Hiding in plain sight, Kazakhstan’s vast territory holds a lot of interest for the amateur archaeologist and the flower fanatic, but also for the architect, the armchair politician and the Cold War history hound. You can enjoy the vast expanses of nature, and the unshackled feeling you get from traversing such a shoreless place. People, as of yet unaccustomed to tourism, will welcome you in, surprised, happy and puzzled. Why did you come to Kazakhstan? Only the road can provide that answer.

Kazakhstan is such a big place, one can only hope to explore a little bit of it at a time. Far-flung jewels like the western Mangystau desert and the magic Altai mountains are stunning in their own right, but due to their remoteness, they require a dedicated trip. Luckily, you can get a taste of each in the Almaty region, where this itinerary starts.

Starting in the Almaty region, visit Altyn Emel and Charyn Canyon, spot roaming bears and explore the lakes in Ili-Alatau National Park and explore the city itself.

From Almaty, an overnight train or short flight brings you to Shymkent. Those who elect to do the whole itinerary by car can stop over at the mausoleum of Aisha Bibi in Taraz.

After spending a few days exploring Shymkent, head to Astana where you will take a few days to explore the numerous monuments, spend an evening at the opera and visit the local shops and restaurants.

For a different view of Kazakhstan, take a day trip to Karaganda. This working-class town is dominated by mines and smoke-belching chimneys, so it initially comes as a surprise Karaganda has 4 theatre companies serving an obviously cultured city populace.

You can also visit the Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve which has the world’s most northerly flock of flamingos.

Key information

Destinations Astana, Charyn Canyon, Altyn Emel National Park, Shymkent, Almaty, Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve, Karaganda
Activity Adventure, Hiking & Trekking, Nature & Wildlife, National Parks, Culture, Cities, Museums & Galleries, History
Physical Level Mild

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