Things to do in Kazakhstan: Top Places and Activities

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Things to do in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan, a vast and diverse country in Central Asia, offers a rich tapestry of natural wonders, cultural experiences, and historical sites. For international tourists planning a visit, here’s a co (Read More)mprehensive list of must-do activities and must-see places in Kazakhstan.

Here is the list of 29 Things to do in Kazakhstan: Top Places and Activities

1. Explore the Rich History of Almaty

Explore the Rich History of Almaty
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Known For : Central State Museum A. Kasteyev State Museum of Arts Kok-Tobe Hill

Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, is a cultural and historical hub. Begin your exploration at the Central State Museum, which offers a deep dive into Kazakhstan’s past, from ancient times to the present. Wander through Panfilov Park to see the Zenkov Cathedral, a wooden Orthodox church that survived a major earthquake. Don't miss the Green Bazaar, where you can experience local life and sample traditional Kazakh foods. The city is also home to numerous theaters, galleries, and monuments that reflect its diverse heritage and vibrant arts scene.

Best Time: March - November

23 Attractions

2. Wander Through the Streets of Astana

Wander Through the Streets of Astana
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Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, is known for its futuristic architecture and grandiose buildings. Stroll along the Nurzhol Boulevard to see landmarks like the Bayterek Tower, a symbol of the city. You can experience the blend of modernity and heritage by marveling at the avant-garde buildings that give a testimony of modern architecture and visiting the Hazret Sultan Mosque, a stunning example of Islamic architecture. The city’s parks, museums, and vibrant nightlife add to its allure, making it a must-visit destination.

Best Time: June - August, September - October

3. Visit Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve

Visit Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve
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Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, the oldest nature reserve in Central Asia, is a biodiversity hotspot. It’s home to a variety of flora and fauna, including endangered species like the snow leopard and the Himalayan brown bear. The reserve’s diverse landscapes range from high-altitude peaks and glaciers to steppe and forest. Hiking and wildlife spotting are popular activities at the reserve, and guided tours can help visitors spot rare plants and animals while learning about the reserve’s conservation efforts.

Best Time: May - September

4. See a Space Launch at Baikonur

See a Space Launch at Baikonur

Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s first and largest space launch facility, is located in Kazakhstan. Visiting Baikonur provides a rare opportunity to witness a space launch and learn about the history of space exploration. The facility, still active today, has been the launch site for numerous historic missions. You can take a tour of Baikonur which include visits to the launch pads, museums, and the houses where famous astronauts like Yuri Gagarin stayed. Although seeing a launch in person is a thrilling experience for space enthusiasts, it is only possible if you plan your visit around a scheduled launch.

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5. Explore Ile-Alatau National Park

Explore Ile-Alatau National Park
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Ile-Alatau National Park, located just outside Almaty, is a paradise for nature lovers. The park encompasses a range of ecosystems, from snow-capped peaks and glaciers to alpine meadows and forested valleys. Hike the scenic trails to discover waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers, and diverse wildlife, including ibex, snow leopards, and golden eagles. In winter, the park becomes a hub for skiing and snowboarding and suring the summer you can pack a picnic and enjoy the serene beauty of the Big Almaty Lake, surrounded by lush forests.

Best Time: June - September

6. Museum hopping

Museum hopping

Kazakhstan's museums offer a fascinating journey through the nation's rich cultural, historical, and artistic heritage. In Almaty, the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan is one of the largest museum in Central Asia, showcasing artifacts from the Bronze Age to modern times. The Museum of Folk Musical Instruments, also in Almaty, presents a unique collection of traditional Kazakh instruments. Astana hosts the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, featuring exhibits on the country's history, culture, and independence movement and interactive displays.

