Burana Tower – Kyrgyzstan - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Kyrgyzstan

Burana Tower

Lonely minaret stump of a destroyed city. 

This 25 meter tower, located in the Chuy Valley, east of the Kyrgyz capital city Bishkek, is the last remains of the mosque of the medieval city of Balasagun.

Balasagun, established by the Karakhanids in the 9th century, has virtually disappeared. Only a few mausolea remains, some remnants of a fortification and this half minaret are still visible from Balasagun.

Numerous earthquakes have destroyed the rest of the city, with fragments reused for newer buildings. Earthquakes have also taken its toll on the minaret, and the top half toppled after a major earthquake in the 15th century. The fall reduced its height from 45 to 25 meters. In the 1970s, the minaret was renovated. Centuries of repeated earthquakes in one of the most seismically-active regions in the world had severely damaged the minaret, and it was in danger of collapse.

Strangely, the entrance to the minaret is not on ground level, but a couple of meters above via a metal staircase. Inside the minaret a steep spiral staircase runs to the top of a the final remaining structure of a lost city. A small museum, close to the minaret, holds minor finds excavated in the area.

Know Before You Go

Burana, Chuy Oblast, Kyrgyzstan