Kazakhstan — Overview
Brought into the national spotlight by the pop culture phenomenon “mockumentary” Borat, Kazakhstan has fought vehemently to show it is more than just the backwater country Hollywood made it out to be. After years of Soviet rule, the Asian/European hybrid nation offers diverse landscapes, history, sights, and culture rich enough to rival the best travel destinations worldwide.
An outdoor lover’s dream, whether it’s taking on Kazakhstan’s amazing mountains or enjoying the beautiful bodies of water, there are enough things to do to keep yourself entertained. There are also activities for more relaxed vacationers, including lounging at one of the many traditional saunas and spas.
Kazakhstan is a large country, taking up two time zones and spanning two continents, which makes for a varied and exciting natural environment and a challenging and diverse travel experience. The country’s sights are a nice mix of historical landmarks and celebration of Mother Earth. From the site of the first ever space shuttle launch to museums chronicling the country’s past, a plethora of nature reserves and majestic mountain ranges, there is enough variety to suit everyone's needs and taste.
Accommodation options are plentiful, with the widest variety present in the large cities. Whether you're looking for five-star luxury resorts or budget backpacker guesthouses, there is something for everyone. Local cuisine is hearty and meat-based so vegetarians might have a tough time, but there are several international options for those looking for comforts from home.
Almaty is the main arrivals hub for air passengers to Kazakhstan. One of the best ways to navigate the country is by local taxi which can be flagged down by the side of the road, but prices need to be negotiated before departing. Car rentals are available, but expensive especially for long journeys. Both the local bus and train systems are reliable and affordable. The buses tend to be faster, but the trains are more comfortable so the preferred route depends on your preference.
- Witness the site of the first space shuttle launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome
- Hike and trek the gorgeous Tian Shan mountain range
- Ease stiff muscles in a traditional Kazakh sauna
- Take in the country’s beautiful flora and fauna at Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve
- Experience the Xanadu-esque presence at the Khan Shatyr entertainment center
- Raft and canoe on one of the many stunning bodies of water