Best of Kazakhstan Tour

Highlights of Kazakhstan

Join us to explore Kazakhstan’s dramatic landscapes and diverse cityscapes!

Days

8

Price

€1590

Briefing

Comfort level:

Physical rating:

Group size: Max 12

Countries: Kazakhstan

Route:

  • Almaty
  • Altyn Emel
  • Shymkent
  • Turkestan
  • Astana

Themes: Cultural Tours

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.

 

highlights

  • Visit modern Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan since 1997
  • Tour vibrant Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan
  • Experience the Singing Dune of Altyn Emel National Park
  • Be wowed by Charyn Canyon
  • Explore Kazakhstan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi in Turkestan
  • Experience the hustle and bustle of oriental bazaars

ITINERARY & MAP

Almaty City Tour, Kazakhstan Travel

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. As the narrative goes, the 28 men under his command repulsed 50 German tanks from the outskirts of Moscow. An impressive monument was erected in their honor 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 without a single metal nail 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 shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also a great opportunity to take photos. You will notice how different ethnicities are selling different products – Russian women selling chicken, Tajik/ Uzbek men selling dried fruits, Korean women selling Korean salads, etc.

We will have buffet dinner at the hotel.

Hotel Kazzhol or similar

Best Kazakhstan Tour

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. Some believe that the wind is responsible: a breeze makes the sand squeak and a gale produces a tune more akin to an organ.  Others claim that the sand becomes electrified due to friction and creates a sonic vibration as a result.  Either way, hearing the Singing Barchan is bound to be a phenomenon that you will not forget.  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

Kazakhstan tour

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

Kazakhstan travel

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 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 Shymkent or similar

 

Kazakhstan tour, travel highlights

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. In ancient times, visiting this place three times equated to a visit to Mecca. Today, this unfinished mazar is an impressive sight, boasting the largest dome in Central Asia. It 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 underground 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 Shymkent or similar

Kazakhstan Tour, Astana

After breakfast transfer to airport to catch our flight to Astana, departing 11:00. Upon arrival in Astana at 12:33 transfer to hotel for check in and then we go for lunch in the city center.

Astana 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 the 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 Astana. The tower has become the symbol of Astana. 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 Astana 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 Astana’s modern buildings are placed. We will end the walk at Khan Shatyr, giant tent-like shopping center designed by architect Norman Foster. By now it is time for dinner already. After dinner, we will watch the light show at Ishim river and before returning to the hotel.

Hotel Kazzhol or similar

Kazakhstan Tour, AstanaCity, Expo sphere

Yesterday we had just enough time to get a first glance at the modern architecture of Astana. 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 Astana 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 artefacts, 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”. Centerpiece of the Expo area is the building “Nur Alem”, which is the world’s largest spherical building with the 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 Kazzhol or similar

 

Kalpak Travel, Central Asia Adventure Company

Transfer to airport for departure flight back home. We hope you enjoyed your trip to Kazakhstan and will return soon to discover more places in Central Asia!

Inclusions

Transport
Airplane, Foot, Minivan
Meals
8 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners
Accommodation
Hotel (8 nights, incl. early check in on day 1)
Included Activities
  • Almaty – City Tour
  • Walk on singing sand dune in Altyn Emel National Park
  • Walk in Charyn Canyon
  • Visit to Yasavi Mausoleum in Turkestan
  • Astana – City Tour

dates & price

Total trip price

€1590

Euro

8

Days

Single supplement available for €450

Deposit: €250

Departing
Finishing
Status
Booking
3 Jun 2018
10 Jun 2018
+ Available
9 Sep 2018
16 Sep 2018
+ Available
Price includes
  • All transfers by minibus according to the itinerary, pick-ups and drop-offs
  • Accommodation based on sharing a double/twin room
  • English speaking tour leader accompanying the group for the whole time
  • All entrances as per itinerary
  • Economy class tickets for flights Almaty-Shymkent, Shymkent-Astana
  • Full board (breakfasts, lunches, dinners)
Price does not include
  • International air fares
  • Hotel charges for additional services
  • Travel insurance is required
  • Personal expenses e.g. souvenirs

Important notes

  • Travel insurance is required for this tour. Upon arrival, please provide your insurance details to the tour guide. Which insurance you choose is up to you. We recommend for example this one: https://www.worldnomads.com
  • Departure for this tour is guaranteed

KAZAKHSTAN TRAVEL INFORMATION

MONEY & COSTS:

The Kazakh currency is called the Tenge (KZT). The banking system in Kazakhstan is the most developed in Central Asia and in big cities there are many places to exchange money and to withdraw cash from ATMs using a variety of cards. We recommend bringing some cash in new USD bank notes of denominations of at least 20 USD. Small and old-looking bank notes are harder to exchange. Paying directly with a credit card is still not possible at most places, except for high-end restaurants, hotels and international stores like Zara, Mango, McDonalds or Starbucks. An emergency fund of around 500 USD in cash is always good to have during guided trips to Central Asia.

SAFETY:

Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic country with a long history of tolerance. Guests and locals are treated with respect and the whole country can be regarded as a very safe destination for travelers. That said, you are advised to wear a money belt, watch your belongings, avoid dark streets at night and take only official taxis. Your safety is our first priority at Kalpak Travel; we know and regularly assess all our Kazakh partners and we closely monitor political events.

ENTRY & EXIT:

Citizens of most Western countries do not need a visa for a stay of up to 15 days in Kazakhstan. To be sure whether you need visa or not you can check on the website of The Visa Machine. Any permits you might need for access to places that will be visited during your tour, we will provide for you free of charge.
As soon as we receive the deposit payment for your tour, we will confirm your booking and send you an email with important pre-departure information. Please read it carefully as it contains important information on customs regulations for Kazakhstan.

BEST TIME TO GO:

The climate of Kazakhstan is continental and dry in the majority of the country, including the largest cities. Summers are very hot with day temperatures between 30° and 40° Celsius and winters extremely cold with strong winds. In the mountains, however, weather is quite changeable. If you are planning to visit the mountains the best season is summer. Be aware, however, at high altitudes of 3000 metres or more it may even snow overnight during the summer. For cultural sightseeing tours spring and autumn are the best seasons. Autumn is also the time when the country goes to harvest, meaning markets are full of fresh fruit and vegetables. In 2017 the world exposition takes place in the Kazakh capital of Astana from June 10 to September 10. If you are planning to visit Astana we recommend that you go during that time.

HEALTH:

Do not drink water, unless it is bottled, filtered or boiled. Do not use tap water for brushing teeth or making ice either. Do not eat ice cream. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled. If you follow these basic rules, you are likely to avoid any health issues like traveller’s diarrhoea. Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Tetanus are recommended vaccinations for Kazakhstan. Ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including repatriation. Medical services in Kazakhstan are basic at best.

Related articles

Travellers' Impressions of Kazakhstan