Kow Ata Underground Lake

Bakharden Cave - Kol-Ata Lake - Kov-Ata Cave

Useful Information

Location: Kopetdag Mountains. 107 km south-west of Ashgabat.
Open: All year daily 9-18.
Fee: Adults Foreigners TMM 100,000.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Address: Kow Ata Underground Lake.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Kow Ata Underground Lake is located in the karst cave Bakharden Cave. The huge underground lake of thermal water is located 52 m below the entrance, is 72 m long and 30 m wide, and has a depth of about 10 m. The water is between 33 and 37 °C warm and has an high amount of different salts and minerals. Especially sulfur based substances are abundant in the water and explain the strange smell in the cave.

This cave is a well developed cave with concrete trails and stairs, and electric light. It is a popular weekend day trip for Ashgabat residents, but actually not as a show cave, but as an underground thermal spa. There are ramshackle changing rooms and an underground coffee stall. The visitors come here for bathing, there are no guided tours.

The name Kow Ata is often translated the old man in the cave, and is explained with the following legend about this cave. However, others translate the name Father of Caves or Father of Lakes.

Every day for a month a cow joined a shepherds herd for the day, but vanished at the evening. One day the shepherd followed the cow in order to collect the shepherding fee which had to be paid by the owners of the animals he herded. The cow entered the cave and went down to the lake, where an old man was sitting. When the shepered explained why he was here, the old man gave him a small bag. The shepherd left the cave and opened the bag when he was in front of the cave entrance. He found only fig leaves which he threw away in disgust. He kept the bag as a gift for his wife, but when she opened it there was a single leaf left in the bag. To their surprise it was made of gold. He hurried back to the cave entrance to collect the leaves he threw away, assuming they would be made of gold too. But to his surprise the leaves were gone, they were now grown up fig trees which formed a garden around the cave entrance. But the old man and his cow were gone.

Bakharden Cave is home to the largest colony of bats known in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. Because of this the cave has been declared a national nature preserve.