Best of Kazakhstan Tour

Highlights of Kazakhstan

Travel from Soviet Almaty via ancient Turkestan to the eclectic modern capital Nur-Sultan

Days

8

Price

€2160

Briefing

Comfort level:

Physical rating:

Group size: Max 16 persons

Countries: Kazakhstan

Route:

  • Almaty
  • Turkistan
  • Nur-Sultan

Themes: Cultural Tours

Kazakhstan is a country in flux, where long-held traditions are still valued alongside modern practices. The historic, Soviet, and modern cities exhibit a broad range of architectural styles and cultural influences. Kazakhstan’s abundant oil and mineral reserves have financed bold urban landscapes with buildings by world-famous architects, but even as the skylines change day by day, Kazakhstan has not lost sight of its nomadic roots. Visitors are still assured the warm welcome which has characterized the nation’s attitude to guests for centuries.

Kalpak Travel’s “Best of Kazakhstan” tour takes you around the country in one week – from Soviet Almaty via Turkistan and the ancient capital of Otrar, to the eclectic modern capital, Nur-Sultan. In addition to dramatic landscapes and the attractions of the great Silk Road, you will experience nomadic culture first-hand at the Huns ethno-village, meet Kazakhstan’s master craftsmen, and enjoy spectacular mountain views at Lake Issyk. You will stay in 4* hotels throughout the tour, and transfer between cities on convenient domestic flights.

highlights

  • Visit Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital since 1997, with its impressive skyline of buildings designed by celebrity architects like Kisho Kurokowa and Norman Foster
  • Tour vibrant Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city and cultural heart, with its colorful Zenkov Cathedral and bustling Green Bazaar
  • Explore Kazakhstan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the recently renovated Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi in Turkestan
  • Immerse yourself in Kazakh culture, including nomadic traditions and thrilling horse games
  • Discover the scenic mountain lake of Issyk, where the water is so clear you can see to depths of 10m
  • Take the gondola to the top of Shymbulak, Almaty’s fantastic ski area, for superb views of the Northern Tian Shan and the city
  • See the ghostly ruins of Otrar and learn about the history of this once important Silk Road city

 

 

ITINERARY & MAP

Zenkov Kirche in Almaty, Kasachstan

Welcome to Kazakhstan! Most flights arrive early in the morning. You will transfer to the hotel for immediate check-in. Have a rest after your long flight and then enjoy breakfast. You’ll meet your fellow travelers and your guide in the hotel lobby at noon to go for lunch, followed by a relaxed half-day city tour of Almaty.

Almaty was the Kazakh capital until 1997 and  it is still the largest city in Kazakhstan. Its name translates as “the place of apples” as it is believed that this is the place where apples first grew. Almaty is a charming and green city, with wide, tree-lined roads. The Zailisky Ala-Too Mountains form a dramatic backdrop to the city.

Today you will visit Panfilov Park, which is named after World War II General Panfilov. An impressive monument has been erected in the center of the park in honor of Panfilov’s division. Almaty’s most famous sight, the wooden Zenkov Cathedral built in 1904, is situated in Panfilov Park as well.

At Green Bazaar, you will have the chance to experience local Kazakh culture as you shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. After the market, you will take the cable car to Kok Tobe, a hilltop overlooking the city which offers panoramic views.

Overnight in the Novotel (4*) or similar
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Medeo in Kasachstan

You will meet your guide in the hotel lobby after breakfast and then head to the studio of a local artisan. Here you will learn about ancient nomadic ornaments and make your own little piece of a Kazakh national quilt.

After this masterclass, you will take a cable car to reach one of the main landmarks of Almaty, the Shymbulak ski resort, where you will enjoy wonderful views of the Ili Alatau Mountains. On the way to the ski resort you will pass the legendary Medeo skating rink. It is located in the picturesque Medeo Gorge at an altitude of 1,600 m and it is one of the largest and highest ice rinks in the world. You will have lunch here on the summer terrace of a Kazakh restaurant at an altitude of 2,260 m.

After lunch you will take another cable car and continue to the top of the ski resort (3,200 m). It will be a bit cold and windy, so make sure you bring a warm jacket. After taking in more mountain views,  you will drive back into the city for a walk along shady Terrenkur, a delightful path along the Little Almatinka. It is one of the most popular places for locals, where Almaty’s residents come to exercise or simply enjoy a stroll.

Overnight in the Novotel (4*) or similar
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Breakfast will be at the hotel. Today you will immerse yourself in Kazakh culture, learning about traditions and rituals in the Huns ethno-village, about one hour’s drive from Almaty.

On arrival you’ll be welcomed by hostesses greeting you with a national ritual called Shashu. It involves showering guests with sweets, as Kazakhs do during wedding ceremonies. The sweets must be picked up and kept, as Kazakhs believe they will bring good luck in the future.

At Huns you will learn how to bake puffy Kazakh bread, see the construction of a Kazakh yurt, and be a spectator at performance of national horse games. The games include Jigitovka (horseback riding with acrobatic elements), Atpen audaryspak (jostling and pushing a rival whilst on horseback) and Kyz kuu, where a boy chases a girl on horseback. If he catches her he will be rewarded with a kiss; but if he fails, she can lash him! After the show you will have a delicious lunch of national cuisine.

In the afternoon, you will drive a bit further to Issyk, a postcard-perfect mountain lake at an altitude of 1,756 m above sea level, which is located within a gorge of the same name. Lying along the Kuldja tract, where hundreds of years ago merchants’ caravans passed through, the gorge is atmospheric and visually striking. You will then drive back to Almaty in time for dinner.

Overnight in the Novotel (4*) or similar
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After having breakfast and checking-out from the hotel, you will drive to the airport to catch the flight to Turkestan at 10:15. The flight takes around 1.5 hours.

