Discover Kazakhstan’s rich diversity in this 9 day classic tour. Walk around the futuristic ultra-modern capital and drive out to Sofievka to get a glimpse into the nomadic life of traditional Kazakhs before heading back into the history of the Great Silk Road at the ancient sites of Turkestan and Otrar. From here explore the beautiful desert landscapes of Altyn Emel National Park with its stunning sand dunes and rugged canyons as well as the prehistoric rock art at Tamgaly Tas. Finally, enjoy Almaty, the country’s largest city which lies beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Tien Shan mountains.
On arrival in Kazakhstan you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your city centre hotel. Nur-Sultan (previously known as Astana) has been the capital of Kazakhstan since 1997. Located on the Ishim River, Nur-Sultan is a fascinating, ultra-modern city with futuristic-style buildings. Enjoy a city tour and visit Nur-Astana – Central Asia’s largest mosque, the National Museum to see the “Golden Man”, panoramic views from top of Baiterek Tower that opened in 2002, as well as other highlights including Constitution Square and Kazakh Eli Square. Also, explore the older quarter where streets are lined with 19th century buildings and feel the atmosphere of the old town.
This morning visit the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation that opened in 2006 and is built in the form of a regular tetrahedron. Later drive to ALZHIR Museum-Memorial Complex. The cryptic acronym ALZHIR stands for the Russian for “Akmolinskiy Internment Camp for the Wives of the Betrayers of the Homeland” and was a Stalinist gulag for families of political prisoners who were deemed traitors. The wives were simply considered as guilty as their husbands by association. Later, visit Sofievka to get a glimpse into the nomadic life of traditional Kazakhs. Look around a yurt and sample local delicacies, hear Kazakh music, witness an eagle hunting demonstration, learn how to make Kazakh cheese and gain an insight into a variety of Kazakh traditions.
Transfer to the airport for the morning flight to Shymkent, located in the south of Kazakhstan near the Uzbek border and on the crossroad of the Great Silk Road – a route along which for centuries precious goods and enlightened ideas were transported by caravans. Go with your guide on a city tour of the main historical and cultural monuments: visit Memory Alley in Shanshi park, the History Museum which is full of interesting facts about the local history of southern Kazakhstan and the Ethnography Museum.
Starting early, drive to Shaulder Village in Otrar region where you will visit the archaeological site of the ancient settlement of Otrar, a large trading centre located on one of the crossroads of the great Silk Road. Visit this once densely populated city and see the remains of great palaces, mosques and other buildings. There is also time to visit the local museum and the Arystan-Bab Mausoleum. Later, continue your journey to Turkestan and see the fantastic UNESCO site the Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Mausoleum, the Hilvet underground mosque and Necropolis and the restored medieval bath house.
Today, fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, which is situated at the foot of the northern of Tien Shan ridge – Zaili Alatau. On arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to your city hotel. After you have checked in, enjoy a sightseeing tour of the city. Highlights include Panflilov Park, the Memorial of Glory and Eternal Flame, Zenkov Russian Cathedral which is constructed entirely from wood and the bustling Zelyony (Green) Bazzar, before ending a fascinating day by taking the mountain road to Kok Tibe Hill, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Almaty
This morning head east to one of the largest camel farms in Kazakhstan which is known for its camel milk called Shubat. Then travel on to the world’s largest rock paintings park – Tamgaly Tas, which is included in the UNESCO world heritage list. Tamgaly Tas is a unique place, with over 4000 rock carvings dating back to the Bronze age. Moving into Altyn Emel National Park, gaze over the surreal red and white coloured Aktau-Katyta Mountains. From here you can scale the Singing Barchan Dune at an imposing 120 metres high and 1.5 kilometres long, before heading to your guesthouse for the night.
It is thought that the towering mountains and rocky terrain of Altyn Emel National Park, which lies to the northeast of Lake Kapsha, was created by volcanic activity millions of years ago. This vast area of desert is one of the few places in the country with freely roaming goitered gazelles, argali, tau-teke ibex and Asiatic wild ass. Spend the day in the national park with your guide exploring this unique place on short walks or by vehicle.
Leaving Altyn, travel to Charyn Canyon, often compared to the Grand Canyon in the USA. 80km long and between 200 and 300 metres in depth, erosion and weathering have left bizarre shapes like fantastic sculptures and exposed the many colourful strata of the earth. This afternoon make your way back to Almaty, where you will stay overnight.
This morning we will ensure you are taken to the airport in good time for your onward flight.
This itinerary costs from £2390 per person B&B based on 2 sharing and including all private transfers but not international flights.
You can get flights from as little as £570 per person return and do ask us for advice. Alternatively we can book the flights for you but a booking fee may apply.