MOUNTAINS, CAVES & GORGES
The mountains in Turkmenistan occupy about 20% of the total area Southern border of the country passes along the mountain ridge Kopetdag which lies from northwest to the southeast approximately to 500 km. The peak of Kopetdag at the territory of Turkmenistan is Shahshah Mountain in the southwest of Ashgabat, the height of 2912 m. Kopetdag is the low mountains with narrow valleys. In valleys such settlements, as Archabil, Gokdere, Nohur, Desht and others are located. Kopetdag Mountains consist of igneous and sedimentary rocks (limestone) which hasdeveloped on the sea-bottom. The characteristic phenomenon in foothills of Kopetdag is the thermal sources on the basis of them the world –famous sanatoria Archman, medicalmud resort Mollagara (1951) are created.
In the west the natural continuation of Kopetdag are the mountains of Big and Small Bakan, and in the southeast part of Turkmenistan, on right bank of Amu-Darya the Kugitang-Tau being one of the spurs of Gissarsk Mountains is located.
The highest point of Kugitang is the peak of the Great Turkmenbashy (Airibaba), height 3137m. Some unique natural objects are in mountains Kugitang, namely magnificent, twisting canyon Umbar-dere with the falls overthrown from height of 28 m., hydrosulfide thermal source Keyner-baba, gorge Kyrk-gyz, grove Unabi named under dates growing there (krushin-arnap), karstic fresh water lake Koten. Particular interest causes the Plateau of dinosaurs (length of 500m., width of 200m.) near the settlement Hojapil-ata with more than 2500 forefoots of ancient pangolins (upper Jurassic period, nearby 150 million years ago). Diameter of large footsteps of adult individuals has 70-80 cm., the distance of length of the step makes 1,5m., thus, height of dinosaurs was 8-12m., body length isup to 5m., and weight in the range of 5-10 tons.
Turkmenistan is famous for its caves. The most known of them are the Karlyuk caves. They are located on the slope of Kugitangtau Ridge and are considered unique natural sanctuaries, the are equal to none in entire Eurasia; they are by right included in the List of the World Legacy of UNESCO
The Karlyuk caves are typical representation of various karst forms. There have been found around 60 caves with total length of 50 km, with galleries, passages, halls, labyrinths. The caves are rich in wandering formations of plaster, calcite, aragonite in the form of stalactites, stalagmites, stone curtains etc. A lot of caves have not been explored yet.
“Kov-Ata” cave is very popular among the tourists. The cave is famous for its biggest settlement of bats. In is surrounded by tourist complex consisted of restaurant and cafes. Bakharly underground lake “Kov-ata” is available all year round because of constant temperature of water (33-37◦C) and air. Chemical analysis has shown that water contains a complex combination of chemical elements – 30 have been found to date.
Archabil Gorge is a 10 km narrow intermountain valley with a picturesque natural park on the shores of Firjuzinka - a small mountain stream. There is fresh mountain air and clear blue sky. On the hottest days it is cool and at nights it is even cold there. There are fine conditions for to have a good rest there.
Mergenishan Gorge located along the southeast coast of Lake Sarykamysh is a flat bottomed winding canyon of 15 to 70 m in width and up to 35 m steep walls. The gorge was formed in the end of the 13th century as a result of water evacuation from Lake Tyunyuklyu to Lake Sarykamysh via the flat plain.