Kazakhstan is the world’s 9th biggest country by size and the biggest landlocked. It boasts with a vast diversity of nature and is a melting pot of different cultural elements. Persian, Mongol and Russian conquerors reigned Kazakhstan in different epochs.
Originally the Kazakhs were mostly nomads. That changed in soviet times, when bigger Kazakh cities were founded according to soviet standards. The nomads were forced to settle. Consequently, nowadays the Kazakh culture is strongly influenced by Russia. This manifests in language, food, (lack of) religious vigor and the way of living.
2000 years ago the south eastern part of Kazakhstan has been the northern border of the Persian Empire. In the 14th century it belonged to the Timurid Empire. Many architectural and cultural traces from this epoch are waiting to be discovered! Besides that, the border to Kyrgyzstan is full of diverse nature reserves, which are amongst the most beautiful hiking spots in the world.
The best time to visit South Kazakhstan is between May to September. We were visiting late in the year (end of October) and it was getting cold already. So especially our options for trekking tours were quite limited. Keep that in mind when you plan your trip!
An architectural rarity in Kazakhstan as of its non-soviet beauty: Close to the Uzbek border this ancient outpost of the former Timurid Empire is said to be the most beautiful building in whole Kazakhstan. It is a pilgrimage spot for Kazakh people, too. And it certainly is the liveliest place in the city of Turkistan.
There once has been a magnificient city alongside the Silk Road which wars and erosion have given back to nature – almost! Feel adventurous when you discover old ceramic tiles and graves in the ground. Get a view into the vast steppe around from the remainders of the city walls. It’s just a half day trip from Turkistan.
There is so much to see around Almaty! You can organize everything between easy half day tours to demanding multi-day trips. In the national parks at the border to Kyrgyztan there is a vast nature waiting to be discovered by you. Mountain lakes, canyons, waterfalls, breathtaking ridges 5000m high, Ski training resorts… what an overwhelming diversity! We captured some stunning moments on a sunny day around the Big Almaty Lake (on the picture)…an absolute must see!
Almaty, the cultural capital of the Kazakhstan, is full of curious people who are interested in talking to you. What better place could there be to gain a better understanding of the perceived reality on the other side of the former iron curtain? Keep your eyes open for student round tables, English club meetups or ask in your hostel for a good place to meet up with locals and be ready to re-calibrate your perspective on geopolitics and life in general.
Did you like this post? Do you have own experiences to share? Please leave us a comment!