

The steps to the top of Burana Tower

The steps to the top of Burana Tower

Akai and I at the top of Burana Tower

Akai and I at the top of Burana Tower

At the foot of Burana Tower

At the foot of Burana Tower

Akai at the top of Burana

Akai at the top of Burana

Views atop Burana

Views atop Burana

As mentioned, notably the tower also leans to one side – truly this is Kyrgyzstan’s answer to Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa.

At the top of Burana Tower

At the top of Burana Tower

Burana Tower shadow

Burana Tower shadow

Amazing views

Amazing views

Flying my Northern Ireland flag at the top of Burana Tower

Flying my Northern Ireland flag at the top of Burana Tower

2.Burana Tower Museum
When you walk through the entrance to the lost city of Balasagun, on the right of Burana Tower is a small museum. This is open most days and costs 50 Som to enter (60 US cents). It is not normally busy so the lady that works here usually has time to give you a guided tour, as she did with me.

Burana Tower Museum

Burana Tower Museum

She gave the guided tour in English which was a pleasant surprise. The museum contains old relics such as coins, jewellery, pottery and stones all of which were found at or near the site here at Balasagun. It’s all pretty interesting and unique. Photography in the museum is not permitted.

A map of Balasagun

A map of Balasagun

3.Graveyard
Behind the museum is a graveyard. These gravestones are very distinctive, similar to the Petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata. Again, some of them date back to the 11th century and the writing varies – some of it is in Farsi and some in Russian/Kyrgyz.

The graveyard

The graveyard

The graveyard

The graveyard

The graveyard

The graveyard

As well as these three main sights, there are also the remains of the old city walls and mausoleums, all of which are pretty grounded and barely exist.

Mausoleum remains

Mausoleum remains

Entrance to Burana Tower

Entrance to Burana Tower

After checking out the three main sights, we admire the countryside and eat some lunch. It’s actually a pretty short trip but totally worth it in the magic of magnetic Kyrgyzstan. A country close to my heart the last few months, where I have been temporarily based at Apple Hostel.

I’m Nomad LLC
Address: Israïlov Str. 18, 721600, Toktogul, Kyrgyzstan
mob./ Whatsapp: +996 551 11 11 26
e-mail: info@im-nomad.com  /  Skype: im-nomad
www.im-nomad.com

Silk Road Explore
28 Minbulakskiy Lane, 720042, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
+996 550 914 408
info@silkroadexplore.com
www.silkroadexplore.com

Touring Burana Tower with I'm Nomad

Touring Burana Tower with I’m Nomad

Here are the videos of my tour to Burana Tower in Kyrgyzstan:

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