In case you haven’t already worked this one out, the Republic of Kazakhstan has a lot more to offer than just Borat! The world’s largest landlocked country, and the ninth biggest country on earth, this wealthy nation sprawls across the centre of Eurasia, from the Caspian Sea in the west, to the Altai Mountains in the east.
The largest city, Almaty, is fast-becoming a hipster’s paradise, while Astana, the new capital, is a gleaming testament to the nation’s oil and mineral wealth. Recently described by The Telegraph as ‘the world’s hottest new city destination’, Astana’s skyline is spiked with bold, futuristic skyscrapers and monuments, including the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, designed by acclaimed British architect Norman Foster.
But it’s outside the cities that you’ll find the most thrilling adventures – trekking in the Tien Shan mountains, motorbiking through desert canyons, diving into cool lakes or hearing the beat of a shaman’s drum in the remote Altai region.
Antonia first visited Kazakhstan in 2006, whilst driving from Thailand to England in a pink tuk tuk (as you do), and was bowled over by the kindness of the people and the gargantuan scale of the steppe.
Things we love about Kazakhstan
- The Altai region A little-visited mountain wilderness spanning the Kazakh, Mongolian, Chinese and Russian borders.
- The sense of space Travel across the Kazakh steppe and all you can see is sky, earth and the odd herd of horses. It’s vast.
- The nomadic heritage The Kazakhs, like their southern neighbours the Kyrgyz, are a traditionally yurt-dwelling nomadic people. Although most Kazakhs now live in cities, the nomadic sense of freedom of hospitality is in their DNA.
- Charyn Canyon Within spitting distance of Almaty, this strange, rock-hewn landscape is Kazakhstan’s answer to the Grand Canyon. Prepare to be awed.