After driving across the featureless desert of Kazakhstan for 4 days, and safely passing Kazakhstan’s “road of death”, we found ourselves in the small town of Aralsk on what used to be the coast of the Aral sea.
Aralsk is a small town, just 30,000 people live there. With the Aral sea coast having vanished decades ago, this former fishing village isn’t much to see. We heard there were a few slowly rusting ship carcases sitting on the old Aral seabed not too far from town. Since they were potentially the most interesting thing to see withing 750km in any direction, we decided to go check them out.
How to get to the Aral Sea ship graveyard near Aralsk, Kazakhstan
If you’re in Aralsk, you probably have your own transport or you’re with a guide. I wouldn’t really recommend coming here otherwise, it’s in the middle of nowhere.
The ship graveyard can be found near the small camel farming village of Zhalanash, a bumpy 65km drive along a gravel road to the south-west of Aralsk. Head north-west out of Aralsk, and follow the road until you hit the village – it’s impossible to get lost, the road only goes one way.
Drive straight through Zhalanash, and you’ll hit what used to be the former Aral sea coast. We asked some locals where we could find the old ships, and they pointed us towards a sandy track leading to the south-east of town onto the seabed. Check our map above for directions.
You’ll find a well-worn track along the seabed towards the ships. The sand is quite soft in some places, and the tyre grooves in the track can be quite deep. I wouldn’t recommend attempting the drive in anything smaller than a small 4wd.
You’ll hit the first rusting ship carcases about 5km from the village. We were surprised by the how much greenery has reclaimed the former sea floor.
Continuing along the path, you’ll find about a dozen ships of different sizes. Many of the ships here have been partly dismantled for scrap metal, and others are slowly rusting away.
You won’t find as many ships here as the Moynaq ship graveyard on the other side of the Aral sea in Uzbekistan, but if you happen to be driving through Kazakhstan, it is worth stopping for a visit.