Travel: Kazakhstan, Why should you consider it on your bucket list?

In a world that seeks to recover from the pandemic that affected the economy worldwide, we could say that the sector that suffered the most was tourism. Although some countries opened up a little more than others, the reality is that the majority were terribly affected since the restrictions, the fear, the changing rules about what papers were required to enter each country, the quarantine when returning home everything was a sum of factors that made the recovery of tourism very difficult until 2022, people put their fears aside and began to travel with the same pre-pandemic fervor.

But, where are we going to travel? While classic tourism continues its trend, the reality is that being locked up has made us pay more attention to the map and as a result more little-known destinations are gaining notoriety, the tourist market has become demanding.


Trade the Route 66 for the Silk Road

Being the ninth largest country in the world, and one of the relatively youngest after the end of the Soviet Union, it has concentrated on developing its infrastructure, a clear example is Nur-sultan (formerly called Astana) a modern city that started from zero. But such a big country must have hidden gems? Just to name a few.

Charyn Canyon National Park

Charyn Canyon is one of the most spectacular sites in Kazakhstan for its extraordinary ochre-coloured rock formations. Over millions of years, the Charyn River carved a spectacular canyon 150 to 300 meters deep into the steppe, which time has transformed into what we see today. The sedimentary rocks that form the Charyn Canyon are more than 12 million years old. The impressive Canyon extends for 154 kilometres, but the most popular and visited area is the so-called Valley of the Castles, 2 km long, so called because its stone blocks are reminiscent of castle towers.

 

Almaty

Almaty

Almaty is located in the southeast of Kazakhstan surrounded by the magnificent “heavenly” mountains: the Tian Shan, on which there is perpetual snow. It was the capital of Kazakhstan (Alma Ata) as the Soviet Socialist Republic until in 1998 it was transferred to Nur-sultan. However, Almaty continues to be a cultural, financial, educational and tourist centre of the country, still home to numerous administrations, embassies and universities and it is home to the country’s main hub of communication routes. It is a sophisticated city, with modern architecture and has excellent museums, vast green areas, an important shopping area (Zhibek Zhol Pedestrian Street), markets and an interesting range of gastronomy and nightlife. In addition, Almaty offers the possibility of hiking through impressive lakes and canyons and has magnificent ski slopes. Something I often hear from Kazakhs is “Everyone wants to live in Almaty”

 

Burabay

Turkistan

Sadly I haven’t had the opportunity to visit this city but it looks like big development projects have been going on in this city. Turkestan is 165 km northwest of Chymkent. This city is home to one of the most beautiful monuments in Kazakhstan, a World Heritage Site in 2003, and the country’s main pilgrimage site: the mausoleum of Khoja Ahmad, the first great Muslim scholar of the Turkish world.

 

Turkestan was an important religious and commercial centre in the time of Khoja Ahmad Yasavi, who came to live there in the 12th century and where he spends most of his life. Khoja Ahmad founded the Yasavia Sufi order and became popular for his poems and sermons in the local language which he transmitted to the people of Turkestan. The original tomb of Khoja Ahmad Yasavi was a place of pilgrimage before the construction of the mausoleum.

Aktau

Aktau is the capital of Mangystau province, located in southwestern Kazakhstan, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Hence, it is a vacation city for many Kazakhs who come to Aktau to enjoy the sandy beaches and mild climate, a city with a lot of potential and that has grown very fast.

 

Security and Solo Travellers

One of the first things that many said to me when I commented that I would visit Kazakhstan, “be careful” “don’t go, those countries are dangerous” “there are terrorists there” I think I had never heard so much prejudice towards a country as a result of ignorance. Being one of the “stan” many people make a world in their heads that is very far from reality, Kazakhstan is listed as a safe country to visit, with minimal and basic security precautions.

In fact it is a country with people of different ethnic groups and religions living together peacefully, violence is something that Kazakhs are not used to.

For those who travel alone this country is a very good option to explore, there is security, there is a system of trains and flights that connect each point of the country, and for the more adventurous they can always rent a car and do a road trip, although that it would require time and very good organization given the great territorial extension.

Now for solo female travelers I would also recommend it, as a woman I have felt safer in Kazakhstan than in many European countries where I had to deal with harassment from men. The Kazakhs are very friendly and curious when they see a foreigner but they know how to respect personal space, they also have a good reputation for being great hosts, let us remember that the Kazakh ethnic group like the Mongolian were nomads so they know more than anyone how exhausting it could be trip.

Something you should keep in mind is to learn some basic Russian phrases and words, language could be an issue sometimes as not all the Kazakhs are fluent in English or might know only few words, it would make your trip easier and also would be nice if they see you making an effort for them.

 

Keys and Tips

– Kazakhstan is still quite new when it comes to tourism but it has infrastructure for all type of traveller and budget.

– The Tenge is the current currency and when it comes to prices Kazakhstan is a quite affordable country to visit.

– Is well connected to the rest of the world, several airlines operate from the main airports of Nur-Sultan and Almaty.

– In recent years, the government has worked to include more and more countries in the list of countries that can visit Kazakhstan without the need to apply for a visa

 

 

Evelin x