Know Your Destination - Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is by far the largest of the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union. It has borders with Russia, China, and the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan is the world's ninth biggest country by size, and it is more than twice the size of the other Central Asian states combined. Its lack of significant historical sites and endless featureless steppe have put many off Kazakhstan, while many still are captivated by the emptiness and mystery of this Goliath state. It will be many travellers' first port of call on their Central Asian adventure, and there is much for the intrepid traveller to enjoy. Kazakhstan is the most economically advanced of the ‘stans’, thanks to its abundant reserves of oil and most other valuable minerals. This means generally better standards of accommodation, restaurants and transport than elsewhere in Central Asia. The biggest city, Almaty, is almost reminiscent of Europe with its leafy avenues, chic cafes, glossy shopping centres and hedonistic nightlife. The capital Astana, on the windswept northern steppe, has been transformed into a 21st-century showpiece with a profusion of bold futuristic architecture. But it's beyond the cities that you'll find the greatest travel adventures, whether hiking in the high mountains and green valleys of the Tian Shan, searching for wildlife on the lake-dotted steppe, enjoying home-spun hospitality in village guesthouses, or jolting across the western deserts to remote underground mosques.
Kazakhstan is a unique region in the world, because of its history, geographical position and size. Located in the centre of Eurasia, it is also the largest landlocked country in the world. These resulted in a specific climate and a peculiar natural system of the country, which seems to absorb the brightest examples of landscape of both continents. In addition, complicated history of Kazakh people and constant interaction of nomadic lifestyle with settled people in South Kazakhstani ancient cities, have lead to a unique and authentic culture of Kazakhstan.
These peculiarities have created an opportunity to develop various and diverse offers in Kazakhstan travel and tourism industry, which include authentic cultural tourism, nature-based activities, including ecotourism, birdwatching, etc. in national parks and protected areas, skiing or trekking in mountains, water sports, sunbathing and swimming in lakes and rivers of Kazakhstan, and many others.
Almaty - Former Capital of Kazakhstan
Almaty, the largest city and capital of Kazakhstan before December 1998, is located in the south-east of Kazakhstan, at the foot of the northern of Tien Shan ridge - Zailiysky Alatau. Above the town rise the peaks Talgar (5017 m.), Nursultan (4376 m.), Big Almaty (3684 AM)
This leafy city with a backdrop of the snowcapped Zailiysky Alatau has always been among the more appealing Russian creations in Central Asia. Today Almaty’s new rich have expensive suburban apartments, large SUVs, glitzy shopping malls, Western-style coffee lounges, expensive restaurants, dance-till-dawn nightclubs and new ski resorts to help them enjoy life to the full. This is Kazakhstan’s main transport hub and a place many travellers pass through. Almaty is quite a sophisticated place – one for enjoying green parks and excellent museums, shops and markets, and for eating, drinking and partying in Central Asia’s best selection of restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs. And great mountain hiking and skiing are right on the doorstep. The downtown area stretches roughly from the Green Market in the north to Respublika alany in the south. South of here is the new business district along streets like Al-Farabi.
Some of the important sights of Almaty
Central State Museum
Almaty’s best museum, takes you through Kazakhstan’s history from Bronze Age burials to telecommunications and the transfer of the capital to Astana, with many beautiful artefacts. A large replica of the Golden Man stands in the entrance hall.
This 1100m hill on the city’s southeast edge is crowned by a 372m-high TV tower visible from far and wide, and affords great views over the city and the mountains, plus an assortment of attractions at the top. The easy way up is by the smooth cable car, which glides up in six minutes. At the top you'll find assorted cafes and restaurants, craft shops, a roller-coaster, a minizoo, a children’s playground – and life-sized bronze statues of the four Beatles, placed here on the initiative of local fans in 2007.
This large and attractive rectangle of greenery is one of central Almaty's most popular strolling and hangout places for all ages. At its heart stands the candy-coloured Zenkov Cathedral , Kazakhstan's nearest (albeit distant) relative to St Basil’s Cathedral and one of Almaty’s few surviving tsarist-era buildings. Designed by AP Zenkov in 1904, the cathedral is built entirely of wood (including the nails). This beautiful looking cathedral is incredibly colourful and reminds me of the Kremlin with its design and colour choice
St. Nicholas Cathedral
The pale turquoise Nikolsky Sobor, with its gold onion domes, stands out west of the centre near the corner of Qabanbay Batyr and Baytursynuly. The cathedral was built in 1909 and later used as a stable for Bolshevik cavalry, before reopening about 1980. It's a terrifically atmospheric place, like a corner of old Russia, with icons, candles and restored frescoes inside and black-clad old supplicants outside.
