About the Burana Tower
The Burana Tower is a large minaret situated in the small town of Tokmok in northern Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. The site represents the last remaining part of the ancient 9th century city of Balasagun.
The entire museum complex today covers some 36 hectares. It includes the tower itself, reconstructions of mausoleums found on the site, a mound that is all that remains of the palace/citadel, a collection of balbals (grave markers used by nomadic Turkic peoples who used to roam Central Asia) and petroglyphs (paintings on stones) and a small Museum.
It is possible to climb to the top of the tower via a very steep, dark and windy staircase, but the views from the top are quite spectacular. What makes the place even more special is the sight of the huge Tian Shan mountains rising up from the plains in the background. These 7,000m peaks are covered in snow year round and make a fine backdrop to the already impressive site.
The Legend of the Burana Tower
A legend connected with the tower says that a witch warned a local king that his newly-born daughter would die once she reached the age of eighteen. To protect her, he built a tall tower where he sequestered his daughter.
No one entered the tower, except the daughter’s servant who brought her food. The daughter grew up alone and became a beautiful young lady. One day, however, a poisonous spider was hiding in the food brought by the servant. The spider bit the girl, and she died in the tower, at the age of eighteen.
How to get to the Burana Tower
You can take a marshrutka (a minvan bus essentially) from the Eastern bus station in Bishkek. It takes approximately one hour to reach Tokmok and the cost is 50 som (less than $1). There is no set timetable and the van will leave when full. Important: Be careful of pickpockets. A friend from Bishkek recounted how she was robbed of a significant sum of money while travelling by marshrutka.
The Burana Tower and museum is located about 7km South of Tokmok and there are plenty of taxis willing to take you, wait and return you to the bus station for an agreed price. I paid 500 som ($7) but that also included an errand to an orphanage I was visiting on behalf of a friend.
Entrance to the Burana Tower
The ticket cost 150 som ($2) which included entrance to the tower, grounds and small museum.
The museum also doubles as a giftshop where you can buy souvenirs. No photography is allowed in the museum, but fine within the rest of the grounds.
The site has some outdoor toilets which are the usual long-drop type for this region. Bring your own tissues.
The grounds are a wonderful place for a walk and perfect for a picnic. There are many brightly coloured market stalls selling fresh fruit and produce in the town so would advise stocking up and making a day of it.
Getting to Bishkek
You can reach Bishkek by bus from nearby Almaty in Kazakhstan. The journey takes about 4 hours. From Bishkek take taxi or bus from the eastern bus station to Tokmok. The journey time is around one hour.