Kazakhstan, a land of vast steppes, awe-inspiring landscapes and rich cultural heritage, offers a unique blend of untouched natural beauty and gleaming modernity.
Nestled at the heart of Central Asia, this diverse and intriguing country is a captivating destination to explore. I recently visited Kazakhstan and was blown away by the soaring peaks of the Tian Shan and the endless expanses of the Kazakh steppe.
7 Reasons Why You Should Visit Kazakhstan in 2024
As the world’s ninth-largest country, Kazakhstan is a true hidden gem offering a diverse mosaic of ancient traditions, nomadic cultures, futuristic cities, warm hospitality, and spectacular landscapes.
If you love exploring places that are a little off the beaten track, Kazakhstan should be firmly on your list for 2024. Here’s why:
1. Vast and Varied Natural Landscapes
Kazakhstan is a nature lover’s dream.
You can hike through the majestic Altai and Tien Shan Mountains, explore the dramatic landscapes of Charyn Canyon, or relax on the serene shores of the Kolsay Lakes.
If you want to get even further off the beaten track, there are many remote and untouched regions like Altyn-Emel National Park, with its mysterious singing dunes. Or, venture into the epic vastness of the Kazakh steppe.
Kazakhstan’s natural beauty is truly a sight to behold. And best of all, you often have these amazing places entirely to yourself.
2. Rich and Diverse Cultures
The influences of Russian, Turkic, Persian, and other Central Asian cultures have shaped Kazakhstan’s unique culture over the centuries. The country’s history is a tapestry of conquerors, explorers, and great civilizations.
Kazakhstan’s history is especially steeped in nomadic culture, and it’s a heritage that is still celebrated and cherished today.
Discover the ancient art of falconry, watch traditional horse games like kokpar, stay in a yurt with a family of nomads, or learn about traditional nomadic crafts like felt-making and embroidery.
Kazakhstan’s heritage is fascinating and beautifully preserved. Delving into its cultural tapestry is an enchanting journey that will entice any curious traveller.
3. Modern Cities with a Twist
Nur Sultan (formerly Astana), the capital, is an intriguing fusion of contemporary design and traditional elements, with its futuristic skyscrapers and structures like the Bayterek Tower.
Almaty, the former capital (and my favourite city in Kazakhstan), is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city surrounded by towering mountains. With great food and loads of quirky corners, it’s the perfect starting point for your Kazakh adventure.
And beyond these modern metropolises, there’s still plenty to discover in smaller cities like Shymkent and Aqtobe, each with its own unique charm and character.
4. Tasty and Unique Cuisine
Bursting with rich and diverse influences, Kazakh cuisine combines elements from Central Asia, Russia, and the Middle East.
Sample hearty dishes like beshbarmak (boiled meat and noodles), shashlyk (grilled skewered meat), manti (Kazakh dumplings) or plov (rice cooked with spices, meat, and vegetables).
Kazakhstan’s cuisine is a reflection of its diverse cultural heritage, and no visit to the country would be complete without indulging in these delicious dishes.
Adventurous gastronomers also shouldn’t miss out on trying the national drink – kumis – a beverage made from fermented mare’s milk. (Yes, it tastes as strange as it sounds.)
And for those with a sweet tooth, savour traditional desserts like baursaki (fried dough balls) and chak-chak (honey and almond cake).
5. Outdoor Adventures
Kazakhstan is a paradise for adventurers, thrill-seekers, and lovers of the great outdoors.
Explore its vast uncharted landscapes, paraglide or trek in the breathtaking Tian Shan mountains, camp in fairytale valleys, hit the powdery ski slopes of Shymbulak, or ride horses through the endless steppe.
And for those who prefer something a little more relaxing, there are many opportunities for fishing, birdwatching, and even stargazing in Kazakhstan’s vast nature reserves.
With so much to see and do, you’re spoilt for choice in this land of awe-inspiring beauty.
6. Historical and Archaeological Sites
Step back in time and visit Kazakhstan’s ancient ruins, fortresses, and archaeological sites.
Explore the beautiful historic mosques and UNESCO-listed Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi in Turkistan. Visit Otrar, the remains of an ancient Silk Road city.
Or wander through the breathtaking valley of Tamgaly-Tas, with its petroglyphs dating back to the Bronze Age.
Kazakhstan’s rich history is full of fascinating stories and secrets just waiting to be discovered.
7. Festivals and Events
Kazakhstan’s diversity is celebrated through various festivals and events throughout the year. These are perfect opportunities to immerse yourself in the country’s unique culture.
From traditional celebrations steeped in age-old customs to modern showcases of artistic prowess, there’s always something interesting happening in this Central Asian gem.
Experience the vibrant colours and mesmerizing pageantry of Nauryz. This spring festival celebrates renewal and unity. The streets come alive with parades of music and dance, outdoor concerts, and mouthwatering feasts.
Or witness traditional music and performances at the Almaty Silk Road Festival, a celebration of the country’s rich cultural heritage.
The allure of Kazakhstan lies in its ability to surprise and captivate, offering an off-the-beaten-path experience that’s rich in history and natural wonders.
Kazakhstan is a destination that beckons the curious and rewards the adventurous. If you want to explore somewhere totally different from the typical, well-trodden tourist routes, then Kazakhstan is the place for you.
Additional Information on Visiting Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan Travel Tips:
- Kazakhstan is a safe destination to visit, but it’s wise to exercise the usual precautions, especially in crowded areas.
- The official language is Kazakh, but Russian is also widely spoken. English is spoken by some young people and professionals, especially in urban areas.
- Kazakhstan’s vastness can make internal travel a bit challenging, so plan your transportation in advance.
Best Time to Visit Kazakhstan:
- Late spring (May to June) and early autumn (September to October) offer pleasant weather for outdoor activities.
- Summer (July to August) is perfect for exploring the beautiful mountains and enjoying various festivals.
- Winter (December to February) is ideal for skiing and experiencing the unique winter landscapes of Kazakhstan. Be warned though, it can get extremely cold!
Top Destinations to Visit:
- Almaty: Discover the cultural heart of Kazakhstan with its modern amenities and stunning mountain backdrop.
- Astana (Nur-Sultan): Explore the futuristic capital city with its unique architecture and cultural attractions.
- Charyn Canyon: Hike through the “Grand Canyon of Central Asia” and marvel at its unique rock formations.
- Altyn Emel National Park: A vast and otherworldly landscape of bizarre rock formations and singing dunes.
- Altai Mountains: Embark on an adventure in this remote region known for its pristine nature and nomadic culture.
- Turkestan: A historic Silk Road city with beautiful medieval mausoleums and a bustling bazaar.