The largest caves in Kyrgyzstan

The name of the cave and the location of the region
Length (meters)
Depth (meters)
Pobednaya, Tuya-Muyun (Osh region)
Kara-Unkur (Osh region)
Sports (Naryn region)
Jubilee (Batken region)
Surprise. Tuya-Muyun tract (Osh region)
Chil-Ustun, Osh gorki (Osh region)
Fersmana. Tuya-Muyun tract (Osh region)
Big Barite
Adzhiadar-Unkur (Dragon cave)


There are over 300 caves that have been discovered to date in Kyrgyz Republic.

Kan-I-Gut, (local name is Zauk-Kur). This cave is located on the southern slope of the spur of Jamal-Chul, 18 km west of Samarkandyk village towards Shadymir tract off Sary-Too. It is situated in Batken region.
A complex Kan-I-Gut expedition was organised in 1920. It comprised of variety of experts in meteorology, zoology, botany, geology and archaeology. This expedition lasted 20 days. There was a second entrance found into the cave. A schematic longitudinal profile was built from the main entrance to the left outside exit. There was a main pass-through and several side branches added to the plan.
So far, this survey is the only most detailed plan of the underground system of this cave.In 1976 and 1984, Vladimir Plosky, future academician, has visited this cave. The discovery of 23 Fergana coins of square shapes suggested that even in the late XVIII and the beginning of XIX centuries, ore was still being extracted there. Numerous expeditions have failed to get that far into the cave. A large amount of vertical lines, precipices and complex mazes required technical and physical training.
The first speleological expedition that made a significant step towards learning about this mysterious cave was organised in 1972. However, due to lack of time speleologists failed to create an accurate topographic survey of the cave. It was estimated that traversed part of the cave was more than 30 km.
Their assumption was confirmed that the large rooms and a row of precipices were indeed of a natural origin and associated with karst processes. The cave has consistently been “worked” through by different processes. At first, there were hydrothermal-karst cavities, partially or fully filled with ore bodies of different compositions. Then, cavities appeared associated with the cold waters of the karst. Afterwards, there was a man who cleared ancient caves of the ore aggregates and changed it for mountain produce. The cave has several entrances, where the Main, lower one, is situated just above the dry riverbed of Zankur-Sai. The second, Top one, is about a kilometer away from the first one. There is a vertical line of about 60 m between the two. There are two windows - holes so called Light grotto and Bright chamber, which are also considered to be entrances into the cave. There are no less than 2 man-made entrances - a tunnel under the Main entrance and a tunnel towards the Grotto with a Camel. In addition to this, there are two mine wells in the vicinity of the complex, 30 m and 60 m in depth, and a blind Central mine shaft in the tunnel under the Main entrance around 30 m. All mine wells, in the lower part, are covered with debris material, most likely deliberately. The natural depth of the cave from the Top entrance to the very bottom point is around 200 m. The largest cavities are First and Second holes, and Grotto with a Camel. Below the Grotto with a Camel, under the bottom of Zankur-Sai, lay drifts of modern works on three horizontal levels, connected by a number of blind vertical shafts, wells and sloping passages - crosscuts. The total length of the cave and wells is difficult to estimate. Suggestions included from 300 km. The area of the cave is seismically active.
The name, Kan-I-Gut (meaning “mine death“) is associated with the Kokand Khan, Khudoyar, when in his times those condemned to death were placed into the cave in search of treasures and silver mining. They either all had to die in mazes of numerous underground passes or find hidden treasures at the bottom of those depths. If they came back without any new knowledge about where treasures were, they were either killed or sent back to the underworld. Fear of death and new challenges forced these poor people to invent the most incredible stories, which were told upon their return. This may explain stories about a sleeping camel, who had eyes made of precious stones; the green plant; the silver bricks, which composed the underground fences; scary witches who guarded fairytale underground treasures. Their stories took on colourful hues, and more and more exciting interest and desire to get that fairytale treasures of Transoxiana.
In VI-IX centuries, lead and iron were being extracted here. Ancient furnaces have been found 8-10 km to the north-east. One of them is completely preserved. This indicates the presence of several air vents so called “potduval” and left over slag after melting the ore. Top

