Located in the heart of the central asian continent, this vast country remains largely misunderstood at home here in England. Kazakhstan has plenty to offer travellers with their eyes set on Central Asia but who have time for a detour and don’t mind the slow route to China.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Kazakhstan?
You’ll far from being the only one with an image of Sacha Baron Cohen’s memorable fictitious character in your mind. Borat, the journalist-reporter from Kazakhstan who is altogether homophobic, racist and sexist, presents an image of his country that is barbaric and is still living in the middle-ages.
Finally Kazakhstan authorities gave in and thanked Borat because despite all the jokes and supposed bad publicity, tourism is booming in the country, at no cost to the government’s spending budget. No publicity is bad publicity, apparently.
- Our mission of the day: to go beyond the jokes and clichés and introduce you to some of Kazakhstan’s rich heritage and landscapes of Central Asia and the 9th biggest country in the world, that’s 20 times the size of England!
From the offset, it’s good to know that unless you speak Russian or Kazakh, it can be pretty difficult to get around as few locals speak English. The country’s infrastructure, inherited from the Russian Empire are also neither convenient nor comfortable. But be assured, the incredible landscapes of the Tien Shan and Altai Mountains are totally worth it!
Almaty: gateway to Kazakhstan
The capital of the country, Astana, is both modern and pleasant but lacks points of interest for foreign tourists. Therefore we don’t recommend you plan your trip around this city, it’s better to focus on the more vibrant and cosmospolitan city of Almaty, the capital until 1997, which is located in the south.
The city, summed up in a few points: plenty of parks to visit (most notable is Panvilov Park surrounding the cathedral), Zenkov Cathedral (which is surrounded by Panvilov Park), the Arasan baths, the National Museum and the Barakholka Bazaar for some great shopping. Above all though, the city offers some pretty spectacular views of the Tian Shan mountains.Cheap hotels in Almaty
Imgs: SaraYeomans, loriszecchinato / Flickr cc.
The glorious Tian Shan mountains
Mountain resorts are only a few miles from central Almaty. Chyimbulak is one of the best ski resorts in Central Asia. You can also enjoy ice skating at the Medeo sports centre. Hikes and treks are also possible from Bolshoe Almatinskoe Lake.
Reaching a dramatic 4,000 metres, the majestic peaks of the Altai Zailiysky and Altai Kungey are the highlight of many travellers in Kazakhstan. The landscapes will transport you to another world.
Imgs: SaraYeomans, Ken and Nyetta / Flickr cc.
Aksu Zhabagly Nature Reserve
Located to the west of the Tian Shan Mountains which border Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is the oldest nature reserve in Central Asia. Landscapes alternate from steep peaks to highlands that are perfect for grazing sheep, goats and cattle. The region is rich in wildlife too and on a good day you can spot snow leopards, lynx, wolves, wild cats and jackals…