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10 Top Things to See and Do in Kazakhstan


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The Republic of Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia and consists of vast, unexplored beauty and authentic culture that will encourage the most conservative of travellers to enjoy and revel in the many colours and themes of this stunning country.

Kazakhstan is a former Soviet Republic country, located to the south of Russia and West of China. There are fewer than a fifth of Kazakhs outside the country’s borders and most are only in the nearby countries which creates a proud and authentic culture within its borders.

Read on for top 10 things to see and do when visiting Kazakhstan

1. Take a jeep across the Singing Dunes

The Singing Dunes are also known as Singing Barkhan or Singing Sand. It is a mountain of sand located in the Altyn Emel National Park. The Dunes are naturally occurring and some rise up to 150 metres high. The name “Singing Dunes” comes from the eerie whistling sound that is created when the wind skims across the dunes. You can take a 4×4 into the national park, and walk the dunes by foot.

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Dunes in Altyn Emel National Park
Photo © Adil Abdrakhmanov | Dreamstime.com

2. Indulge in the hearty traditional pilaf

There is nothing like exploring the sand dunes to work up an appetite. Traditional Kazakh pilaf is rich and high in calories since it was designed to sustain the nomadic life. It is traditionally made over an open fire with a generous amount of meat.

Pilaf is cooked in a cast-iron cauldron and consists of rice and lamb, as well as vegetables, spices and dried fruits. It is often prepared in huge quantities and restaurants specialising in this dish can be found in every corner of the country.

3. Enjoy the vast plains of the steppe

The steppe is an area that appears as an endless expanse of arid, flat grassland. The area covers a lot of Kazakhstan and has its own unique wildlife and botanical wonders. You can traverse miles after miles of this vast open space, and camp overnight under the glorious starry skies. For those seeking to escape the fast-paced city life, a night or two in the Eurasian Steppe will provide the idyllic setting for a complete reset of mind, body and spirit.

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4. Shop at MEGA Silk Way shopping mall

MEGA Silk Way Shopping mall is the largest shopping mall in the country and is located in the capital, Nur-Sultan. It attracts tourists and investments to the capital all year round. A large portion of the interior of the mall is filled with light and air so that visitors feel comfortable despite the climate conditions outside. The mall has all kinds of shops, from traditional to the more commonly known international brands too. It can be a place to hang out whilst breaking up outdoor excursions and trips.

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5. Spend a night at Charyn Canyon National Park

Charyn Canyon is smaller than the world-renown Grand Canyon in the USA but has an equally impressive variety of sedimentary rocks, as well as plant life and animals. The Charyn Canyon can be visited in day trips from Almaty, however, a day will only allow you to experience a portion of what this wonderful terrain has to offer.

It is worth every penny to stay overnight, either in a hut, yurt or tent, and experience the wonder of the night skies and sunset across this spectacular region. With more time, you can explore unbeaten tracks, and enjoy untouched natural scenery that goes on for miles on end. For those coming from the hustle and bustle of fast-paced city life, then an overnight experience at Charyn National Park will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.

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Charyn canyon
Image by Ruslan Zhanabaev from Pixabay

6. Enjoy the views from Bayterek Tower

The Bayterek Tower is located in the capital Nur-Sultan. Bayterek means “tall poplar”, which is a very apt name for this incredible national monument. Designed to connect the old with the new, it is a popular point with tourists and locals alike who enjoy breathtaking views of the city. The monument symbolises a folktale about a mythical tree of life and a magic bird of happiness that laid her egg in the crevice between two branches within the tree. The monument has ticket booths on the ground floor of the tower and a couple of lifts that lead up to the “egg” at the top.

7. Spend time exploring the city of Almaty

Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan. It has around 10% of the country’s population and was the previous capital of the country. Almaty is located in the south, surrounded by spectacular and breathtaking scenery in the form of mountains and lakes.

City tours include parks, museums and historical buildings. Day excursions and overnight trips can be arranged from Almaty to the Kolsai Lakes and Charyn Canyon. The Kolsai Lakes are close to the border with Kyrgyzstan, and the three lakes are nestled between mountains and surrounded by lush landscapes. They are known for their forests. The lakes themselves are incredibly pure and reflect the nearby scenery beautifully. There are lodge cabins around the lakes, allowing you to hike around to see all the lakes whilst sleeping in the stunning surroundings.

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Almaty skyline and cable car
Photo © Dinozzaver | Dreamstime.com

8. Soak up the ancient petroglyphs at Tanbaly

For those who love cultural and historical experiences, Tanbaly combines both wonderfully. Located around 100 miles northwest of Almaty, Tanbaly was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. It is set in a dramatic gorge where the walls are covered in ancient petroglyphs. These are images carved into rock faces. There are also pictographs, which are images painted onto the rock, which are equally remarkable.

The word “Tanbaly” translates as “marked place” or “painted place” and many of the petroglyphs and pictographs date back to the Bronze Age. Some newer markings from the early 20th century feature Buddhist imagery.

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9. Bask in the history of Turkistan

Turkistan is a historic city and one of Kazakhstan’s only remaining sites from the 4th century AD. Located on the Silk Road, it was a prominent commercial hub during that time. In the 12th century, it became further known as the home of the sufi saint Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, and it remains a site of pilgrimage to his mausoleum to this day. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the structure is breathtakingly beautiful and one of the most beautiful architectural achievements of the area. There are also several other religious structures and mausoleums in the city. Turkistan can be reached by train or bus from Almaty.

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10. Enjoy the thrill of winter sports at a world-class ski resort

If you enjoy active holidays and winter sports, then the southern region of Kazakhstan with its mountainous terrain has sprouted a number of world-class ski resorts. This is an area that boasts of ski resorts without the crowds and waiting lines, allowing for serene and luxury skiing experiences. Shymbulak is an accessible ski resort, located around 40 minutes from Almaty and can easily be added to the itinerary when exploring the south of the country.

Shymbulak, Almaty in the winter
Image by Ira_B from Pixabay

Summary

If you’re looking for a holiday filled with adventure, history and culture, then Kazakhstan is a country that offers experiences of every kind. From unique flavourful cuisine to exciting winter sports, you can plan an itinerary that spans from Almaty to Nur-Sultan, to create an active and memorable holiday that will bring you joy throughout your lifetime.


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Written by

Faz Bux

Faz is mother and writer who loves travelling and has spent time in several countries across the globe. She is an enthusiast for all things cultural and linguistic and also works as a translator.[Read full bio]

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