Kazakhstan, the ninth-largest country in the world, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. This Central Asian nation boasts stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique experiences that will leave visitors in awe. From the soaring peaks of the Tien Shan mountains to the vast steppes and vibrant cities, Kazakhstan has something for every type of traveler. In this article, we will take you on a journey through the 10 best places to visit in Kazakhstan, showcasing its diversity and beauty.
Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, is a vibrant city nestled in the foothills of the Tien Shan mountains. Known for its modern skyline, lush parks, and cultural attractions, Almaty is a must-visit destination. Start your exploration at Panfilov Park, home to the iconic Zenkov Cathedral, a stunning wooden structure that is one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings. Take a ride on the Medeu ice rink, the highest-altitude Olympic-sized ice skating rink, or head to the nearby Shymbulak ski resort for some winter sports excitement. Don’t forget to indulge in traditional Kazakh cuisine and explore the local markets for unique souvenirs.
2. Astana (Nur-Sultan)
Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, is a modern marvel. This futuristic city is known for its impressive architecture and urban planning. The Astana Bayterek Tower, a prominent symbol of the city, offers panoramic views from its observation deck. Explore the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center, a massive tent-like structure that houses shopping malls, a beach, and even a mini-golf course. Visit the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, a pyramid-shaped building dedicated to religious harmony and understanding. Astana’s skyline, adorned with modern skyscrapers, is a sight to behold.
3. Charyn Canyon
Nature lovers will be captivated by the breathtaking beauty of Charyn Canyon. Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon’s little brother,” Charyn Canyon is a natural wonder that spans over 80 kilometers in length. The canyon boasts towering cliffs, deep gorges, and unique rock formations, creating a surreal landscape. Take a hike along the canyon’s trails and be rewarded with stunning vistas at every turn. Don’t miss the Valley of Castles, an area within the canyon that features rock formations resembling ancient castles.
4. Lake Kaindy
Hidden deep within the Tian Shan mountains, Lake Kaindy is a hidden gem that will leave you mesmerized. This enchanting lake is famous for its submerged forest, where the tops of pine trees protrude from the crystal-clear waters, creating an otherworldly sight. Take a boat ride on the lake to fully immerse yourself in its serenity and marvel at the vibrant turquoise hues. Lake Kaindy is a true paradise for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.
5. Baikonur Cosmodrome
For space enthusiasts, a visit to the Baikonur Cosmodrome is a must. This legendary space launch facility has been the launch site for countless space missions, including the first manned spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin. Explore the museum and learn about the history of space exploration in Kazakhstan. If you’re lucky, you might even witness a live rocket launch, an experience that will leave you in awe of human achievements in space.
Shymkent, the third-largest city in Kazakhstan, is a cultural hub with a rich history. Explore the Shymkent Fortress, an ancient citadel that dates back to the 12th century, and marvel at its intricate architecture and defensive walls. Visit the Regional Local History Museum to learn about the city’s past and discover archaeological artifacts. Shymkent is also known for its vibrant bazaars, where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and find unique souvenirs.
7. Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve
Nature enthusiasts will find paradise in the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve. This protected area is the oldest national park in Kazakhstan and is home to diverse flora and fauna. Embark on hiking trails that will lead you through lush meadows, dense forests, and stunning mountain landscapes. Keep an eye out for rare and endangered species such as the snow leopard, which roams these pristine surroundings. A visit to Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve is an opportunity to connect with nature and experience the raw beauty of Kazakhstan’s wilderness.
Turkestan, located in southern Kazakhstan, is an ancient city with a rich historical significance. Visit the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Kazakhstan. This architectural masterpiece showcases the brilliance of Timurid-era craftsmanship. Explore the Turkestan Archaeological Museum to learn about the region’s history and archaeological discoveries. The city’s vibrant atmosphere, adorned with colorful markets and traditional architecture, provides a glimpse into Kazakhstan’s cultural heritage.
9. Big Almaty Lake
Nestled 2,511 meters above sea level in the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains, Big Almaty Lake is a natural wonder that will leave you breathless. The glacial lake, surrounded by majestic peaks, boasts stunning turquoise waters that reflect the surrounding landscape. Enjoy a picnic by the lake or embark on a hike to explore the surrounding trails. Big Almaty Lake is a tranquil oasis and a perfect escape from the bustling city life.
10. Kok Tobe
Wrap up your journey in Kazakhstan with a visit to Kok Tobe, a hilltop recreational area in Almaty. Enjoy breathtaking views of the cityscape from the observation deck and explore the Kok Tobe Park, home to amusement rides, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Take a ride on the famous Almaty cable car, which offers a scenic journey to the top of Kok Tobe. As the sun sets, witness the city of Almaty illuminate with dazzling lights, creating a magical ambiance.
Kazakhstan is a country full of surprises and hidden treasures. From cosmopolitan cities to vast natural wonders, it offers a unique travel experience that will leave a lasting impression. Explore the 10 best places mentioned above and discover the beauty and diversity that Kazakhstan has to offer. Plan your journey to this fascinating destination and embark on an adventure like no other.
1. What is the former capital of Kazakhstan and why is it a must-visit destination?
The former capital of Kazakhstan is Almaty. It is a must-visit destination because of its modern skyline, lush parks, cultural attractions, and its iconic Zenkov Cathedral.
2. What is the capital city of Kazakhstan known for and what are some of its notable attractions?
The capital city of Kazakhstan, Astana (Nur-Sultan), is known for its impressive architecture and urban planning. Some notable attractions include the Astana Bayterek Tower, Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center, and the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation.
3. What is Charyn Canyon and why is it a captivating destination for nature lovers?
Charyn Canyon is often referred to as the Grand Canyon’s little brother and spans over 80 kilometers in length. It is a captivating destination for nature lovers due to its towering cliffs, deep gorges, unique rock formations, and stunning vistas.
4. Where is Lake Kaindy located and why is it considered a hidden gem?
Lake Kaindy is hidden deep within the Tian Shan mountains. It is considered a hidden gem because of its mesmerizing beauty and tranquil atmosphere.