6 reasons Kazakhstan should be on your travel radar

The world’s largest land-locked country, untouched by travellers, Kazakhstan is a land ripe for off-the-beaten-path adventure."With the Stans increa... Read more
6 reasons Kazakhstan should be on your travel radar

The world’s largest land-locked country, untouched by travellers, Kazakhstan is a land ripe for off-the-beaten-path adventure.

"With the Stans increasingly making it onto bucket lists everywhere, now’s the time to visit this mysterious part of the world and discover its secrets for yourself" says our Central Asia Product Manager Caroline Williams. Here are her expert reasons why Kazakhstan should be on your travel radar.

It's got a little bit of everything

The sheer diversity of landscapes you can encounter in Kazakhstan is simply mind-boggling. You might go expecting to walk atop vast, grassy plateaus and spy the sweeping panoramas of the Tien Shan range, but you’ll leave pleasantly astounded by a range of unexpected wonders; there are few other places in the world you could combine so many unique experiences. You could be trekking along the Bogdanovich Glacier one day, and hiking to forest waterfalls the next; you’ll discover the azure waters of the Kolsay Mountain Lakes, before exploring the red rock ravines of the Charyn Canyon National Park and the mulit-coloured Aktau Mountains. You’ll be surprised at just how much you’ll see in less than two weeks of adventure.

Ancient history lies waiting around every corner

Thanks to abundant oil reserves and other valuable minerals, Kazakhstan is actually one of Central Asia’s most economically advanced countries, and cities such as the bold and futuristic capital, Astana, reflect this. But if you journey beyond, you’ll still get to experience the parts of Kazakhstan that feel like you’ve stepped into the world of travel fiction, encountering the modern farmers and communities who still follow the transhumant lifestyle of traditional nomads.

You’ll also discover the infamous legacy of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, who invaded Kazakhstan in 1218. In the Aktau Mountains you can visit a 700-year-old willow tree where the warriors of Genghis Khan once made their camp, and in Altyn-Emel, discover the legend of the Singing Sand Dune. Hiking to the top of this incredible mound of red-golden sand, you’ll hear it emit an organ-like rumble. This otherworldly noise can be explained by the movement of the grains against each other, but legends about its origins are still whispered amongst visitors and locals alike, including the speculation that it could be Genghis Khan himself, buried in a tomb beneath...

You'll get to experience life like a Kazakh nomad

In rural areas, Kazakh tradition is still going strong. You can experience it for yourself by visiting the Kazakh Ethno Aul village. You’ll get to enjoy a traditional lunch, a master class in Kazakh cuisine, and sample delicacies such as boortsog (fried dough), or shuzhuk, a smoked horsemeat sausage. There'll also be traditional Kazakh entertainment, including a demonstration of horseback games such as 'atpen audaryspak' (fight on horses) and 'Kyz Kuu' (pursuit of the girl), a traditional Altybakan Swing demonstration and the opportunity to watch some national dances.

Everywhere you go, the friendly faces of the nomadic tribes are scattered throughout the plateaus and mountains, which makes trekking here pretty magical. On the Assy Plateau, the local shepherds don’t often see travellers in this little-visited area, and so will invite you into their yurts for a cup of tea. The brave can even try a special Kazakh drink of fermented horse milk, known as ‘kumis’.

Get cosy and overnight in a yurt

Long before they became a glamping staple, the nomads of Central Asia were the ones who invented these portable homes, and yurts have been used there for thousands of years. A symbol of family and traditional hospitality, they traditionally have a wooden circular frame covered with felt and braided with ropes, and can be easily assembled and dismantled within a short period of time – perfect for a nomadic lifestyle. In the Charyn Canyon National Park, you can enjoy sunset lighting up the red pillars of the canyon and stay in the brightly coloured yurts of a traditional camp on the banks of the river.

Discover the vibrant melting-pot of Almaty

To visit all of these incredible places in the south-east corner of Kazakhstan, you’ll start and finish your adventure in Almaty. It’s here you’ll see the influence of the Soviet era, making this metropolis a fascinating melting pot of Western and Central Asian culture – you’ll hear more Russian than Kazakh spoken here. Make sure you keep an eye out for the striking U.S.S.R monuments which are dotted throughout the city, and drink in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of its leafy streets. Food can be delightfully cheap, so treat yourself to a feast of typical Kazakh delicacies such as lagman (noodle stew) or manti, dumplings often sold by street vendors. To really take in this beautiful city, end your day with an dusk visit to Kok-Tobe, a ‘Green Hill’ that offers lovely views over the evening-lit city.

There's never been a better time to go 

It used to be notoriously difficult to get a visa to visit Kazakhstan, but this is no longer the case, with a waiver coming into effect from this year onwards – so there’s no complicated process to get there. What’s more, whilst it feels like a far-flung destination, you can often get very reasonable flights into Almaty for roughly £500. Still seldom visited by Western travellers, if you want to see this fascinating, wildly beautiful and utterly magical land for yourself, now is definitely the time to go.

Discover Kazakhstan on foot on our NEW Mountains and Deserts of Kazakhstan trekking adventure

Prefer to explore by bike? Check out NEW Cycling in Kazakhstan

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