7. Take a journey to the Mangystau region

Take a journey to the Mangystau region

Mount Sherkala and the Valley of Balls in Kazakhstan's Mangystau region are natural wonders that captivate visitors with their unique geological formations and historical significance. Mount Sherkala, often referred to as the "Lion's Fortress," rises majestically from the desert landscape, resembling a yurt or a lion from different angles. Nearby, the Valley of Balls, or Torysh, is a surreal landscape dotted with spherical rock formations. These mysterious, perfectly round stones, ranging from a few centimeters to several meters in diameter, have puzzled geologists for years.

8. Step Back in Time in Turkistan

Step Back in Time in Turkistan
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Turkestan, an ancient city with a history spanning over 1,500 years, is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. The city is home to the magnificent Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Mausoleum, a masterpiece of Timurid architecture. Wander through the ancient streets, visit the Turkestan Archaeological Museum, and explore the ruins of the medieval fortress. The city’s rich history and spiritual significance make it a fascinating destination for those interested in Kazakhstan’s cultural heritage.

Best Time: April - June, September - October

9. Visit the abandoned set of Nomad- the Warrior

Visit the abandoned set of Nomad- the Warrior

In the heart of the Kazakh steppe along the Ili River, Nomad's Land offers a unique glimpse into Kazakhstan's cinematic and cultural heritage. This intriguing site, originally a film set for the Kazakh-French movie "Nomad," has been left standing, creating an evocative tableau amidst the barren landscape. The set, which resembles a historical relic, provides an immersive experience, transporting visitors back in time to the era depicted in the film. You can explore the impressive structures and scenery and enjoy traditional cuisines that are sold nearby.

10. Explore the Ghostly Kaindy Lake

Explore the Ghostly Kaindy Lake

Lake Kaindy, nestled within Kolsay Lakes National Park in southern Kazakhstan, offers a surreal experience for nature enthusiasts. This unique lake was formed by a limestone landslide triggered by the 1911 Kebin earthquake. It is renowned for its striking bluish-green waters, a result of limestone deposits. The lake's most captivating feature is its submerged Picea schrenkiana tree trunks, often referred to as a "sunken forest," which rise eerily above the surface. Preserved by the cold waters, these tree trunks resemble the masts of submerged ships, creating a hauntingly beautiful panorama.

11. Visit the Almaty Zoo

Visit the Almaty Zoo

The Almaty Zoo, located in Almaty, Kazakhstan, is one of Central Asia's oldest and largest zoological parks.The zoo houses a diverse collection of animals, including indigenous species like the snow leopard, the Kazakh eagle, and the rare Tien Shan white-clawed bear. It also features animals from other regions, such as elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, tigers, and various bird species.

12. Enjoy Kazakh Cuisines

Enjoy Kazakh Cuisines

Kazakh cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors and traditions, influenced by the country’s nomadic heritage and diverse cultural exchanges. Try traditional dishes like beshbarmak (boiled meat with noodles), plov (rice pilaf), and kazy (horsemeat sausage). Savor fresh dairy products like kumis (fermented mare’s milk) and shubat (fermented camel’s milk). Many restaurants in cities like Almaty and Nur-Sultan offer authentic Kazakh cuisine, while local markets provide an opportunity to taste and buy regional specialties. Experiencing Kazakh cuisine is a delicious way to connect with the country’s culture and traditions.

13. Enjoy the Beaches in Aktau

Enjoy the Beaches in Aktau
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Aktau, located on the shores of the Caspian Sea, offers beautiful beaches and a relaxed coastal atmosphere. The city’s sandy beaches and warm waters make it a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Aktau’s beaches provide a perfect escape for those looking to unwind and enjoy the natural beauty of Kazakhstan’s coastline. The beach season runs from late May to September.

Best Time: April - June, September - October

14. Admire the Grand Architecture of the Orthodox Church

Admire the Grand Architecture of the Orthodox Church

The Ascension Cathedral in Almaty, also known as Zenkov Cathedral, is a striking wooden structure that survived a major earthquake. It stands out for its unique construction method as it is built almost entirely without nails. As one of the world's tallest wooden buildings, its five domes and intricate design draw awe. The cathedral now serves as both a sanctuary for Christians and a captivating attraction for visitors, showcasing stunning interior artwork and gold-plated domes.

