Kazakhstan’s attractions are as appealing and as diverse as its landmass. Some of the big landmarks have great historical significance, having seen important moments in the country’s past. Others are simply examples of the country’s vast and breathtaking natural environment. Whatever your interests, there is bound to be somewhere to intrigue and enthrall.
A historic site, the Baikonour Cosmodrome is Kazakhstan’s equivalent of Cape Canaveral in the United States. Also known as Tyuratam, it is the world’s first and largest space station. It is from here that Yuri Gagarin took off in 1961 to became the originial cosmonaut. Several tours are offered throughout the day, the highlight of which are the launches which still take place periodically. There is also a museum on site which provides some much-needed context for the facility and its history. Travelers who are interested in the intriguing world of space exploration will surely have a grand time here.
Address: 16 Pioneer St, Palace of Culture, 3rd Floor, Baikonur
Tian Shan Mountains
Creating a border between Kazakhstan and China, the Tian Shan mountain range spans a distance of almost 1,000 miles which are home to breathtaking natural formations. The tallest peaks include Khan Tengri and Pobeda, perfect hiking and trekking excursions. There is also an amazing series of lakes, some of the largest in the world. This beautiful and challenging mountain range is the country’s pride and joy, and is an essential part of any traveler’s journey.
Address: South West Kazakhstan
Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve
Eco-enthusiasts certainly have a lot to work with in Kazakhstan with the plethora of nature reserves on offer. One of the most impressive is Aksu-Zhabagly, which is located in the northwestern region of the Tian Shan Mountains, in the southern province of the country. A UNESCO World Heritage biosphere, it is home to several different animal species, hundreds of kinds of birds and thousands of indigenous plants. The reserve gets its name from the great Aksu River which flows through the northeastern portion.
Address: Southern Kazakhstan in the Tian Shan Mountains
St Nicholas Cathedral
Built in 1909, St Nicholas Cathedral is a relic of the past which tells the tale of a turbulent Soviet history. Once used as a stable for Bolshevik troops, the cathedral is far more than just a pretty building. That said, the golden domes and pale turquoise tiles are still impressive. The interior is ornately decorated with biblical scenes depicted on the walls. Walking into the cathedral is like stepping back in time surrounded by restored frescoes and Orthodox worshippers who frequent the place of worship clad in black.
Address: Cnr of Qabanbay Batyr & Baytursynuly, Wes of the City Center
Perhaps the country’s most significant architectural feat of the 21st century, Khan Shatyr is a massive, transparent tent and the biggest tensile structure on the globe. Many have compared it to the "pleasure dome" of Xanadu, which Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem speaks. Standing at nearly 500 feet, it towers over the south of Astana and is a sight to behold. Inside the tent is a veritable mini city that includes streets, gardens, shopping malls, a beach resort, concert halls, a golf course, cinemas, and even a boating river. The entertainment center’s activities are worth a visit, but the larger-than-life tent makes for some great photo opportunities as well.
Address: Bulvar Nurzhol, South of Astana
Central State Museum
One of the best museums in the country, the Central State Museum boasts exhibits and collections spanning Kazakhstan’s history from the Bronze Age to the modern day. Travelers are encouraged to begin their tour at the bottom of the multi-story building, starting with early archaeological artifacts and life size models of Genghis Khan before moving upstairs to learn more about the country from the 20th century onward.
Address: Mikrorayon Samal 1, No 44, Almaty