Kazakhstan needs to be on your bucket list STAT. Here are 15 reasons you should visit this magnificent country.
Central Asia is a region of the world that few travelers explore in great depth. The vast distances between cities and empty steppes make it a difficult area to jaunt around quickly.
Kazakhstan is perhaps the best country to visit first, as it has so much to offer, and has some relatively convenient transport links to its neighboring countries.
In this list of 15 reasons to visit Kazakhstan, we touch on some of the countries unique traditions and gorgeous natural landscapes.
1. The Zelenyy Bazar, or green bazaar, in Almaty stocks all manner of Central Asian food and drink. You’ll also find products from Korea, Georgia, Russia, and Armenia.
2. Some love the taste of kumis, fermented horse milk, and consider it to be one of the region’s delicacies. It is beloved by Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Mongols, and Yakuts. Other people not used to the drink say it tastes like ash and makes them want to be sick. Whether or not you enjoy the taste of kumis it is meant to have great health benefits and is deeply embedded in Central Asian culture. It is definitely worth heading down to the market to sample kumis, or even taking one of the local food and drink tours on offer around the market.
3. Apples are from Almaty. Try eating apples in the region of the world where the very first apples grew. Locals are very proud as evidenced by the apple logos and images that adorn the city.
4. The country is enormous, the 9th largest in the world, and had to be linked up with a network of long-distance railroads. To this day the Soviet-era trains run from Almaty to Astana and everywhere in between. Train travel is surely one of the best ways to see the endless steppe that lay between the cities of Kazakhstan and to get an idea of what it’s like to ride in authentic Soviet transport.
5. You can get a traditional horse meat steak for less than 10 euros, and it will taste great. As a formerly nomadic people, the Kazakhs have worked with horses for centuries. To this day horse meat is a delicacy on offer in many of Almaty’s restaurants.
6. Each month, Soviet works of art are rediscovered in Almaty, the country’s former capital, by a group of researchers at Monumental Almaty. Now is a great time to check out their new discoveries, which include a mosaic depiction of Lenin hidden behind a wall.
7. “Borat” was in fact filmed in rural Romania, and pokes fun of our lack of understanding about this region of the world. As China builds a new network of routes which will link the region to Europe – what has been referred to as a new silk road – there has never been a better time to get acquainted with an area of the world that will soon be crucially important.
8. Kazakhstan has some of the most gorgeous lakes, mountains, and rivers in the world. Charyn National Park is absolutely stunning and rivals the best-known mountain regions in the world.
9. Snowsports are very popular in Kazakhstan. Check out Medeu, the world’s highest ice skating rink, and find out more.
10. Take the cable car up Kok-Tobe and look out over sprawling Almaty and the mountains which surround it. Many visitors are especially pleased to discover the Kazakh Beatles, a statue of the fab four in which the sculptor has made them appear as Kazakhs, rather than boys from Liverpool.
11. On the top floor of Baiterek Tower in Astana there is the gold handprint belonging to ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President of the independent Republic of Kazakhstan. Guests can place their hand in it.
12. Big Almaty Lake is a strikingly blue reservoir above the city. Get a cheap Yandex taxi up here where it is cold and wet, and take a photograph of this stunning location.
13. If the history of nomadism in Central Asia, the Soviet Union, and Kazakh independence are of interest, the Central State Museum is fantastic. The upper floor dedicated to Kazakh independence and national pride is particularly interesting and reveals a lot about how the nation wishes to promote itself to the world.
14. The Baikonur Cosmodrome is the heart of the Kazakh space program and launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957.
15. From Almaty it is easy to reach Kyrgyzstan by marshrutka, or minibus. Kazakhstan makes a great first stop for anyone wishing to explore Central Asia in more depth.