Pobednaya cave. It is situated on the right side of Tuya-Muyun mountain. Its length is 1,017 meters. The cave was opened on 9 May, 1977. It is relatively cold inside. The temperature inside is around 10-12 Celsius and there is no water at all.
The descent into the cave is complex. The winding, narrow, stepped “gut” extends from the surface up to 100 meters deep. After crossing this area, even with minimum clothing or without cargo, clothes turns to rags. It is a much bigger task to drag hundreds of kilos of cargo through this route. Most parts of the path has to be done either crawling or on all fours. The rooms in the cave are spacious with a rather dry and flat flooring. Top

Surprise cave (Of geologist Petrov 220/-80m). It is located on the right side of Dangy canyon. It is a complex three-dimensional cave with a lower part reaching underground karst waters. It has an amazing creations. Hydrothermal deposits are rocky-rhombohedral calcite, homologous, and apparently ore marble of the Fersman cave. Top

Chil-Ustun. The cave is situated in Osh mountains, 3.5 km from the village, Aravan, in mid-rivers of Aravan and Ak-Buura in small mountain range of karst type. They are composed of sedimentary rocks of Paleozoic period, 350 million years of age. The top of the Chil-Ustun mountain rises above the valley at 425 meters.There is a huge entrance into the cave in the form of an arch with a height of 15 m and its base length of about 25 m, in the rock massif almost perpendicular to the wall (the height below the bottom of sai is 65 m) at an altitude of 1,100 m. In order to reach the entrance, on a steep sloping rock, a certain skill is required and a climbing insurance would help.This cave has been known since ancient times, which is evident by the Arabic inscriptions on the walls.
Chil-Ustun cave has a length of 380 meters and consists of three spacious rooms connected by narrow corridors. The third room is very impressive, which can only be entered by crawling through a narrow manhole. The length of this room is more than 100 meters, the height is more than 20 meters, and the width of some separate sections reaches up to 50 meters. The room is supported by, glittering from moisture and light, columns. The walls are covered with crystals and stone laces. From a gentle touch, crystals begin to make sound. Calcite sinter forms (stalactites, talagmites, stalagnates (columns) reach 50-meter height). Sinter cirques of bizarre shapes of different colours, from white to dark brown, create a unique interior of the room. This cave has received a name “Forty columns”.Pilgrims moved to Chil-Ustun. “If the sins are heavy, they will be swept away into the abyss” - says the legend. -”All is God’s will. But Almighty is merciful, and if a traveller goes through the rocky steeper and returns to the mountain foot unharmed - he will be forgiven all sins. And the crushed stone brought from Chil-Ustun will cure any disease.”At the very edge of a precipice, at the entrance of plane tree, the branches of the tree lower mouldering strips of cloth. A little further, there is a sacrificial Buddhist mortar carved out. Above it, there is a barely discernible ligature of Sanskrit. Nearby, are the latter Arab writings. There is a trefoil symbol at a nearby stone, typical to those of earlier period in the history of these places.
Development of Ashhon cave. An entrance to this cave is 65 m down the slope from the entrance to Chil-Ustun cave. This cave itself is a part of the ground floor of Chil-Ustun cave block. The entrance is an arch-shape, 0.4 m high and 0.6 m wide. The cave has a 45 m long hollow-slope cavity. Its width reaches 10-15 m and its height is 2.5 m. The temperature in the far end of the cave is + 15 C and humidity levels are 85-100%. Top

Fersman (4580/-219 m). It is located approximately 2 km west of the Dungy gorge. River Aravan deeply cuts through Tuya-Muyun mountain with a canyon, on the left side of which, is the deepest cave - Fersman abyss, 240 m.
A developed radium mine, in common parlance - Fersman cave - is a dark smoked out dungeon with the interplay of tunnels, drifts and natural cavities. Continuous spans reach 200 meters. This cave was exploited as a deposit of radium, and then uranium in the beginning of XX century. By the end of 1950s, it has been completely used up and eliminated ( entrances have been blocked and blown up). The total length of the ancient karst cavities and artificial excavations in the Fersman system is 4,130 m. Top

Big Barite (114/-56 m). It is situated on the southern slope of Tuya-Muyun massif. It started as a 20-meter vertical shaft (but is now an open adit). The walls of the cave were almost completely covered with a strong bark of hydrothermal calcite crystals (between 30-45 cm in size) as well as barite crystals. Barite envelops the walls of an enormous cave in the form of clusters, cornices and large sparkling crystals. With the use of acetylene lamp, huge accumulations of barite crusts in the tens of tons of weight can be observed. At this time, the cave is almost completely looted. Top

