The Aral Sea was formerly the world’s 4th-largest lake straddling the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. It was and continues to be drained for cotton production, to the extent that it has now almost ceased to exist. The eastern basin has been renamed the Aralkum desert. Remnants of the Aral Sea survive both in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
The shrinking of the Aral Sea is a major environmental disaster that foretells much of the future of Central Asia: a hotter, drier, more extreme climate in which survival will become increasingly difficult.
This guide aims to help the tourist visiting the area of the former Aral Sea.
Uzbek side or Kazakh side?
The majority of the Aral Sea territory used to be on the Uzbek side, and this is where most of the interest for tourists can be found. If you want to visit the remains of the Aral Sea and have the choice between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, choose Uzbekistan.
In Uzbekistan, the gateway town is Moynaq. In Kazakhstan, it’s Aralsk. Both towns have ship cemeteries, a small museum, some accommodation and tour companies organising jeep tours, so there is little difference there.
All your questions are welcome in our Aral Sea forum Q&A.