- Visit modern Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan since 1997
- Tour vibrant Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan
- Experience the Singing Dune of Altyn Emel National Park
- Explore Kazakhstan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi in Turkestan
- Experience the hustle and bustle of oriental bazaars
Kazakhstan is a country undergoing change, yet old traditions are valued alongside modern practices. Kazakhstan’s Soviet and modern cities combine to create a timeless atmosphere, while the country’s mighty landscapes will capture both your imagination and your heart. From vividly painted canyons to singing sand dunes, its diverse countryside offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the region. Meanwhile, the country’s abundant oil and mineral reserves have funded bold urban landscapes. Yet amidst such change, the country doesn’t lose sight of its nomad roots, assuring those who come of the warm welcome that’s characterized this nation’s attitude to visitors for centuries.
- Day 1 - Welcome to Kazakhstan!
Welcome to Kazakhstan! Your guide will meet you at the airport and transfer to the hotel. Check in and have a rest until noon. City tour of Almaty will start with a lunch, where you can meet your fellow travelers and will be briefed about the exciting days ahead.
Almaty was the Kazakh capital until 1997 and is still the largest city in Kazakhstan. Its name translates as “the place with apples”. It is believed that this is the place where applies originated from. Almaty is a charming and green city. Roads are wide and tree-lined and there are good views of the Zailisky Ala-Too mountains that form a backdrop to the city.
We visit today Panfilov Park, named after General Panfilov who fought against the Germans in World War 2. An impressive monument was erected in the honor of Panfilov’s division in the center of the park.
The most famous sight of Almaty, Zenkov Cathedral, is in Panfilov Park as well. It was built in 1904 and is one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings. Right next to the park is the museum of musical instruments, which we will visit as well.
At the Green Bazaar, you will then get a chance to explore local Kazakh culture as you stroll through the local market.
Hotel Kazzhol or similar
- Day 2 - Altyn Emel
Our destination today is Altyn Emel, a national park in the steppes. On the way to Altyn Emel you will get a good impression of the typical landscape of Kazakhstan – the vast, seemingly never-ending steppes. After about five hours of driving, including a short stop at the Ili river, we arrive at Basshi village in the territory of the National Park. We have lunch at the hotel. In the afternoon we drive about two hours to get to the “singing dunes”, the highlight of the entire park. Rising about 150 meters and stretching for approximately 3 km, unlike most desert dunes, they do not migrate with the wind. Instead, they play a melody in dry weather. Once we have explored the dunes, we visit a nomad banya to experience the local tradition of taking a sauna before transferring to our small hotel in Basshi.
Local small hotel
- Day 3 - Altyn Emel – Charyn Canyon – Almaty
Today after breakfast our destination is the Charyn Canyon – one of the most famous natural sights of Kazakhstan. The canyon is often compared to the Grand Canyon, although it is much smaller in size with a total length of 80-90 kilometers. The part of the canyon you will visit is known as “Valley of Castles” for its unusual rock formations. It is 3 kilometers long and 100 meters deep. We will walk these 3 kilometers down to the river, where we will have a picnic for lunch. In the evening we arrive in Almaty on time for dinner.
Hotel Kazzhol or similar
- Day 4 - Almaty – Medeo & Shymbulak – Big Almaty Lake – Shymkent
Today we visit the mountains near Almaty before taking the evening flight to Shymkent. We start with Medeo & Shymbulak, the city’s winter sports playgrounds. Almaty hosted the 2011 Asian Winter Games and the facilities enjoyed a considerable upgrade at that time. Medeo boasts a huge ice rink, used for speed skating. At 1691 meters above sea level it calls itself the highest ice rink in the world. Shymbulak is located higher up the valley at an altitude of up to 3200 meters and is Kazakhstan’s top ski resort. In Summer there is no snow, but we still take the cable car to the top of Shymbulak to enjoy the fresh air and nice views.
