Best of Kazakhstan Tour
Kazakhstan is a country undergoing change, yet old traditions are valued alongside modern practices. Kazakhstan’s Soviet and modern cities combine to create a timeless atmosphere, while the country’s mighty landscapes will capture both your imagination and your heart. From vividly painted canyons to singing sand dunes, its diverse countryside offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the region. Meanwhile, the country’s abundant oil and mineral reserves have funded bold urban landscapes. Yet amidst such change, the country doesn’t lose sight of its nomad roots, assuring those who come of the warm welcome that’s characterized this nation’s attitude to visitors for centuries.Read more
Kazakhstan is a country undergoing change, yet old traditions are valued alongside modern practices. Kazakhstan’s Soviet and modern cities combine to create a timeless atmosphere, while the country’s mighty landscapes will capture both your imagination and your heart. From vividly painted canyons to singing sand dunes, its diverse countryside offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the region. Meanwhile, the country’s abundant oil and mineral reserves have funded bold urban landscapes. Yet amidst such change, the country doesn’t lose sight of its nomad roots, assuring those who come of the warm welcome that’s characterized this nation’s attitude to visitors for centuries.
Welcome to Kazakhstan! Your guide will meet you at the airport and transfer to the hotel. Check in and have a rest until noon. City tour of Almaty will start with a lunch, where you can meet your fellow travelers and will be briefed about the exciting days ahead.
Almaty was the Kazakh capital until 1997 and is still the largest city in Kazakhstan. Its name translates as “the place with apples”. It is believed that this is the place where applies originated from. Almaty is a charming and green city. Roads are wide and tree-lined and there are good views of the Zailisky Ala-Too mountains that form a backdrop to the city.
We visit today Panfilov Park, named after General Panfilov who fought against the Germans in World War 2. As the narrative goes, the 28 men under his command repulsed 50 German tanks from the outskirts of Moscow. An impressive monument was erected in their honor in the center of the park. The most famous sight of Almaty, Zenkov Cathedral, is in Panfilov Park as well. It was built in 1904 without a single metal nail and is one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings. Right next to the park is the museum of musical instruments, which we will visit as well.
At the Green Bazaar you will then get a chance to explore local Kazakh culture as you shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also a great opportunity to take photos. You will notice how different ethnicities are selling different products – Russian women selling chicken, Tajik/ Uzbek men selling dried fruits, Korean women selling Korean salads, etc.
We will have buffet dinner at the hotel.
Hotel Kazzhol or similar
Our destination today is Altyn Emel, a national park in the steppes. On the way to Altyn Emel you will get a good impression of the typical landscape of Kazakhstan – the vast, seemingly never-ending steppes. After about five hours of driving, including a short stop at the Ili river, we arrive at Basshi village in the territory of the National Park. We have lunch at the hotel. In the afternoon we drive about two hours to get to the “singing dunes”, the highlight of the entire park. Rising about 150 meters and stretching for approximately 3 km, unlike most desert dunes, they do not migrate with the wind. Instead, they play a melody in dry weather. Some believe that the wind is responsible: a breeze makes the sand squeak and a gale produces a tune more akin to an organ. Others claim that the sand becomes electrified due to friction and creates a sonic vibration as a result. Either way, hearing the Singing Barchan is bound to be a phenomenon that you will not forget. Once we have explored the dunes, we visit a nomad banya to experience the local tradition of taking a sauna before transferring to our small hotel in Basshi.
Local small hotel
Today after breakfast our destination is the Charyn Canyon – one of the most famous natural sights of Kazakhstan. The canyon is often compared to the Grand Canyon, although it is much smaller in size with a total length of 80-90 kilometers. The part of the canyon you will visit is known as “Valley of Castles” for its unusual rock formations. It is 3 kilometers long and 100 meters deep. We will walk these 3 kilometers down to the river, where we will have a picnic for lunch. In the evening we arrive in Almaty on time for dinner.
