Straddling two time zones and four climate zones, Kazakhstan is a country of startling contrasts.
Some would say it is the country of steppes, others of endless flatlands, of deep canyons such as Charyn, of deserts or of semi-saline lakes, like Balkhash. They would all be right. Richly endowed by nature, the country has embraced green policies with targets extending to 2050. Like an old nomadic tribe, changes are in the country’s DNA, as illustrated by the decision to move the capital form Almaty to Astana, a city undergoing frenetic development, with imposing landmarks that include the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, the Tower of Bayterek and Khan Shatyr cultural center.
A 15-kilometer drive out of Almaty is the Medeu Valley, where you can skate at the largest rink in the world, at an altitude of 1,700 meters, or swim in the mountain-water pool just below the stadium.
See more of the 1,679 species of vascular plants (non-seed-bearing, also known as higher plants) in the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Qetes had provided us with a special permission.
In the city of Semey, visit the house where 19th-century literary icon Fyodor Dostoyevsky once lived in exile, now a museum, and attend a theatrical adaptation of one of his works on the small stage.
Marvel at more than 20 sea creatures over 3,000 kilometers from the ocean at the Oceanarium in the Duman Entertainment Center in Astana.
The cuisine and cooking techniques reflect the people’s former nomadic way of life, with a focus on mutton and horse meat and milk products. Try besbarmak (chunks of boiled meat served on pasta sheets), kazy (horsemeat sausage) and baursak (fried dough balls with honey). Methods developed to preserver food created products such as irumshik (dried sour milk) and kurt (balls of dried cheese).
Feel The Rush
For nature lovers, the Burabay (Borovoye) National Park in the Aknola region, known as “the pearl of Kazakhstan,” is an enchanting place. If you have any doubts, the 14 massive lakes, 800 species of flora, and 305 vertebrate species will soon dispel them. Explore the park by staying at a resort with a view of the largest lake, Borovoye, or simply camp out.
The desert steppe extends majestically before you. Suddenly, you catch sight of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s largest operational space launch facility. Watch a rocket taking off and learn all about space travel.