Adzhiadar-Unkur (Dragon cave 80/-26 m). It is situated in Aravan on the southern slope of Tuya-Muyun massif above the Barite cave. Hydrothermal deposits have been limitedly developed and presented by dense masses of calcite cymbals. At a depth of one hundred and ten meters from the surface is the only colony of bats in the country. Top

Chon-Chunkur (60/-35 m). It is located on the steep northern slope of Tuya-Muyun massif. The walls of the cave are covered with corallites belonging to the youngest phase of mineralisation. In the room near the entrance is a two-meter layer of loess of Aeolian origin. Top

All caves of Tuya-Muyun massif feature a rich mineralisation inherent only to this area. There are different colours and shapes of crystals that decorate the surface of the majority of underground rooms and passages. This district has been entered into the geographical literature of “Osh Hills” (from Osh town).
This massif is famous for metallic and non-metallic low-temperature hydrothermal paleokarst. It is a widely elongated block of carboniferous sediments of up to 600 m. The surface of the massif is slightly tilted to the north with an average altitude of 1,400 m. To the west, its surface sinks beneath the Palaeogene-quaternary sediments. River Aravan cuts this massif through in its central part creating a narrow canyon of Dangy of about 300 m deep.
An open karst of the massif developed on the area of 2,500 x 250 x 600 m. It is in the form of cracks, which were widened by dissolution and small niches (Tafoni). Large underground forms represented by five caverns, as well as small fragments of cavities, partially or completely covered as a result of mountain-geological work of Tuya-Muyun mine.
Only a few people know that in 1899, there was a geological exploration carried out here, followed by extraction of one of the rarest naturally occurring radioactive elements - radium. Birthplace of Tuya-Muyun is well known to geologists and scientists as it was being developed since the beginning to the forties of the last century. It was here, where the very first grams of this very necessary chemical element #88 were extracted. The total amount that was extracted here was around 5,000 tons of ore containing 1 gram of radium in 250-300 tons of ore.
Local people have long mined copper here, and in the Middle Ages, this mine was actively used by Chinese. A mountain engineer, L. I. Antunovich, began his exploration and uranium ore mining in 1904. Since 1908, he organised for works to be carried out by “Fergana Society for the extraction of rare metals”. This extraction continued until World War I. There was 820 tons of ore extracted, most of which were transported to Petersburg and recycled for products of uranium and vanadium. In 1922, there was an industrial extraction of ore organised in Tuya-Muyun. The reserves of the birthplace were estimated at 15-20 grams of radium, 60 tons of uranium and 120 tons of copper.
It was found that the birthplace presents a system of tubular and cavernous cavities of karst type made by the ore body. During the expedition search, a large deposit of antimony was accidentally found in Shakhimardan district. Kadamjai antimony plant was built here. The extraction of birthplace was carried out underground and was stopped due to abundance of underground water at a depth of 220 m.
Nowadays, “Academic” mountain hides a maze of ancient miners, mines and drifts of radium mine, of natural karst cavities. There is one of the adits of the cave that leads to “Fersman” cave. All this attracts speleologists and tourists.
At the entrance to the gorge of Aravan-Sai, from Naukat side, there is an open entrance to the former drainage adit of the cave. The level of exposure of gamma radiation on the dumps ranges between 60-100 mR / hour, gamma ray background inside mountain extractions does not exceed 30-40 mR / hour. Top

Are the caves radioactive?
There is no unequivocal answer to this question. In nature, radioactivity is mainly associated with igneous, intrusive rocks, uplifted to the surface from the depth of the earth’s bowels (subsoil). Sedimentary rocks including limestone, in which the caves are predominantly laid in, have insignificant natural background in comparison to granites for instance. But it is not so simple. Caves are often associated with large tectonic breakages, which allow hot solutions, rich in minerals including radioactive, rise from the depths of earth’s bowels. They can form not only underground cavities (known as hydrothermal karst) but also fill them with mineral deposits. Even deep igneous rocks infiltrate into the thickness of limestone deposits. Caves may be located within the zones of their contact. However, the most common carrier of radioactivity in caves is radon gas, the source of radiation. This gas is widely spread and is found not only in caves. It is often a part of the air of artificial caves including cellars and basements, it can penetrate into the lower floors of buildings. Radon gas can be saturated in groundwater. There are spring keys surfacing from the ground , water which contains radon. The healing properties of radon waters have long been known. However, what heals can also cause harm. Small doses of radon are beneficial to the human body, but significant doses can be a health hazard. Top

Speleologists motto: "Do not take anything out of the cave expect photographs and do not leave anything behind other than your own footsteps"

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