An Itinerary to explore most of Kazakhstan on a short trip

12th Dec 2019
Photo of An Itinerary to explore most of Kazakhstan on a short trip by Shalbha Sarda

Why should you travel to Kazakhstan-

It is the 9th largest country of the world, stretching over steppes, mountains, deserts, and canyons. Yet, this landlocked country is still quite unexplored and off the typical tourist map so you can have the place to yourself.

Photo of An Itinerary to explore most of Kazakhstan on a short trip 1/1 by Shalbha Sarda

Be assured to be surprised by Kazakhstan. It will surprise you in many ways. It is unexpectedly a very liberal and modern country as opposed to most of the countries that have a predominantly Muslim population. The roads and infrastructure are also comparable to any developed nation. It is the most developed country in the Central Asian region. It an amalgam of everything that a tourist seeks for- great nightlife, architectural buildings, natural beauty, trekking, hiking, skiing or shopping, the country has something for everybody.

Things to know before you travel-

Best time to visit – Kazakhstan is a country for all seasons. The variation of the temperature between the summer and winter months is drastic. The temperature in winters can go up to -20 C but provide great opportunities for winter sports, while the temperature in summers can soar up 40 C but is the time when you can hear the dunes sing. However, as a general rule, north Kazakhstan will always be colder than the south. No matter what season you choose you will be amazed by the beauty this country holds in every season.

Where to stay- Almaty the erstwhile capital of the country is a very good base to be stationed at to explore the major country's attractions. It is also the city that has flight connections from all across the globe. The city has a range of stay options that can fit in every traveler's budget. Almaty also boasts the status of the most cosmopolitan city of central Asia having plenty of food options from all over the world.

Language – Although Kazakh is the official language of the country but people speak Russian, especially in the bigger cities. English is barely spoken and understood here therefore having a fulltime guide or least a google translator is strongly recommended to ease things out.

Moving around – There are rental car companies in Almaty from where you can rent a car. There are public buses and shared taxis also available for day trips from Almaty. But, unless you are not on a typical backpacker hitchhiking trip, getting a dedicated driver is the best option to explore. Having a car with a driver is relatively cheap in Kazakhstan and he can also serve the purpose of a local guide and translator which will save you quite a lot of time.

Day 1

Explore Almaty's nightlife

When you arrive at Almaty you will immediately recognize that this city is the beating heart of the country. The nightlife scene is an absolute delight for a party goer, boasting some of the finest nightclubs in Central Asia. Bars, clubs, pubs, hookah cafes and strip clubs, if it corresponds party Almaty has got it! Explore these amazing clubs and pubs tonight.

The party doesn't start in this city before midnight so you will have enough time to check-in and take rest. The Bla Bla bar is a recent addition to the city bars with the largest bar space in the country. With 3 floors, 22 atmospheric bars, 3 gastro bars, live music, karaoke and amazing crowd a visit to the Bla Bla bar is a must.

Day 2 

 The Big Almaty lake

After you've had your share of partying in Almaty, head over to the mountains next door in the Lli Alatay National Park. The park houses the Big Almaty lake which serves as a natural alpine high mountain reservoir for the city. The area is close to the Kyrgyzstan border and people could hike from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan from here until a few years ago. Now the government has closed the mountain border and it is off-limits to get anywhere close. The lake is a visual treat in any season.

In summers the color of the lake is milky blue with green pine trees curled around it. In winter bright sun, fresh air, snow capped mountain scenery, and a frozen lake transform the place in a winter wonderland. Make sure you have a 4WD if you traveling to the lake in the winter season.

Photo of An Itinerary to explore most of Kazakhstan on a short trip by Shalbha Sarda

The total duration of the trip- 3 hours

Day 3 

Charyn Canyon

After witnessing the beauty of the lake today you would explore the grand canyons of central Asia. The distance of the canyon is around about 215km from Almaty and is very close to the Chinese border. The Charyn Canyon lies in the Charyn National Park and is a 150 km long canyon and 300 m at its deepest. 

The canyon is carved by river Sharyn and has gained colorful formations of varying shapes and sizes due to the erosion of the sandstone from the river. It consists of 5 different canyons but the Valley of Castles is the most popular of them consisting of surreal imposing rock formations.

Total Duration of the trip- 10 hours

Day 4/5 

Day 4

 The Singing Dunes

The Singing Dune is a part of Altyn Emel National park. The drive to the park can take 5 hours and the singing dunes are further 2-hour drive inside the park on a dirt road. Since it can become a bit exhaustive to do it in a single day so you can stay at the village of Basshi overnight and explore other regions of the park beside the dunes. 

The dune itself is a mountain of sand having a length of 3 km and a height of 150 m and is a geological wonder because it emits a singing sound during the dry months when you sit and slide on it.

The total duration of the trip- 18 hours

Day 6

Day 6

Almaty shopping and back-

Photo of Almaty, Kazakhstan by Shalbha Sarda

Green Market ( Zeleny Bazaar)- The Green market is worth a visit even if you don't have shopping in your mind. This market gives a sneak peek of the life of the locals. The two-story market has stalls of everything ranging from fresh produce, dried nuts, spices, souvenir, woolen clothes, and trinkets. A chocolate factory near the market sells locally made Kazakh chocolates. The chocolates are comparable to any good internationally popular chocolates for less than half the price you'd pay anywhere for it.

Arbat Market – This was the first trading street of the city of Almaty named after the famous writer M. Gorky, later it was renamed as Zhibek Zholy street. Today it is a lively cobbled pedestrian street dotted with coffee houses, branded shops, and local goods. It is a nice walk down the street since you can see local artists such as musicians, painters, and performers displaying their talent on the sidewalk.

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