One of the world’s largest countries, Kazakhstan is also one of its least known. Most visitors to the region prefer to stick to the better-known Silk Road sites of Uzbekistan. But for those in the know, this giant of a nation also has much to offer and our Kazakhstan itineraries aim to show you some of the hidden highlights of an unexplored land.
We start in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s cosmopolitan capital, which feels more Russian than Central Asian. Then we head off into the spectacular countryside to Altyn-Emel National Park. We explore the mountains, ‘singing’ dunes and ancient burial mounds, as well as the extraordinary rock formations of the Charyn Canyon.
At Tamgaly we see prehistoric rock carvings and take the overnight train to the beautiful – and near unpronounceable – reserve of Aksu-Dzhabagly. We travel through hills, mountains and meadows that are home to some of the region’s most impressive wildlife. Look for bear, lynx and Siberian ibex as well as the ever-elusive snow leopard.
Next, we visit the town of Turkestan, with its centuries-old mausoleums that give a hint of the importance of this part of Asia in times gone by. From here we venture into the desert regions of Mangistau, a hidden landscape of canyons, marshes, dramatic rock structures and ancient pilgrimage sites. Using 4WD vehicles we access the most impressive corners of this land, from the salt marshes of Tuzbair to Kazakhstan’s answer to Monument Valley, the rock towers of Boszhira, camping each night in pristine wilderness.
The beauty of travelling in Kazakhstan is that tourism is virtually unknown here. There is no set trail to follow or sites to tick off, and each place you visit feels like a new discovery. This trip is a great introduction to a mysterious and almost forgotten country – break new ground and discover it with us.