Kazakhstan | Best Places to Visit | Travel Guide (Par 1)

This time we’re in Nur-Sultan formerly known as Astana it’s the capital of Kazakhstan, let’s go take a look around!

The city, second-largest and capital of Kazakhstan has a history of changing it’s name Pre 1998 it was known as Akmola changing then to Astana and most recently in 2019 to Nur- Sultan after the first president of an independent Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev Once the city became the capital in 1997 the major planned city project changed the size design and looks of the city forever.

New roads office buildings hotels and monuments were built the most iconic of which is the Baiterek Tower 700 Tenge will get you to the top of this 105 meter tower where you can look out across the whole city and even place your hands over a mold of the former president’s hands.

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We stopped by a supermarket for lunch the fresh central asian breads, western and russian style salads and meat-filled pastries hint at the demographic of the population and look too good not to try. The two kilometer long lover’s path leads to the Khan Shatyr shopping center.

This massive space was built to represent a traditional Kazakh nomads yurt. Inside you’ll find all kinds of randomness, shops, food places with ghost train, monorail and even a water park with a real sand beach. Why not take a trip around the world on the monorail and visit London, Istanbul and Nur-Sultan in just one rotation of at a Kazak Yurt.

I don’t know if it was an underlying mistrust of the safety of the rides or if they were genuinely scary but you can try your luck on any of them for just a 1000 Tenge. Modern glass skyscrapers dot the city, they are impressive to look at but we couldn’t help but think that they were not being used.

The city seems quiet and maybe has to grow into the space that has been built. The city’s main mosque hints at the main religion of the country ethnic Kazakhs now make up around 68 percent of the population and traditionally follow Islam. The next biggest group are Russians who follow Orthodox Christianity. The Nur-Astana mosque has room for 5,000 worshippers and was built in 2008 as a gift from the state of Qatar.

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Despite having a relatively low population of just 1 million the city is very large and spread out. We use taxi app Yandex to get around. It was super cheap and easy to use. We took a taxi to Astana Park home to leisure pursuits such as a funfair and swimming pool The park runs alongside the Ishim River and projects such as this cool footbridge are examples of how the city is becoming more of a livable place.

We stopped off at the Kazakhstan Military History Museum unless you’re into stuff like this we wouldn’t recommend, it’s a huge space filled with not much! A metaphor for the city maybe? If you’re looking to get out of the city the resort of Burabay is a great option. Located about three hour drive north of Nur-Sultan it feels like a different world.

The flat dusty plains make way for lush tree covered mountains that line shimmering lakes. Our hotel in Nur-Sultan organized a taxi for us to get there at a cost of around ten thousand Tenge one-way. Burabay town itself is fairly nondescript but it does have some restaurants and hotels. Nearby the lake you can find slides and pedal boats for rent but we decided to walk along the well-maintained boardwalk boardering the massive lake.

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It’s possible to arrange bike or canoe hire or if you’re up for it even a climbing expedition to climb one of the many rock mountains. After our visit to Burabay we flew down to Almaty the biggest city in the country, but we were first headed to the mountain village of shymbulak. Shymbulak is predominantly a ski resort located only 40 minutes from the centre of Almaty.

The resort itself is closed to traffic so the majority of visitors arrived by cable car. The first station of which has a large car park and ticket office. Tickets start at 3500 Tenge for a return from here to Shymbulak, rising to 4000 Tenge if you want to take all three cable cars to the top of the mountain. 

After a ten-minute gondola ride you arrive in the resort itself where you’ll find bars, restaurants, chalets, a bakery and a hotel. The resort boasts 300 days of sunshine per year, it was very warm here in July when we visited but during the ski season from November to April temperatures obviously plummet an average snow cover is 1.5 meters.

Despite offering 20 kilometres of ski slopes it is well worth visiting in summer to escape the crazy heat of Almaty. Currently we are about 2,300 meters but the cable cars got to about 3200 meters so it’s pretty high so yeah let’s go have a look around. Two separate cable car lines take you smoothly up the mountain. Halfway up you will find a restaurant with breathtaking views back down to Almaty. 

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