WHY TO VISIT KAZAKHSTAN
Still very little known as a tourist destination, Kazakhstan is full of wonders to discover, between the superb landscapes of its steppes and the culture of its people.
The city of Almaty, the former capital, stands out against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, and although the city does not seduce by its typical Soviet architecture, it still offers a rather pleasant area where parks and gardens are very numerous. You will also find luxury shops, cafes and restaurants, clubs, but also museums, markets, and the Zenkov Orthodox Cathedral, all of wood, with not a single nail! Note: you can take a cable car that connects the city center to the summit of Mount Kok Tobe, from where the panorama is exceptional.
Astana is the current capital: created by architects of all origins, this city-mushroom mix styles and can not leave indifferent by its audacious constructions. The town of Djambou (formerly Taraz) is on the Silk Road and is surrounded by castles, mausoleums and ancient forts: it also has a museum of regional history where are exhibited numerous archaeological objects.
More "nature", the Aksu-Zhabagyly reserve, where glaciers and valleys, rivers and snow-capped mountains meet, and where the landscapes so varied provide a mine of discoveries for the environmental enthusiasts, both for the flora and the Wildlife: more than a thousand species of plants have been listed, and you can also see long-tailed marmots, ibexes, brown bears, royal eagles, snow leopards and many other wild animals.
Other regions to explore, Manguistaou, with its stone deserts that house amazing rock formations and superb canyons, as well as archaeological remains that are only just beginning to be studied, such as underground mosques; The Altai, and its mountains like Mount Beloukha which culminates at 4506 meters, but also its woods descending the slopes of the hills and its transparent lakes; The deserts of the Sari-Ichik Otraou, where the riders can enjoy themselves and meet the Kazakh nomads.
WHAT TO SEE IN KAZAKHSTAN
Top destinations in Kazakhstan are:
- Baikonur Cosmodrome
- Mangystau region
- Aral Sea
- Charyn Canyon
- Atlyn Emel National Park
WHEN TO GO TO KAZAKHSTAN
Best period to visit Kazakhstan is from May to September.
The climate here is extreme: very hot in summer with temperatures rising to 40° C during the day, very severe winters and snowy, violent oranges during the warm season with floods locally.
The best time to visit the country is between May and September: until June, you will enjoy the flowering of plants in the steppes, and hikes throughout the country can begin in July.
Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Kazakhstan.
Constitution Day: 28 January. Nation-building in the blistering Astana cold.
Nauruz: 21-22 March. Celebrated across Central Asia, the whole region welcomes springtime with song, dance and good food. In Kazakhstan, kokpar games and aitys (medieval Kazakh battle rap) competitions are specific for Nauruz. In Almaty and Astana, there is free food and concerts on the main squares.
Russian Orthodox Easter: An Orthodox celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Eggs are hamstered by babooshkas days in advance to bake the special ‘kulich’ dish, and the midnight mass has a special atmosphere.
National Unity Day: 1 May. Parades and street festivals showcasing the cultures of the different nations co-existing peacefully in Kazakhstan.
Victory Day: 9 May. Military parades in every major city.
The Spirit of Tengri (June, Almaty). 2 nights on the Abay square of local and international contemporary ethnic music.
- Festival of Nomadic Civilization: The Festival of Nomadic Civilization takes place in early June in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. It highlights the continuing importance of nomadic culture to the people of Kazakhstan. The festival’s location outside of the Khan Shatyr shopping mall is no coincidence, as Norman Foster’s yurt-like design of the center echoes the traditional dwellings of nomads on the steppe. The event’s headline act is a group of stuntmen directed by the Dikambayev brothers of Kyrgyzstan that will stage a theatrical performance. They will also put on traditional Kazakh horse competitions. Taking heritage to a new level of contemporary technology, the festival will also feature a holographic theater of traditional rituals and ceremonies. There is also an international variety of food stalls and specialty crafts.
Astana Day: 6 July. The beginning of July marks the annual celebration of the inauguration of Kazakhstan’s new capital, Astana, with fireworks and a national holiday. Officially relocated from Almaty to the former city of Tselinograd in 1998, the city was renamed Astana, meaning ‘capital’ in the Kazakh language. The city in itself constitutes a spectacle, having grown rapidly to a population of more than 700,000. This effectively is triple in size. It also has growing architectural development with iconic buildings designed by world-famous architects like Norman Foster.
Biker festival ‘Preserve Balkhash’: July, shores of Lake Balkhash. Aims to draw attention to the ecological problems surrounding Lake Balkhash. Looks like a lot of fun.
Action film festival: July, Astana. Action film festival starring some celebrities and lots of action movies.
Four E: August, Almaty. 3-day New Age festival with a lot of yoga, “quantum” workshops, and modern folk music. Worth visiting for the beautiful location (different each year) in the mountains, the evening concerts and the relaxed vibe. Paid entrance.
Almaty apple festival: September. Celebrating Almaty’s most famous produce in all manners on the Old Square.
Kurban Bayram: Called Eid Al- Adha in the Arabic world, on this Muslim holiday it is traditional to go to mosque, sacrifice a sheep and give meat to the poor.
Republic Day: 25 October. More nation-building, presidential photo-ops and concerts.
Day of the First President: 1 December. A new addition to the growing personality-cult around Nazerbayev. Parades, concerts.
Independence Day: 16 December. Independence from the Soviet Union is celebrated with concerts, parades, and fireworks.
HOW TO REACH AN TRAVEL THROUGH KAZAKHSTAN
You can reach Kazakhstan by plane by landing at Amalty International Airport via Moscow, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Istanbul, London or Prague. There are also international airports in Astana and Aktau.
To travel in the country, you can also use the plane between the big cities at an affordable rate, but also the train. Buses are rather advisable on short trips, as well as taxis.
by plane, main airports are
GENERAL INFORMATION ON KAZAKHSTAN
country entry requirements: passport + visa (check your visa requirements)
health tips & vaccination: drink only bottled water and avoid ice
local currency: Kazakhstani Tenge
local time zone: GMT+6 (+7)
electricity: type C and F (220 V, 50 Hz)
mobile phone operators:
WHAT TO DO IN KAZAKHSTAN
typical food in KazakhstanChuzhuk: horsemeat sausages
- Kazy: traditional sausage made of fattened horsemeat
- Kaurdak: mutton stew
- Laghman: dish of thick noodles served with beef broth, beef and tomatoes
- Plov: rice served with lamb (sometimes beef), onions and carrots
- Manti: large steamed dumplings filled with ground meat (usually lamb) served with sour cream
- Herring in a fur coat: herring covered with potatoes, onion, beetroot, apple and mayonnaise
- Besbarmak: national dish of Kazakhstan boiled horse or mutton meat and large noodles
- Sorpa: traditional hot broth usually drunk after eating beshbarmak. Sometimes it is served with kurt
- Shashlyk: skewered chunks of mutton, lamb or beef barbecued over charcoal
- Kumys: fermented mares’ milk
- Shubat: fermented camel’s milk
- Kurt: cheese made from dehydrated sour cream
- Buarsak: spherical or triangular pieces of dough and fried in oil
- Shelpek: flat cake made in the same way as baursaks
- Borsch: deep purple soup made with beef stock, onion, beetroot, carrots and potatoes
- Red and black caviar
souvenirs from Kazakhstan
- suzani (an embroidered and decorative tribal textile)
- carpets and rugschapans
- Chapan, traditional coat worn over clothes
- Malakhai, fur hat
- Kalpak, high-crowned cap
- handmade shoes and slippers
- wool items
- bucklers and helmets
- swords and sabres
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