Kungrad, centrally located in Karakalpakstan, serves as a staging post for travelers heading to or coming from Western Kazakhstan via the Nukus-Aktau road across the Ustyurt Plateau. It’s also the jumping off point if you want to visit Moynaq and the former Aral Sea.
All questions and updates are welcomed in the Kungrad forum topic.
These days Kungrad, also spelled Qo‘ng‘irot or Қўнғирот (in Uzbek), Қоңырат (in Karakalpak) and Кунград (in Russian), is essentially a large village with a city-size bazaar. There’s not really anything to do other than stop through on your way to/from Moynaq, Nukus or Beyneu, but the bazaar’s selection of fruits, vegetables, and pretty much everything, is a very welcome sight if you’ve just traversed nearly 1000 km of desert from Aktau.
Cossack Old Believers in Kungrad apparently still uphold (ru) some of their traditional way of life, as they do on the other side of the border in the villages around Kyzylorda. We’d be intrigued to find out more.
The city park is nothing special but it’s worth a stroll if you haven’t seen a tree in a while.
50 northwest of Kungrad lies Sudochye Lake. It was always a separate lake, but connected to the Aral Sea by a channel, and also fed by an arm of the Amu Darya. It still exists to this day, although because of continuous lack of water, it has split up in 4 different parts.
With the lack of water elsewhere, Sudochye has become an important spot for birds. More than 230 bird species have been recorded here. The most notable passers-by are pink flamingos.
You can also visit the ruins of Urga, an abandoned fishing village.
Kungrad is the transport hub for getting to Moynaq and the (former) Aral Sea. Direct buses run to and from both Nukus (6000 sum) and Moynaq (7000 sum, at 10 and at 16 last we checked) from the bus station (OSM). Minibuses and taxis leave from the taxi stand (OSM). A shared taxi is usually better since the price difference is small and the minibuses take ages to fill up. Moynaq is 12 000 with the minibus and 15 000 with the shared taxi. Nukus is 20 000 with a shared taxi.
You can also take a train: Kungrad sits along the Beyneu-Nukus train line. Besides the train, there is no organised transport towards the border with Kazakhstan.
Standard Uzbek cuisine can be found in numerous cafes near the train station. Cafe Lavanda has been recommended.
For anything else, you are best off going to the bazaar and cooking your own meals. Vegetarian cyclists, this is your chance to feast after surviving on onions and camel cheese for the last week!
As for now, no accommodation in Kungrad can be booked online.
If she is available, Zulfiya’s is a good bet. It’s not really a guesthouse but simply a family home with an extra room where guests can sleep on traditional Central Asian mats on the floor. There is also space to sleep on the patio with a nice roof and wall to protect from the morning sun, and space to safely leave your bicycles or motorbikes.
Zulfiya speaks some English and perfect Russian, and we got the feeling that she really enjoys meeting and helping travelers from around the world. And, the best part, they have a sauna! Though sweating in a sauna may not sound so appealing on a 40 degree summer day, it really is the best way to get the desert sand out of your pores.
Guests can sleep for 50,000 sum per person, or those passing through can just use the shower and sauna for 10,000 sum per person. The price of 50,000 som for a matrass on the floor is still valid, as is the price of 10,000 som for the neighborhood sauna in her backyard. Dinner, in-betweens, tea and breakfast are charged separately, which she might not mention at the start, so ask for prices beforehand or rely on your negotiation skills at the end of your stay. Her number is +998 913 877 375; send her a whatsapp message before you arrive to check if she’ll be in town.
Around the train station
A bunch of guesthouses are located near the train station. Your reviews are welcome!
Daniyarova Guesthouse, just across the car park of the train station (OSM), looks like a cafe but also offers bed and breakfast for 60 000 – 80 000 sum (bargain). Simple and clean rooms with 3 beds, can host up to 20 people. No WiFi, decent food, squat toilets, shared showers.
There is another cafe with slow WiFi just across the street from the train station parking lot; it also functions as a private hostel for 50,000 sum per person, but it has an “I want all of your tourist money” kind of vibe (better to just use their WiFi and stay somewhere else).
Family Guest House is 100m east of the train station (OSM). $10, indoor toilet, strong wifi and shower. Breakfast included (and willingly served at 5.30). Registration provided on a post-it note.