Burana Tower - History and Facts | History Hit

Burana Tower

Burana, Chuy Region, Kyrgyzstan

Image Credit: Wikimedia / CC

About Burana Tower

The Burana Tower is a partially-surviving 11th or 12th century minaret in Kyrgyzstan, situated along what was known as the Silk Road during the Mongol Empire.

History of Burana Tower

The Silk Road was a network of caravan trade routes that ran through Central Asia, linking countries from the west of the Mediterranean to China and India. Due to its location in the heart of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan was once a hugely important country on the Great Silk Road, and there are still many monuments that once stood along the road that remain. 

One of these monuments is a minaret called the Burana Tower in Balasagun, located about 80km outside of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek. It is one of the few monuments that remain of the Karakhanid Empire which thrived from the 10th century, until it was overrun in the 14th century by Mongol troops. Over succeeding years, the once great city fell into disrepair, with numerous earthquakes wiping out almost everything that was left behind. 

The Burana Tower is now one of the oldest architectural constructions of Central Asia. A minaret, it is decorated with intricate geometric patterns that were used as a template for other similar structures. A 1970s restoration project renovated what was left of the minaret, and opened the whole site as an open air museum. 

Burana Tower today

Standing against the barren landscape, the tower may not initially appear to be hugely spectacular. However, once you consider that the site used to be a large city that was not only central to trade, but one of the most prominent and thriving cities in the world, it assumes a magnificence that transcends its size and lonely appearance. 

Visitors can climb the steep spiral staircase for 60som (about £1) and be rewarded with stunning views over the whole site and the surrounding Tian Shan mountains. 

In the grounds of the site are a collection of ancient bal-bals, gravestones that were used by nomadic Turkish tribes who roamed Central Asia in the 6th century. They are oddly shaped stone figurines with detailed carvings of faces and hands.

Getting to Burana Tower

The tower is located about 80km from Kyrgyzstan’s capital city Bishkek. The only way to access the site is by driving for an hour and 20 minutes along a main road that runs in parallel to the scenic Chu River.