An 80 km Canyon located on the Charyn River, Charyn Canyon is also popular as the “little brother of the Grand Canyon” in US. It is the second largest canyon in the world. One part of the Canyon is covered with unusual rock formations and is known as the Valley of Castles. The Canyon is engraved by the Charyn River into a flat barren steppe that stretches itself 175 km East of Almaty.
Big Almaty Lake
Big Almaty Lake is set high up in a gorge of the Bolshaya Almatinka River, 2,511 meters above sea level and 28,5 km south of Almaty. It lies in a hollow like a gleaming mirror, surrounded on all sides by majestic peaks. Three main peaks tower above the lake and can be seen from the northern end of the dam: Sovetov (4,317 m) to the south-east, Ozyorny (4,110 m) to the south, further up the river valley, and the forested slopes of Turist (3,954 m) to the south-west.
Kapchagai Lake and famous Casinos
Lake Kapchagai is just over an hour’s drive from Almaty and has been dubbed the ‘Ibiza of Kazakhstan’, as Almaty’s party animals decamp here every summer to attend huge outdoor parties. The lake is, in fact, a vast man-made water reservoir created by a dam on the Ile River. Another attraction for pleasure-seekers is the fact that Kapchagai is now one of Kazakhstan’s two casino havens after gambling was forbidden throughout the country. The Casino area is also fondly known as KAZ-VEGAS.
Issyk (or Isik- another name for the lake, translated as “a door” from Kazakh) is a picturesque, alpine lake surrounded by unusually beautiful nature of thick forests and spacious flower fields. The lake is located at an altitude of 1760 meters above sea level, in the Issyk gorge of Trans-Ili Alatau, about 70 km east of Almaty.
Singing Dunes is a mountain of sand of light colors, has a length of 3 km and a height of 150 m. The dune is located in the National Park Altyn-Emel in Almaty oblast of Kazakhstan, 182 km north-east of Almaty. Singing Dunes is a phenomenon of nature, famous for the fact that when the weather is dry the sand dune emits a sound similar to the tune of organ. Also the dune is known for the beautiful views overlooking the surrounding countryside. Singing Dunes is a popular tourist attraction.
I love a relaxing recovery following an exhausting hike, so these bathhouses provide a perfect solution for anyone looking for some TLC. Of course, they provide separate sections for men and women, so you don’t have to feel awkward or have to worry about holding in the belly.
Astana - The Capital of Kazakhstan
Astana is a modern city with a favorable environment attractive for tourists and comfortable for residents and guests of the Kazakh capital to live in. Astana became the capital of new Kazakhstan in 1998 for a variety of reasons.
As the first new capital of the 21st century, the city of Astana in Kazakhstan has been received by many as a revolution in social architecture. Rising out of the barren steppe in the north of the country, this surreal capital represents the investment of billions upon billions of petrodollars; and features some of the most radical, revolutionary design the world has ever seen.
Some of the famous landmarks of Astana
The Bayterek is Astana’s most enduring icon, with a design based on an ancient Turkic folk tale. The golden sphere represents an egg, the pillar the ‘tree of life’.
The Ak Orda Presidential Palace sits in the East of the city centre, at the same position as the Grand Master’s chair. President Nazarbayev’s palace is flanked on either side by vast golden pillars, which correspond neatly with the twin pillars called ‘Joachim’ and ‘Boaz’ that stand on either side of a masonic temple.
Palace of Peace and Reconciliation - a 77 mtr tall Pyramid very similar to Louvre of Paris. The pyramid’s apex is decorated with dove motifs.
Khan-Shatyr - one of the most famous eco-buildings in the world is also the largest marquee with shopping and entertainment facilities
Hazrat Sultan Mosque - the largest mosque in Central Asia. It is also the mosque of “Apostolic Sultan”. The Hazrat Sultan, as one of the largest mosque in Asia, occupies the area of 11 ha, able to house up to 10,000 people. The mosque premises area amounts to 17.8 ha and includes tabernacles, a hall for wedding ceremonies, rooms for Koran reading and having lessons for seminarians, as well as a cloakroom. Thus, this is a fully functional mosque corresponding to all modern requirements. The mosque dome is 51 meters in height and 28 meters in diameter. The main dome is surrounded by eight small ones, at the mosque corners there are four 77 m-high minarets
The Aquarium of the Entertainment Centre "Duman" is the first and the only in the CIS. This is the only Aquarium over the world, which is located over 3,000 km away from the ocean. The volume of water in the Aquarium is 3 million litres and it needed 120 tons of special sea salt to produce this water. More than 2,000 of sea inhabitants, the representatives of 100 species of sea fauna from different parts of the world, live there.