The Burana Tower is located in the Chuy region in northern Kyrgyzstan, about 80 km (50 miles) east of the capital Bishkek near the city Tokmok. This impressive ancient minaret still survives today as one of the key historical sites in Kyrgyzstan. Protected as a Unesco World Heritage site, Burana is one of the most famous minarets in Central Asia and beyond.
Built between the 10th and 11th centuries, the Burana tower with its 45 m (148 ft) height overlooked the ancient city of Balasagun, constructed by the Karakhanids in the 9th century.
In the ancient Arabic language, Burana translates as « minaret ». The legend says it was built by a king to protect his only daughter after a prophet had predicted that she would die from a Black Widow spider bite. Regardless of the father’s efforts, the young girl did not escape this tragic fate. The tower then became a mausoleum for the king’s deceased daughter.
Repeated earthquakes damaged the minaret. It was restored in the 1970s, when there were fears the tower could collapse.
Today, the Burana minaret has become an open-air historical and architectural complex. A small museum exhibits excavation findings, mostly medieval fine art and sculptures from the 6th to 10th centuries.
The site is made of 36 ha (89 acres) and includes mausoleum ruins, petroglyphs from the 2nd century B.C. and many « Balbals », funerary from the Turkish era (6th century).
The minaret itself exposes the skills of Karakhanid craftsmen. At its base, the minaret is 9.3 meters (29.5 ft) wide, but it finishes with a width of only 6 m (20 ft) at its top. Photos of the minaret before its restoration are shown in the museum. Fallen construction material was taken by local population to build their own houses.
Today, two staircases, one on the outside and one in the inside, allow visitors to climb to the top of the 25 m (82 ft) high tower. From there, you’ll have a splendid view on the Chuy valley, the city of Tokmok and the Ala-Too mountain range.
Several mausoleum foundations in clay can be seen on the site. They were discovered in the 1970s. A little further down the path, you’ll discover a beautiful collection of « Balbals », memorial stones to dead soldiers from the 6th century, as well as petroglyphs from the 2nd century B.C. found in the Chuy region.
Entry fee for the Burana minaret: 60 KGS
Entry fee for the museum: 40 KGS
You can visit the Burana Tower on a one day trip from Bishkek. First you will have to reach the city of Tokmok. You can take a public bus (marshrutka) at the western bus station to Tokmok. It will take you less than two hours to get there and cost around 300 KGS.
Once in Tokmok, the best way to get to Burana Tower is to take a taxi. You’ll have to negotiate the price with the driver; it should cost around 300 KGS. There are also some public buses that go from Tokmok to Burana Tower.