From its Silk Road past to Soviet strictures, relatively recent independence, resurgent cities, and an oil economy, Kazakhstan always adapted to suit the times. A huge country, sparsely populated, its almost empty expanse covers canyons and deserts, lakes and steppes.
Stretching westward from its shore of the Caspian Sea to the Altai Mountains at its eastern border with China; hemmed by Russia in the north, and meeting Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and a corner of Turkmenistan along its southern reaches; the million square miles of Kazakhstan make it the largest landlocked country in the world, with one of the lowest population densities.
Rising like a glass and steel mirage from the flat, empty miles of the northern steppes, Astana was known by several different names in its past, but is now a succinct descriptive fact, as ‘Astana’ means ‘Capital City’. As remarkable as it is remote, it replaced Almaty as the capital in 1997, following the country’s independence from Russia, and is famed now for its astonishing, futuristic architecture.
The former capital and still a cultural hub, Almaty has its own style of modern metropolis, splashed with the greenery of parks and gardens, its tall towers and soviet monuments dwarfed by a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. With museums of history, heritage, and music, the city’s iconic landmark is the multi-domed Ascension (Zenkov’s) Cathedral, one of the world’s tallest wooden constructions.
Splendid scenery surrounds the city, from red-rock desert to steep-sided valleys, alpine pools and ancient rock art.
Set amid forestry, 1,691m above sea level, the Medeo Ice Rink claims the crown as the highest sports rink in the world, its huge ice surface of glacial water hosting skating in the winter, and transforming into a health and entertainment hub in summer.
Blissfully beautiful, Tien Shan translates as ‘Heavenly Mountain’. It is home to Big Almaty Lake, a natural reservoir, surrounded by fir trees, reflecting its eponymous mountain peak in the startlingly blue waters, and almost surreally scenic.
Further afield, the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Tamgaly (or Tanbaly) Petroglyphs is a terrific gallery of 5,000 rock carvings, dating from as early as the second millennium BC, variously depicting pastoral life, a sun deity, and Turkic chariots, and displaying its history from the Bronze and Iron Ages to just a hundred years ago.
Kazakhstan’s climate has huge variations across its massive landmass and diverse topography. Jules Verne’s tours focus on the southeast, around Almaty, where winter temperatures can plunge as low as -30° in winter, and rise to 30°+ in the height of the summer.The most temperate weather, and most comfortable time for touring, is in late-April to June and September/early October, when daytime temperatures generally hover between 22 and 28 degrees, and eight hours of sunshine is the norm.
A delicious mix of sophisticated city and superb scenery, ancient and modern culture, and fascinating monuments, a tour in Kazakhstan is an insight of the country’s evolution, and a relaxing breath of fresh air.
On a Jules Verne tour, you will be travelling in a land less visited, with a small group of like-minded people who share your interest and enthusiasm.
With 45 years’ experience and a passion for creating extraordinary adventures, Jules Verne takes you to iconic landmarks and lesser-known sites, with expert tour guides who share their local knowledge, and show you hidden gems. Our journeys in Kazakhstan centre on the southeast, its rural diversity and old capital combining to form the country’s culture, character, and landscapes in microcosm.
Our guided tours to Kazakhstan are ABTA and ATOL protected, and we offer a 100% price guarantee, so you can book with complete confidence.