People have asked me what there is to see and do in Kazakhstan. This proves a difficult question to answer, because there is no singular answer. Perhaps because it’s the 9th largest country in the world, or perhaps because of rapid development in select pockets of the country; but Kazakhstan is diverse. Very diverse.
Astana. The capital since 1997 provides a skyline of lavish architectural oddities. This includes the world largest tent and a glass pyramid partially set below ground. The expansion and creative building construction in the city continues. As the host of Expo 2017 the government invested $5 billion and controversially built what has been dubbed “the Death Star” in which to hold the event.
Crossing the seemingly never-ending steppe by train to the former capital, Almaty, took me 20 hours. On arrival the mountainous backdrop creates a picturesque setting, though a layer of smog and the soviet era concrete block buildings nestling at the base are less ambient. Almaty is a decidedly more cosmopolitan and livable city with coffee shops, parks and a level of tourism. It also interestingly boasts the world’s shortest metro system, with just nine stops.
As you’d expect with such a large country and population of 18 million it is mainly devoid of life, with vast open spaces. This is a country on the infamous Silk Road, invaded during the reign of Ghengis Khan with many towns razed by his army. Resulting in a number of abandoned settlements eerily scattered in the Kazakh desert. The wilderness also boasts snow topped mountain ranges, canyons and National Parks of great beauty.
Worth a visit? Yes, but familiarise yourself with the 42 letter Kazakh alphabet or better still, learn Russian!
*for those interested parties (you know who you are!) the worlds largest tent is 150m tall and contains a shopping centre, a man-made beach and a roller coaster