Hotel Kazzhol or similar
Today we visit the mountains near Almaty before taking the evening flight to Shymkent. We start with Medeo & Shymbulak, the city’s winter sports playgrounds. Almaty hosted the 2011 Asian Winter Games and the facilities enjoyed a considerable upgrade at that time. Medeo boasts a huge ice rink, used for speed skating. At 1691 meters above sea level it calls itself the highest ice rink in the world. Shymbulak is located higher up the valley at an altitude of up to 3200 meters and is Kazakhstan’s top ski resort. In Summer there is no snow, but we still take the cable car to the top of Shymbulak to enjoy fresh air and nice views.
After lunch we drive to one more beautiful natural sight – Big Almaty Lake. The lake is a natural alpine reservoir, located in the Ile-Alatau National Park at an altitude of 2500 meters above sea level. From the city center it takes just about one hour to get there. Unfortunately it is not permitted to go all the way to the lake or to take a swim, but we can enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and take photos.
At 17:00 we need to depart from the lake directly to the airport to catch the domestic flight to Shymkent, departing 19:25 from Almaty Airport. Upon arrival at Shymkent at 20:50 transfer to the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Hotel Shymkent or similar
Today we drive to Turkestan, a 1500-year-old city. Once, it was known as Yassy and Shavgar, capital of the Kazakh Khanate where coronations took place. One of its well-known monuments is the Mausoleum of Khoja Akhmed Yasavi. He was an important figure in the spread of Islam across the Kazakh steppe. Emperor Tamerlane commissioned this mausoleum in 1389 and work continued until his death in 1405, when construction was halted. In ancient times, visiting this place three times equated to a visit to Mecca. Today, this unfinished mazar is an impressive sight, boasting the largest dome in Central Asia. It became Kazakhstan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. We will spend a good amount of time in the mausoleum and the adjacent necropolis, oriental baths and underground mosque, learning more about Yasavi and the Silk Road history of Kazakhstan.
In the late afternoon we drive back to Shymkent to arrive just in time for dinner.
Hotel Shymkent or similar
After breakfast transfer to airport to catch our flight to Astana, departing 11:00. Upon arrival in Astana at 12:33 transfer to hotel for check in and then we go for lunch in the city center.
Astana is Central Asia’s youngest capital and a showpiece for the 21st century Kazakhstan. Talented and well-known architects like Norman Foster have made major contributions to this futuristic city with its almost surreal skyline. We start our city tour today afternoon at the Independence Square and visit impressive Hazrat Sultan Mosque just next to it. From here we drive to Baiterek tower in the very center of the new part of Astana. The tower has become the symbol of Astana. Its shape represents a poplar tree with a golden egg laid by a magic bird from Kazakh folk tales. From the top of the tower, you can enjoy a nice view of Astana and the surrounding steppes. We will then have a walk along the Nurzhol Boulevard. Along the boulevard, which was designed by Kisho Kurokawa, most of Astana’s modern buildings are placed. We will end the walk at Khan Shatyr, giant tent-like shopping center designed by architect Norman Foster. By now it is time for dinner already. After dinner, we will watch the light show at Ishim river and before returning to the hotel.
Hotel Kazzhol or similar
Yesterday we had just enough time to get a first glance at the modern architecture of Astana. Today we will learn more about the country’s history in three museums – all very different from one another.
We start in the morning with the Memorial Museum Alzhir, located 40km outside of the city, to learn more about the dark history of Kazakhstan. Alzhir was the biggest concentration camp in USSR for wives of “betrayers of the homeland”. There you will get an understanding of how people lived, worked and survived in Soviet concentration camps, the infamous “Gulags”.
Back in Astana we will have lunch and then head to the new and impressive National Museum. The museum is huge and we will visit the most interesting rooms, including the ones with famous Scythian gold artefacts, most importantly the “Golden Man”.
The third Museum we will visit is located in the part of the city that was constructed specially for the World EXPO 2017 with the topic “Future Energy”. The centerpiece of the Expo area is the building “Nur Alem”, which is the world’s largest spherical building with the diameter of 80 meters and a height of 100 meters. The buildings served as the Kazakh Pavilion during the EXPO and starting from 2018 it will work as a “Museum of Future”.
After visits to these three very interesting museums we will have farewell dinner in a nice restaurant.
Hotel Kazzhol or similar
Transfer to airport for departure flight back home. We hope you enjoyed your trip to Kazakhstan and will return soon to discover more places in Central Asia!
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