Turkistan is the Spiritual Capital of the Turkic World and has long been a place of pilgrimage. You will have lunch on arrival and then drive through the scenery of South Kazakhstan to Otrar, also known as Farab, which was one of the biggest cities on the Silk Road. Located at the junction of many caravan routes,  Otrar, was a significant center of culture and trade. Its history dates back 2,000 years, and the surviving ruins include a fortress and remains of a once densely populated town.

After Otrar you will visit the Mausoleum of Arystanbab. He was the spiritual teacher of Khodja Ahmed Yassavi, whose mausoleum you will visit on Day 5.

In the early evening you will return to Turkistan. The city has undergone major changes during the last couple of years, and it has become the center of tourism in Southern Kazakhstan. You will have time to walk around the newest Karavan-Saray complex and watch a multimedia show to finish a long but interesting day.

Overnight in the Karavanserai Khaganate (4*) or similar
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Turkestan mausoleum with camels

After breakfast you will have a full day of sightseeing at the Azret-Sultan Museum Reserve, which surrounds the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. You will begin by visiting the necropolis, a fragment of the fortress wall, the citadel and gates, the hammam, and the Hilvet underground mosque.

Turkistan was founded around 500 AD at the crossroads of caravan routes from Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva. The city was the spiritual and political center of Turkic-speaking peoples fron the 16th to 18th centuries, and it was also the capital of the Kazakh Khanate. Turkistan gained its international reputation thanks to the preaching of the famous Sufi sheikh and philosopher Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, who was buried in a small mausoleum here in 1166. The current mausoleum was erected 233 years after the saint’s death, on the orders of Emperor Timur (Tamerlane). It is a masterpiece of medieval architecture and remains a major place of worship for Central Asian Muslims.

After lunch you will finish your museum tour and then transfer to the airport to catch the flight to Nur-Sultan at 6:15 pm. Upon arrival at 7:55 pm, you will drive into  the city center and have dinner. Your hotel in Nur-Sultan is located right next to the iconic Baiterek Tower.

Overnight in the Sheraton (4*) or similar
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Nursultan City View

Nur-Sultan (previously named Astana) is Central Asia’s youngest capital and a showpiece for 21st century Kazakhstan. Talented, well-known architects from all over the world have made major contributions to the surreal skyline of this futuristic city in the steppe.

Your city tour will start at Independence Square. You will visit the impressive new National Museum. It has a huge collection, but your guide will focus on the most interesting rooms, including those exhibiting the Scythian gold hoards and, most importantly, the Golden Man. You will then have a stop at the Hazrat Sultan Mosque, the largest mosque in Kazakhstan.

After lunch you’ll drive to Baiterek Tower in the very center of Nur-Sultan. The tower has become the symbol of the city. Its shape represents a poplar tree, and on its top is a golden egg laid by a magic bird from Kazakh folk tales. From the top of the tower you can enjoy the best views of Nur-Sultan and the surrounding steppe. You will then have a walk along Nurzhol Boulevard. This avenue was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, and most of Nur-Sultan’s most exciting contemporary buildings are situated here. The walk will end at the Khan Shatyr, a giant, tent-like shopping center designed by architect Norman Foster.

Overnight in the Sheraton (4*) or similar
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Nursultan expo museum of Kazakhstan

Today will be your last day in Kazakhstan. You will visit the futuristic Expo 2017 complex which boasts the biggest spherical building in the world, the Nur Alem Museum of the Energy. It was originally the Kazakh Pavilion. After this you will take a boat ride on the Ishim River, followed by a relaxed wander through Arbat, the artistic area of the capital.

Before our farewell dinner you will have some free time for shopping, to have a rest, or to further explore the city on your own.

Overnight in the Sheraton (4*) or similar
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Central Asia Packing tips

Your individual transfer to the airport will be timed according to the departure of your flight.

Meals: Breakfast

Inclusions

Transport
Train, Airplane, Minivan, Jeep
Meals
8 breakfast, 7 lunches, 7 dinners
Accommodation
Hotel 4* (8 nights)
Included Activities
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dates & price

You can choose to join a small group on a guaranteed departure or book a private tour on the date of your choice
*
*
*
Total trip price

€2160

Euro

8

Days

Single supplement available for €500

Deposit: €500

Departing
Finishing
Status
Booking
28 Aug 2022
4 Sep 2022
+ Available
14 May 2023
21 May 2023
+ Available
4 Jun 2023
11 Jun 2023
+ Available
27 Aug 2023
3 Sep 2023
+ Available
Price includes
  • Transfers in a comfortable vehicle with A/C, including airport collection and drop-off
  • Economy class domestic flights from Almaty-Turkistan and Turkistan-Nur-Sultan
  • Accommodation based on two people sharing a double/twin room and early check-in on Day 1
  • Full board (all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners)
  • English-speaking local tour leader for the whole trip
  • All entry fees and activities as per the itinerary
Price does not include
  • International air fares to and from Kazakhstan
  • Hotel charges for additional services
  • Consular fees for tourist visas (if applicable)
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses (e.g. souvenirs)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tips for guide and drivers (optional)

Important notes

  • Citizens of most countries can visit Kazakhstan visa-free
  • All listed departures are guaranteed
  • The maximum group size is 16 people
  • One English-speaking local tour leader will accompany the group for the whole trip
  • You can opt to book this itinerary as a private tour. We can also arrange extra nights before or after the trip, and suggest private tour extensions in Kazakhstan or neighboring countries.
  • A €500 per person deposit is required at the time of booking, and the balance is due 15 days prior to departure. Terms and conditions: https://kalpak-travel.com/terms-and-conditions/.
  • Travel insurance is required
  • We are happy to suggest flights to get to Kazakhstan and back home: please contact us

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, the 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 meters 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.

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.

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