22 Reasons to visit Kazakhstan

reasons to visit kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is the ninth biggest country in the world (with its 2,724,900 square kilometres) though it has got a population of merely 18 million. The extensive land hides all the elements of the periodic table (especially large reserves of oil) which justifies it being one of the richest countries in Central Asia. Find out our reasons to visit Kazakhstan soon.

1. The fabulous Sherkala mountain

reasons to visit kazakhstan

Located in the Mangystau province, Sherkala means Lion’s castle. Historians say that at the top of the mountain there was once a fortified city. Nothing is left of it, but the place remains beautiful offering spectacular sunsets.

2. The beautiful Orthodox Cathedral of Almaty

almaty orthodox church

Built in the beginning of the twentieth century, this church has the particularity of being made out of wood without using any nail. Another particularity is its anti-earthquake structure which, was tested in 1911 with a real earthquake and the fact that the cathedral suffered only minor damages was a surprise to many.

3. Kazakh Food – Meat for the Senses


The food in Kazakhstan (and in Central Asia in general) is based on meat. Grilled, boiled, roasted or stewed, you will always find a dish of meat. It is the vegetarians who will have more difficulties, as vegetarian meals are a rarity.

4. Fields of poppies

fields poppies

When one is prepared to drive through plain steppe for thousands of kilometres, it comes as a lovely surprise that so many of those fields will be covered in red flowers. We found huge extensions of wild poppies and were glad to see that also locals stopped to photograph this beautiful view.

5. Expo 2017 Astana

expo astana

The international Expo 2017 took place in Astana. The Kazakh chose the thematic of the expo to be ‘Future Energies’. This was one of the buildings created for the occasion. Nowadays, this globe – called the ‘Nur Alem’ pavilion – holds the Museum for Future Energies in its eight floors.

6. Zelenyy Market (Green Market in Almaty)

almaty market

It is a huge building where you will find most of the widest variety of vegetables and fruits in the country. Besides this, there are also extensive corridors of stalls selling meat (forget about refrigerators) and dairy products. Other products (such as clothes or dried fruits) are also available.

7. The Aseptic Almaty Metro

almaty metro

The metro of Almaty has only got two lines, but they serve central areas and are therefore useful for coming from the outskirts to the city centre. There are many helpful officers inside, who will gladly indicate which line you should take. The metro is spotless clean and could be used as the scenery for a hospital.

8. The astounding Big Almaty Lake

reasons to visit kazakhstan

It is very easy to reach the lake, we drove the motorbike all the way until a spot where there are parking spots to leave the cars. The lake is located at 2,511 metres of altitude, within a national park of the Tien Shan mountains, therefore it is necessary to pay a small fee to access it. The lake is a natural reservoir that serves Almaty of water, therefore no swimming is allowed.

9. Modern old Astana (now Nur-Sultan)

astana sunset

The Bayterek Tower is the landmark of the capital of Kazakhstan. Astana replaced Almaty as the capital of the nation in 1997. Almaty remains the largest city though Astana is the most economically developed.  In 2019, when President Nursultan Nazarbayev left the power, the city of Astana was renamed after him, hence the new name Nur-Sultan.

10. Charyn Canyon

Charyn canyon

From Big Almaty lake we followed to the Charyn Canyon. There is a brand new tarmac road that leads to the canyon. We arrived at the golden hour and still had time to hike down in the heart of the canyon. Then we pitched our tent for a million starred hotel. The morning was much less glamorous, as it rained cats and dogs!

11. The unique Mashkhur Jusup Mosque in Pavlodar

Mosque Pavlodar

The Mashkhur Jusup Mosque is the main mosque of Pavlodar and one of the largest in Kazakhstan, accommodating around 1,500 worshipers. The blue dome is reminiscent of the opening of a yurt.  The shrine is built in the shape of an octagonal star and its minarets measure 63 metres of height, the same number as Muhammad’s age.

12. Driving through great extensions of steppe

steppe with storm

This is what I call pure luck! We escaped the storm by centimetres!  Once we were far enough not to risk a drop, we finally stopped to enjoy the view of this huge cloud full of rain and flashes of lightning. We are now approaching the Kazakh border to enter Russia in two days!

13. The sad history behind the Spaask memorial


Spaask is nowadays a memorial of what was once one of the deadliest labour camps (gulags) of Siberia. Stalin created more than 400 gulags in Siberia and sent there more than 18 million people. Were they criminals? Why did he bring these people to Siberia? You can find the answers to all these questions on our article about the Gulags in Siberia

14. The Ak Orda Presidential Palace

parliament astana

Most photogenic at dawn, the presidential palace is not the president’s residence (as many think), but the president’s and his Administration’s working place. The blue dome with golden stripes are the same colours as the ones of the Kazakh flag.

15. Lonely Cemetery in the Steppe

cemitery steppe

There is so much drama in this photo. This lonely cemetery lies hardly 140 kilometres from the nuclear test site hidden in the steppes of Kazakhstan. The storm in the distance floats like a threat to the dead, while the real threat to the living was invisible for years…

16. The Gulag of Karagandy

gulag in karagandy

The Gulag at Karagandy has been transformed into a museum, where one can find out more about the life of prisoners at the gulags, who they were, which crimes they committed and how they were kept and treated.

17. The unexpected Bektau Ata


After driving for hours over flat steppe, a granite mountain, even if not very high, comes as an unexpected surprise. This is granite lava that solidified on the surface creating soft rock formations as if the rock was moving in curls.

18. The Kazakh National University of Arts (Nur-Sultan)


Located in a very interesting circular building, reminding the crater of a volcano, the University of arts provides training in such specialties as painting, sculpture, ballet and choreography.

19. Orthodox church in Pavlodar

Orthodox church pavlodar

The Cathedral of the Annunciation belongs to the Russian Orthodox church. It is one of the most beautiful orthodox buildings of Kazakhstan, with a view over the Irtish River.

20. The spectacular Baikonur Cosmodrome


Baikonur is the world’s largest rocket launch platform. Both Sputnik 1 (the first artificial satellite) and Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight (which took cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on board), were launched from Baikonur. Nowadays, many European satellites are launched from here. There’s a launch schedule on-line.

21. The quiet Nur-Astana Mosque

mosque astana

This mosque in Nur-Sultan is the biggest of Kazakhstan and the third largest in Central Asia. Even though it can accommodate 5,000 worshippers, it can be a quiet place for a rest even for non-Muslims, which can visit some parts of the mosque.

22. The atrocious nuclear testing site at Semipalatinsk

semey monument

For 40 years (1949-89) the Soviet Union exploded more than 400 nuclear bombs at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, in the heart of the steppe of Kazakhstan. More than 200,000 people living within 45 kms of the site were never informed of the danger they were being exposed to. There is still radioactivity at the site today and, what is more devastating – three generations later – there are still people dying because of this!

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If you are interested about the Semipalatinsk nuclear site, you can read more in our article.
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Another reason is to drive the so-called Austrian Road. A historic and very scenic road as you can read in Ferenc and Evelin’s journey (from OverlandSite.com) on their 4×4 through Kazakhstan.
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If you want to know more about Central Asia have a look inside our magazines about Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. Both countries and their people left a lasting impression on us and we highly recommend them.
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