After lunch, we drive to one more beautiful natural sight – Big Almaty Lake. The lake is a natural alpine reservoir, located in the Ile-Alatau National Park at an altitude of 2500 meters above sea level. From the city center, it takes just about one hour to get there. Unfortunately, it is not permitted to go all the way to the lake or to take a swim, but we can enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and take photos.
At 17:00 we need to depart from the lake directly to the airport to catch the domestic flight to Shymkent, departing 19:25 from Almaty Airport. Upon arrival at Shymkent at 20:50 transfer to the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Hotel Aidana Plaza or similar
- Day 5 - Shymkent – Turkestan – Shymkent
Today we drive to Turkestan, a 1500-year-old city. Once, it was known as Yassy and Shavgar, capital of the Kazakh Khanate where coronations took place. One of its well-known monuments is the Mausoleum of Khoja Akhmed Yasavi. He was an important figure in the spread of Islam across the Kazakh steppe. Emperor Tamerlane commissioned this mausoleum in 1389 and work continued until his death in 1405, when construction was halted. Today, this unfinished mausoleum became Kazakhstan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. We will spend a good amount of time in the mausoleum and the adjacent necropolis, oriental baths and mosque, learning more about Yasavi and the Silk Road history of Kazakhstan.
In the late afternoon, we drive back to Shymkent to arrive just in time for dinner.
Hotel Aidana Plaza or similar
- Day 6 - Shymkent – Nur-Sultan
After breakfast transfer to airport to catch our flight to Nur – Sultan, departing 11:00. Upon arrival in Nur – Sultan transfer to hotel for check-in and then we go for lunch in the city center.
Nur-Sultan is Central Asia’s youngest capital and a showpiece for the 21st century Kazakhstan. Talented and well-known architects like Norman Foster have made major contributions to this futuristic city with its almost surreal skyline. We start our city tour today afternoon at Independence Square and visit impressive Hazrat Sultan Mosque just next to it. From here we drive to Baiterek tower in the very center of the new part of Nur – Sultan. The tower has become the symbol of the city. Its shape represents a poplar tree with a golden egg laid by a magic bird from Kazakh folk tales. From the top of the tower, you can enjoy a nice view of Nur-Sultan and the surrounding steppes. We will then have a walk along the Nurzhol Boulevard. Along the boulevard, which was designed by Kisho Kurokawa, most of Nur-Sultan’s modern buildings are placed. We will end the walk at Khan Shatyr, a giant tent-like shopping center designed by architect Norman Foster. By now it is time for dinner already.
Hotel Hilton Garden Inn or similar
- Day 7 - Nur-Sultan Museums
Yesterday we had just enough time to get a first glance at the modern architecture of Nur-Sultan. Today we will learn more about the country’s history in three museums – all very different from one another.
We start in the morning with the Memorial Museum Alzhir, located 40km outside of the city, to learn more about the dark history of Kazakhstan. Alzhir was the biggest concentration camp in USSR for wives of “betrayers of the homeland”. There you will get an understanding of how people lived, worked and survived in Soviet concentration camps, the infamous “Gulags”.
Back in Nur – Sultan we will have lunch and then head to the new and impressive National Museum. The museum is huge and we will visit the most interesting rooms, including the ones with famous Scythian gold artifacts, most importantly the “Golden Man”.
The third museum we will visit is located in the part of the city that was constructed specially for the World EXPO 2017 with the topic “Future Energy”. The centerpiece of the Expo area is the building “Nur Alem”, which is the world’s largest spherical building with a diameter of 80 meters and a height of 100 meters. The buildings served as the Kazakh Pavilion during the EXPO and starting from 2018 it will work as a “Museum of Future”.
After visits to these three very interesting museums we will have farewell dinner in a nice restaurant.
Hotel Hilton Garden Inn or similar
- Day 8 - Nur - Sultan - Departure
Transfer to airport for departure flight back home.
- 8 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners
- International Flight Tickets
- Personal expenses
- Travel insurance