4 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan, the unknown country that few even know exists, is the largest landlocked country in the world and a vital transit point on the Silk Road. On the Asian side of the "Great Silk Road," the Silk Road has been a key transit route for merchants for thousands of years.
Even in an era of modern travel, the Silk Road in Kazakhstan has always remained a relatively under-visited area. It is dominated by the nomadic lifestyle of the Kazak people.
Still, tourism and mass tourism, though nascent, have begun to take hold, and it's still possible to find tranquility in the forests and rural areas.
Some of the best travel experiences in Kazakhstan are what you might expect to find: rugged mountains, forested valleys, small towns and ancient fortresses. But you'll also find more adventures, such as river rafting, kayaking, and canyoneering.
The natural wonders of the country will keep you busy: vast desert landscapes, frigid lakes, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, and wetlands. You'll also find the kind of roadside activities you're used to in your own country, like motorcycling and jeeping.
Trip itineraries to Kazakhstan are short, and focused on the destinations of interest. We suggest you choose one of the "Seven Wonders of Kazakhstan" itineraries, which will allow you to experience the countryside of Kazakhstan.
Karaganda has been called the center of Asia, with an atmosphere that is very different from other parts of Central Asia. It's much closer to Moscow than to Almaty and has a distinctly Russian atmosphere, with the largest concentration of Russians in Central Asia. Almost everything happens outside of town and there are few hotels. What there are are mostly characterless Soviet-era structures. Despite the Kremlin's approval of the constitution, Karaganda remains the hotbed of communist sentiment in Kazakhstan. During its one-year rule, Communist Party leader Secretary Magomedov was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of the opposition leader, Emamzhan Torgashev, a former Mayor of Karaganda. Famous people from the region have included the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was born in Karaganda, as well as boxing star Dzhambulat Nurmagomedov, a Karaganda native who currently is ranked as the number one contender for the world heavyweight title.
Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan, with a population of around one million, a gross domestic product of $42.3 billion and a real GDP of $1.1 billion. The city lies in a rolling landscape of steppes that stretches from the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains and the Altai range to the oil fields of the Syr Darya region and the Russian border. More than 50% of the country's oil is exported from Almaty and, in 2005, became the first capital to host the Forum on Globalization, a meeting of the world's top politicians and economists. There are five districts of Almaty. The old town of Kzil'bin is rich in architecture and has beautiful, sandy beaches along its shore. Several museums offer an interesting insight into the country's history.
Karaganda (Qaranshyk) is a city and valley, some 2000 km from the capital, Astana. The capital has one of the country's largest university campuses and a busy, modern centre of culture. Around Karaganda there is little else to see but Kazakh landscapes and ethnic Kazakh folklore. The city is the site of the first nuclear reactor to have gone into operation in Central Asia. The majority of inhabitants are Kazakh, with sizeable minorities of Russians and Tatars. Karaganda is close to the eastern end of the Taklamakan Desert, and home to the famous Karakorum Highway, the world's highest motor road. The Taklamakan is the source of two main rivers, the Kyzylsu and the Irtysh, both of which flow into China. The southern half of the desert is known as the Little Taklamakan. The northern part of the Little Taklamakan is home to small, isolated settlements of the Kalmuks, a Turkic tribe who formerly ruled from Siberia to China. The best time to visit Karaganda is in winter. At this time there is no tourist traffic to and from Karaganda, and the city is considerably cooler than at other times of year. The air is clean and pleasant, and the nights much warmer than in Astana.
Kazakhstan's capital, Shymkent (meaning "Cossack City"), has a rugged mountain setting with a vast plain stretched out below. This beautiful city is a major transportation hub between western and eastern Asia and is a popular destination for visitors from around the world. Located just to the north of the mountains, it is within walking distance of the Turgai Mountains, a chain of tall hills that form the southern edge of Shymkent. These hills are actually made of a sedimentary rock from a different time, but their small rivers make a fantastic playground for trout fishing. Shymkent has great cultural sights, including the mausoleum of the first president of the former Soviet Union, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the Shymkent Art Museum, which contains a large collection of Kazakh art.