15. Marvel at the Palace of Peace & Reconciliation

Marvel at the Palace of Peace & Reconciliation

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation in Astana is a stunning architectural marvel. Designed by renowned architect Norman Foster, this pyramid-shaped building is a symbol of unity and peace. It hosts various cultural and religious events, including the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. You can tour the building, explore its art and cultural exhibits, and enjoy the panoramic views from the top floor. The palace’s innovative design and serene atmosphere make it a must-see landmark in the capital city.

16. Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine tasting in Kazakhstan offers a unique and enriching experience, particularly in the Almaty region. Going on a wine tour is one of the top things to do in Kazakhstan. Key native varieties in the region include the robust, full-bodied red Saperavi and the light, herbaceous white Rkatsiteli, both resilient to Kazakhstan's harsh climate. Alongside these, vineyards also cultivate French varietals like Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay.

17. Take a Cable Car Ride at Kok Tobe Mountain

Take a Cable Car Ride at Kok Tobe Mountain

Standing at 1,130 meters above sea level, Kok Tobe Hill offers breathtaking views and a variety of attractions. You can take a six-minute cable car ride to the hill which provides stunning vistas of Almaty and the surrounding Zaili Alatau Mountains. At the summit, you can explore an amusement park, various monuments, viewing platforms, and the iconic Almaty TV Tower. A round-trip ticket costs about 4 USD, making this an affordable and memorable experience.

18. Go souvenir shopping

Go souvenir shopping

Shopping in Kazakhstan offers a vibrant and authentic experience, especially when exploring its local markets. At Zelyony Bazaar, you can also find a variety of handcrafted items, such as textiles, jewelry, and souvenirs that reflect Kazakhstan's rich heritage. The Central Market in Nur-Sultan is another must-visit. Here, you can explore stalls filled with traditional clothing, handmade crafts, and local delicacies.

19. Ride the Medeu Skating Rink in Almaty

Ride the Medeu Skating Rink in Almaty

The Medeu Skating Rink, located in a picturesque mountain valley near Almaty, is the highest ice rink in the world. Known for its clear, pure ice, Medeu has hosted numerous international skating competitions. You can skate on the rink, surrounded by stunning alpine scenery, or simply enjoy the atmosphere and watch professional skaters in action. The rink is open year-round, with ice skating in the winter and rollerblading in the summer.

20. Hiking

Hiking

Kazakhstan’s diverse landscapes offer excellent hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. From the rugged mountains of the Tian Shan range to the vast steppes and lush valleys, there are trails for all levels of hikers. Popular hiking destinations include the Charyn Canyon, the Kolsai Lakes, and the Ile-Alatau National Park. Hike through picturesque landscapes, encounter diverse flora and fauna, and enjoy the fresh mountain air.

21. Experience Traditional Kazakh Hospitality in a Yurt

Experience Traditional Kazakh Hospitality in a Yurt

Staying in a yurt, a traditional Kazakh dwelling, is a unique way to experience the country’s nomadic culture and hospitality. Yurt camps are found in various scenic locations, including national parks and remote mountain areas. Enjoy traditional meals, participate in cultural activities, and immerse yourself in the nomadic way of life. The warm hospitality of the Kazakh people, combined with the comfort of the yurt, makes for an unforgettable cultural experience.

22. Visit the Aral Sea Ship Graveyard

Visit the Aral Sea Ship Graveyard

The Aral Sea Ship Graveyard, located in the town of Aralsk, a short trip from Khiva, is a poignant reminder of the environmental disaster that struck the region. Once a bustling fishing port, Aralsk is now home to rusting ships stranded in the desert, left behind as the Aral Sea receded. Visit the graveyard to see these eerie relics and learn about the ecological impact of the sea’s shrinkage.

