Visit Guide to Burana Tower

The Burana Tower is an archaeological and architectural monument located among the ruins of the Burana settlement, 12 km south-west of the town of Tokmok in Kyrgyzstan, on the left bank of the Chu River. Historians believe that it is all what was left of the medieval city of Balasagun, the capital of one of the largest and most powerful Turkic feudal, the Karakhanid state (940-1212).

Getting There

Burana Tower is 12km from the town of Tokmok, accessible by regular taxis from Bishkek (80km), though unreliable public transportation means most visitors will arrange a taxi there or directly from Bishkek.

What to Expect

The last remnant of the Karakhanid capital of Balasagun, the 25m Burana Tower and surrounding earthworks are the best-known archaeological site in northern Kyrgyzstan. Visitors climb the 11th century tower for views across Chuy Valley to the snow-capped Tien Shan, and a small on-site museum houses evocative architectural and religious artifacts.

Seven kilometers northeast of Burana, the 5th century Silk Road city of Suyab is also open to tourists, as are the 6th century ruins of Navekat three kilometres northeast of the village of Krasnaya Rechka. Both sites benefit from English-speaking guides. All three sites are included on the UNESCO list under the Silk Roads: The Routes Network of Chang’an-Tian Shan Corridor entry.

On Sunday mornings, Tokmok’s animal bazaar (the largest in Chuy oblast) is worth a stop en route to the tower.


Kyrgyzstan in the middle of the 10th century was part of the Karakhanid state. It was an economically and politically strong state, which contributed to the development of crafts, trade, and the construction of new cities and settlements. Balasagun was founded in the 10th century by the Karakhanids, was once the capital of this empire and used to be a large city, containing many public institutions, mosques, cathedrals and a fortress.

There are many legends about the construction of the tower.

Once upon a time there was a powerful khan who had a beautiful daughter. To celebrate her birth, he invited all the fortune tellers and wise men of the land. They all foretold she would have a long and happy one, well… all except for one. One old man predicted that the girl would die from a spider bite on her sixteenth birthday. This prediction terrified the khan so much, that he built a tall tower where he placed his daughter in isolation. The girl grew up in the tower. Servants brought her food and drinks, delivering it in a basket by climbing a ladder that was placed against the outside walls of the tower. Everything got inspected thoroughly, to make sure that no spider would ever reach her. On the day of her 16th birthday, the khan was so happy that the old man’s prediction didn’t come true, that he hurried to the tower to celebrate it with his daughter. He went to her room carrying a basket of fresh grapes. In his rush, he failed to notice a poisonous spider which had concealed itself in the basket. As his daughter was reaching for the fruit, the spider bit her and the girl immediately collapsed and died. The khan was stricken with grief and cried so loudly, that the tower shook. The top part of the tower toppled down, leaving it in ruins.

Facilities Available

  • Accommodation options in Tokmok are sparse – most travellers visit as a daytrip from Bishkek, or en route on a guided tour from Bishkek to Issyk-Kul.
  • There are many dining options in Tokmok.