23. Go Skiing

Go Skiing

Kazakhstan offers excellent skiing opportunities, with Almaty being a major hub for winter sports. The Shymbulak Ski Resort, located in the Ile-Alatau mountains, features well-groomed slopes, modern facilities, and breathtaking alpine scenery. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced skier, Shymbulak offers both gentle slopes to challenging runs for. The resort also offers snowboarding, ice skating, and other winter activities, making it a perfect destination for winter sports enthusiasts.

24. Watch a Falconry Show

Watch a Falconry Show

Falconry is an ancient tradition in Kazakhstan, and witnessing a falcon show is a thrilling experience. These shows, often held in traditional villages or cultural centers, showcase the skills of both the falcons and their handlers. Watch as these magnificent birds of prey demonstrate their hunting prowess and agility. It’s an opportunity to learn about this age-old practice, which has been passed down through generations, and to appreciate the close bond between the falcons and their trainers.

25. Visit the Ancient City of Sauran

Visit the Ancient City of Sauran

Just off the highway from Turkistan to Kyzylorda, lies the intriguing ruins of Sauran, once the largest city in Kazakhstan. Entering through its grand gates, it's clear that Sauran was a significant Silk Road hub. The grass-covered ruins reveal sophisticated underwater canals that sustained this oasis, with partial restorations highlighting the ancient city's layout. This historical site offers a unique window into Kazakhstan's rich past, making it a must on the list of things to do in Kazakhstan for history enthusiasts.

26. Day Trip to Tamgaly-Tas

Day Trip to Tamgaly-Tas

Tamgaly-Tas, located about 120 kilometers from Almaty, is an open-air gallery of ancient petroglyphs. These rock carvings, some of which date back to the Bronze Age, depict scenes of hunting, rituals, and deities. The site, nestled along the Ili River, offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives and beliefs of early inhabitants of the region. You can take a guided tour to get deeper insights into the significance of the petroglyphs and the history of the area.

27. Witness Singing Dunes at Altyn-Emel National Park

Witness Singing Dunes at Altyn-Emel National Park
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Altyn-Emel National Park is famous for its unique natural phenomena, including the singing dunes. These massive sand dunes emit a distinctive humming sound when the wind blows, creating an otherworldly experience. The park also features the Aktau and Katutau mountains, known for their colorful and unusual rock formations. Explore the park’s diverse landscapes on foot or by jeep safari, and keep an eye out for rare wildlife such as dessert eared hedgehog, siberian ibes, and black stork.

Best Time: May - September

28. Experience the serene at Kolsai Lakes

Experience the serene at Kolsai Lakes
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The Kolsai Lakes, a series of three alpine lakes nestled in the Tian Shan mountains, offer a serene escape into nature and a glimpse into traditional Kazakh nomadic life. You can hike between the lakes, camp by the water, and ride horses through the lush valleys. Staying in a yurt, a traditional Kazakh dwelling, provides a unique cultural experience. The lakes are also ideal for fishing and boating, making them a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Best Time: May - September

29. Visit the Charyn Canyon National Park

Visit the Charyn Canyon National Park
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Charyn Canyon National Park in Kazakhstan is a must-visit destination for nature and adventure lovers. Located in the east of the country in the Almaty Region, the park is home to a 12-km long canyon, which is one of the largest in the world. The canyon is carved by the Charyn River and is a spectacular sight to behold - with its multi-colored cliffs and unique shapes. Its stunning landscapes, featuring dramatic rock formations, deep gorges, and colorful cliffs, provide stunning views. Hike along the canyon’s trails to fully appreciate its beauty, or take a guided tour to learn about the geological history and local legends associated with the area.

Best Time: May - September

Kazakhstan’s diverse attractions offer something for every traveler, from natural wonders and cultural experiences to historical sites and outdoor adventures. Plan your trip to this fascinating country and discover its many treasures.

This post was published by Pranay Prasun

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